Two of six seats on the Litchfield School Board will have new occupants in January as a result of last week’s general election.
Newcomers Alex Carlson and Michelle Falling received 2,347 and 2,283 votes, respectively, to earn spots on the board. Meanwhile, incumbent Julie Rae Pennertz received the most votes with 2,381.
Those tallies mean incumbent Chase Groskreutz will leave the board at the end of the year. Groskreutz, first elected in 2016, finished fifth in the voting with 1,629. Manny Jasso finished fourth with 1,919.
Carlson and Falling, both Litchfield High School graduates, said they’re excited about the results and look forward to joining the board, while also admitting that they will have plenty to learn.
“I’m honored and very excited,” said Carlson, who was making his first run for elected office. “I don’t have a game plan. My notebook is blank, but my pencil is sharpened. I’m coming in with my ears open and just really ready to learn.”
Falling, who ran as a write-in candidate in 2016, offered a similar take.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I don’t know what I don’t know, but I’m excited to understand how a school district operates and hopefully contribute my professional skills and experience.”
Carlson brings a diverse experience to the board, having been a teacher and coach in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district for six years before moving back home to Litchfield where has since worked as a manager at Anderson Chemical. Carlson also has three children in the district.
“My view as a parent is one of appreciation and excitement,” he said. “The experience my kids have been having has been excellent. I can’t say enough good things about the staff they have been blessed to have as teachers in their early education careers.
“I have nothing but great things to say about my own experience (as a student at Litchfield schools),” he added. “And it’s still delivering high quality education experiences.”
Falling, a human resources manager at Doosan Bobcat in Litchfield, said she looks forward to bringing her experiences from the professional world to school operations. By late last week, she said, she had reviewed the district’s teacher contract and taken a lot at other areas.
“I’m coming into it with the attitude that I’m not going to know everything,” Falling said. “The first few months I serve is going to be really absorbing everything like a sponge.”
As she learns, she hopes to help influence the district’s hiring and staffing decisions to help the district continue moving in the right direction.
“I want to learn, what’s the state of this organization and how can we institute the change to elevate our district,” Falling said. “Change doesn’t happen overnight.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major effect on the district, she said, and it is likely to affect the district’s financial picture as well as how education is approached far into the future.
“I think there’s lots of things that have improved” in the district since she was a student, Falling said. “There are probably some things that haven’t changed. I’m a person that’s always thinking it could be better. I don’t like status quo. I like to make changes and make them just a little bit better than they were before.”