The slate of Ben Giovine, Alex Pavliv and Loreen Torrone emerged victorious as the three next school board members for Toms River Regional Schools, according to unofficial results.
Giovine, Pavliv and Torrone ran as the “Clean Slate” team in a race for three spots on the school board.
As results poured in after 9 p.m. Wednesday, none of the eight candidates emerged as the standout winner; instead it was a neck and neck, every-vote-counts race. For example, Karen Kenny came in fourth losing by 131 votes, according to the county’s unofficial results.
There were 1,274 votes separating first place from fourth place.
At times, the race was a fraction of a percentage point between candidates.
The unofficial results:
- Ben Giovine: 4,983 votes, 18.42 percent
- Loreen Torrone: 4,727 votes, 17.48 percent
- Alex Pavliv: 3,840 votes, 14.20 percent
- Karen Kenny: 3,709 votes, 13.71 percent
- Frank Rodgers: 3,686 votes, 13.63 percent
- Mary Ann Bageac: 3,432 votes, 12.69 percent
- Brian Geoghegan: 2,041 votes, 7.55 percent
- Stephen Galgon: 556 votes, 2.06 percent
Three spots out of six Toms River positions on the regional board were in voters’ hands. None of the longtime incumbents ran for re-election. Originally, 11 people filed to run for the three spots.
It was hard to not say a certain R-word during the Toms River Regional Schools board of education election: Ritacco.
And while it was the word on everyone’s lips, three candidates said it perhaps the boldest: vote for them to put an end to the Ritacco era.
“I think the reason we were able to take a win tonight was because our team was putting out a positive message on how we were going to bring the board to a new direction and a new future," said Giovine. "I don't feel that some of the other candidates were really putting new ideas. We were out there talking about how we can move beyond the stain that was left under the Ritacco era and we wanted to bring transparency and accountability."
Giovine, Pavliv and Torrone each said they’d vote not to reappoint longstanding professionals serving the district — the engineers, attorneys and insurance brokers they felt needed to be ushered out. The three would serve among nine voting members of the board of education.
“I think we won tonight because we spoke to what the people wanted this time. They are fed up with the corruption, the cronyism and the self-dealing on this board, and we promised them a new way of doing business in this town," said Pavliv. "I think the taxpayers have had enough and they decided that it's time."
The slate brought together a Democrat, Republican and independent, with each saying this was not a level of government to be governed by political parties.
"The campaign was very effective since we had a fusion ticket with a Democrat, an independent and a Republican running, it showed that we really are trying to take politics off of the board," said Giovine. "I think people want more common sense in their government. When I sit down with my bills at the end of the month, I have to really try to see how my budget can fit in my life and I think that's what the voters want out of us."
Pavliv said what motivated him to run was when he discovered a payment of $150,000 to an attorney to handle six cases. “I'm focused on bringing in new professionals and going through the budget to make cuts wherever possible," said Pavliv. "I want to be an advocate for the taxpayers."
Pavliv publicly said at candidates’ events that he intends to serve one term.
“It’s not my intention to serve multiple terms,” said Pavliv. “I want to get in and get things done and get out.”
Giovine said that seeing himself as the top vote-getter was humbling.
“I'm very elated that the voters came out and voted for our slate and chose to have a good, positive change here in Toms River," said Giovine. "I'm honored that they chose our team to represent them on the board and humbled by the number of votes casted."
Kenny and Rodgers
After what appeared to start out looking like a close victory for Karen Kenny and Frank Rodgers, the two candidates quickly slipped in the votes from being in the top three contenders to taking fourth and fifth places, respectively.
Both seemed proud of the work they had put into their campaign. “We did everything we could to win,” Rodgers said in a telephone interview. “Karen and I have no regrets.”
Rodgers did express disappointment with his loss in the race, but he and Kenny wished the three candidates who won “the best of luck in assuming the responsibilities of school board members.”
As far as the budget was concerned, they were glad it passed. Despite the 3.6 percent increase to be imposed on the taxpayers of Toms River, they supported it fully.
Both Rodgers and Kenny are thankful to all those who supported them during their campaign, and are especially grateful to those who went out and voted for them.
When asked if they had plans to run again at the next school board election, “It’s too early to say if we will run,” Rodgers said. “We have to get back to our professional lives.”
Rodgers had hoped to “at all times exercise my fiduciary responsibility to the children and taxpayers of the District by insisting that educational best practices underlie all decisions,” while making sure that all resources and personnel are held accountable for the expenditure of resources, and uphold that “the highest standards of ethical conduct are paramount in all board actions.”
Kenny entered the race because “I no longer wanted to be a spectator while the very foundation of the Toms River Regional School system is in jeopardy,” according to Kenny, who is also the current director of Student Services in the Pinelands Regional School District. She believed that the school board needed “new leaders with independent views that are willing to listen to all members of the community.”
Bageac did express some disappointment in not being the choice of the voters. Bageac said, “Of course I am disappointed on some level. I think there was tremendous voter turnout and I am sorry that I am not going to be part of the change that the voters want.”
Bageac did have some kind words of support for the candidates that will be filling the Toms River Board of Education slots. Bageac said, “I wish the winners success and hope that they make the changes that the voters want to see.”
While Bageac was impressed with the turnout of voters this year, she also feels this is very telling for the level of accountability that will be bestowed upon this new Board of Education.
“The amount of voters really shows that people are watching what is going on, that there is an interest of the public with the Board and accountability. This Board is different; it is going to be held accountable to all the voters that did turn out,” said Bageac.
Although Bageac was not elected for a seat on the Board of Education she plans on remaining an active participant of the voting public.
“I do plan on continuing my involvement. I will still attend board meetings, that part won’t change,” she said.
In his first run for a school board seat competing against seven others, Geoghegan elected to run as in individual instead of aligning with a slate or running-mate. It’s a move he doesn’t regret.
“I am pretty confident in running independent. Running as an independent, I did not compromise my values," said the candidate after the results were in.
He said the results were unexpected.
"I am surprised at the results, they are not what I expected. I wish the best to the elected members, and I hope their intentions are sincere," he said.
Geoghegan said he ran a campaign built on earnestness and honesty, hoping to build a grassroots campaign.
"I know that I can look in the mirror and know I was honest in everything I said. I said what I could offer and presented it, and if voters disagree, I can understand."
At the Lamp Post Inn where the candidate and his supporters gathered, he was thankful to be surrounded by friends and family.
"I wish to thank my family, my wife and kids, and my brother who did a lot for my campaign. I would like to thank the other candidates for the opportunity to be on the same stage as them."