After much campaigning, mainly via Facebook, Karen Potter beat incumbent Greg Talberg in the Williamston School Board recall election. Potter was the only candidate running against the school board to beat an incumbent in the race. Potter received 2,711 votes, Talberg received 2,653, out of the total 8,388 registered voters. Votes cast for the recall election came to total 6,078, a 72.46 percent voter turnout according to the Ingham County Clerk website, proving the city’s anticipation of a large voter turnout for a non-presidential election in Williamston correct. “I’m super excited to take this position with all the other board members and help the school district become stronger and start healing as a community,” Potter said.
The election on Tuesday will end the contentious race to recall four members of the school board spurred by a transgender policy passed by the board. The race- which seeks to recall Sarah Belanger, Christopher Lewis, Nancy Deal and Greg Talberg, has galvanized the community but could result in higher voter turnout to the polls as a result.
Michelle Eichler, who has worked to get the current school board re-elected, said she was somewhat cynical about the sustainability of voter engagement after the midterm election. “They need to get out and vote, if they don’t vote things will change, and I don’t see them changing for the better,” Eichler said. Eichler said that some people might not be engaged on either side of the school board debate enough to get out to the polls and vote for members of the school board. “Most of the community, this is a whatever button,” Eichler said.
Despite rising tensions around a re-vote of Williamston school board over a trans-inclusive bathroom rule, the Oct. 1 meeting was business as usual. The board focused on working to get a passenger van, approve the construction of a dividing wall to separate a section of the gym for the wrestling team and review the goals of the board and its respective progress. The decision between whether to vote for new board members or re-vote for the same members over a rule passed by the current school board which attempted to be more inclusive for transgender students in the district. The rule wanted to lay out a rule that would allow students who identify as transgender to use the appropriate school facilities during the school day according to their gender identiry, which has become a divisive topic at previous school board meetings overshadowing other work being done at the meetings.
Williamston has all the markings of an American small town: historic buildings comprising its downtown section, local family owned restaurants, a bridal shop, a glass blowing studio and the local hardware store. Nestled above the affairs of the main Williamston strip on Grand River is a somewhat unknown plaza that even local Williamston residents may pass by: Keller’s Plaza, home to “Williamston’s hidden gem” as nearly all of the Plaza’s shop owners called their little hideaway. Keller’s Plaza is home to a small candle shop Mud Country Candles, a small party store, a glass engravings shop called the Glass Fox, a dance studio, and Peculiar Perspective’s. Matt Mulford runs Peculiar Perspectives, a studio and art gallery at the top of the landing on the second floor of the plaza, along with Tony Steele. Mulford and Steele’s friendship and passion for art goes back years Mulford says.