If you live in the City of DeWitt, there are 81 names on your ballot for the Nov. 8 election. Eighty are unique.
That’s because Clay Coey, a 13-year DeWitt resident, has a stake in both the City Council and School Board races. Such an occurrence is rare enough that Coey, who has worked in campaigns since the ’90s, had to check if a dual candidacy is legal.
Coey initially entered the election cycle solely as a City Council candidate, with an interest in promoting fiscal conservatism and financial oversight. “I wanted to see personally where my taxes are going,” he said, adding that any surplus in a budget funded by taxes ought to be returned to the taxpayers.
Not long after he turned in the signatures that put him on the ballot, DeWitt parents heard him him speak during the public comment section of school board meetings and suggested he also consider running for that board.
For the school board race, Coey is focused on giving parents a say in their children’s education. “If it is something that affects your child personally, you should, as the public, be able to have a voice,” he said. “I think that the parents should see, top to bottom, every single curriculum item.” He added that if parents want to see “a list of entire book titles in a library, get it done, put it out there.”
As part of giving parents a say in their children’s education, Coey plans to expand communication between the school board and meeting attendees. He wants to restore the time allotted for public comments from three minutes per individual to its former five-minute limit, and “would also like to make a motion for an open forum setting, where if Mrs. Brown asks a question of me, I can respond to it.”
Coey’s other school board plans include educational changes: “I would also take schools back to basic teaching. I’m tired of the agendas going on in the classrooms … I don’t like the slant. I’m a basic ‘three R’s’ kind of guy. Reading, writing, arithmetic,” he said.
“To politicize teaching – no. Not at that age. Not at 5, not at 11, not even at 18 … that’s indoctrination and it should not be permitted in a school.” He said he thinks it is happening in DeWitt.
Coey appears on the ballot alongside three other candidates for City Council: Denise Donohue, Mark E. Kellogg and Jennifer Whitman.
For School Board, Coey is running against Angelina M. Barnes, Dwight D. Handspike, Will Thompson, John F. Tramontana and Michelle Utrup.
There will be three winners in each race.
Regardless of any individual’s background or political beliefs, Coey already shares some values with his potential future colleagues.
John Tramontana, vice president of the school board, supports student-focused decisions. “We have to be investing in our kids,” he said. “[They are] our most valuable resource in the community.” Coey agrees: “You go out there, and you are concerned about your children, your neighbor’s children, all the children – if you have that at heart first – that’s what it is.”
The two agreed that politics and the school board shouldn’t mix: “I don’t think political agendas are appropriate in a nonpartisan elected capacity … that’s my opinion,” said Tramontana. Similarly, Coey said that school board agendas should be objective, not influenced by either side of the political spectrum.
City Council Member Jennifer Whitman spoke about using taxpayer money efficiently, as well as the upcoming park equipment upgrades, two things Coey favors.