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Small-business owner Mark Steller, business manager Melanie Waffle and banking officer Shaun Henderson will become the newest members of the Orcutt Union School District's board of education after emerging at the top of a crowded field Tuesday night.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting just before 11:30 p.m., Steller, Waffle and Henderson topped engineer Eric Melsheimer and counselor Laurel Ciervo for seats on the board. Results still are considered unofficial until finalized by county officials. 

"I think it's exciting," said an optimistic Steller, who had led throughout the night since the first vote-by-mail results were reported. Hosting a group of roughly 35 friends and supporters at an election night party at Old Town Market, Steller said he spent most of the night refreshing the county's online results webpage. By the end of the night, Steller carried 4,556 votes, or 49.92 percent.

"I think it will be a good change," Steller said, adding that he's met with all three retiring board members — Bob Hatch, Jim Peterson and Rob Buchanan — since declaring his candidacy. "With new blood, you always get a new vision. I'm excited to move forward; every day will be an adventure."

Coming in second with 4,212 votes, or 46.15 percent, Waffle said she was anxious yet looking forward to her responsibilities as a board member. "I'm excited to be able to help the schools in different ways and to be a voice for parents and take a next step," said Waffle, who spent her election night at home watching the results with her family.

Crediting her supporters and volunteers with handing her the victory, Waffle said she plans to celebrate with her family this weekend before dedicating time to studying her role and duties.

"There's a lot to learn; I've got a big learning curve," she said. 

Henderson came in third with 3,551 votes, or 39.91 percent, also earning a seat on the board. Melsheimer and Ciervo came up short in their bid, earning 3,217 and 2,989 votes, 35.25 and 32.75 percent, respectively.

Six elementary, two junior high and one K-12 charter program make up the 5,200-student Orcutt Union School District. Elected board members not only ensure financial oversight and public accountability, they also establish district and educational policy, and provide community leadership. Orcutt's unique status as an unincorporated community make the district the lone local government in the area.

The five Orcutt residents chose to mount campaigns for the at-large board seats after Hatch, Peterson and Buchanan opted against running for re-election. Steller, Waffle and Henderson will join incumbents Lisa Morinini and Liz Phillips on the board in December.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.