Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 31, 2013

School board candidates file on first day

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — By Jo Anne Embleton


Incumbents Jeff Horton and Blaine Verhelle were the first to file for school boards seats on Wednesday, saying they hoped to continue helping the local district provide a quality education for its students.

“I'm most proud of being part of a group of trustees that really has a heart for the kids and (who is guiding the district in the positive) direction that it's going,” said Place 1 Trustee Jeff Horton, adding that he enjoyed “being in a group that has a genuine interest in JISD.”

Verhelle agreed. “We always try to keep the community first in mind and try to do what's best for Jacksonville as a whole,” he said.

Wednesday was the opening day for the application filing period for school and governmental seats in Texas. School board candidates have until March 1 to file paperwork with the district administration offices. Election day is May 11.

Two JISD trustee spots are open this year: Place 1, held by Horton, and Place 2, Verhelle's seat. The positions each come with a three-year term.

Horton, owner of Jacksonville's Horton Concrete, was appointed by the school board in 2010 to fill a seat left vacant by Jim Tarrant, who had stepped down. He said he initially decided to honor the board's request to become a trustee because he's “always been supportive of the school district.

“In a place like Jacksonville, a smaller community, you can't help but be involved, especially when your kids go there,” he said. Horton and his wife, Lana, a secretary at East Side Elementary, have two children: Son Seth, 23, is a recent Texas A&M University graduate, and daughter Lauren is a JHS freshman who is in the FFA and serves on the freshman cheer squad.

As a member of the local school board, Horton has served as chairman of the long-term facilities committee and the school bond committee.

His hope is to continue realizing “the vision of (Superintendent Dr. Joe) Wardell for our district: To upgrade the facilities – you can get a quality education without new facilities, but the pride (in those upgrades is immeasurable),” he said. “We've got a plan in place that I'd like to see through.”

Academically, the district has done well in terms of mandated testing and offers quality academic and athletic programs, Horton said, adding that “Jacksonville has made a great effort in getting quality administrators and educators to serve the district – you've got to understand that we can't offer the same kind of money as (larger cities), but we still have been able to get quality educators.

“I see a lot of good things in the future,” he said.

Verhelle, owner of Verhelle Tax and Bookkeeping Service in Rusk, is running for a second term as a Place 2 school board trustee, winning the seat in 2010.

He and wife, Kendra, a physician at Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Jacksonville, are parents to 15-year-old Alaina, a high school freshman, and 13-year-old twins Abigail and Adam, who are in eighth-graders.

“I've always been active in the community through groups like the Rotary and Lions clubs, as well as the Boys Scouts and the band boosters,” he said. “When I had an opportunity to run for school board (in 2010), I ran. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to serve these past three years, and I'm looking forward to continue serving our community.” While this year's May election won't have a hot-button item like the 2010 beer sales, the men reminded people of the importance of voting.

“No matter who you vote for, everybody needs to get out to vote” Horton said.