A heated election culminated Tuesday with the incumbent president of the Galveston Independent School District Board of Trustees defeating his first opponent in six years to win re-election, while a co-owner of Galveston Restaurant Group won the District 6-F seat with 66 percent of the vote.
School board President Matthew Hay defeated Laura Addison, an accountant and a political newcomer, with 56 percent of the vote to Addison’s 43.9 percent for the District 5-E seat, according to complete but unofficial returns.
“I feel relieved, but also fantastic,” Hay said. “This has been a nice, long-fought campaign. I had an opportunity for about an hour to speak to my opponent and we had a good conversation.”
Johnny Smecca easily fended off his two opponents — Sandra Tetley and Beau Rawlins — with 633 votes to his opponents’ combined 321 votes, according to complete but unofficial returns.
“I feel very proud to win by the margins that we did,” Smecca said. “Hard work always pays off in my opinion.”
Tetley finished second behind Smecca with 260 votes, while Rawlins took 61 votes, according to complete but unofficial returns.
Tetley and Rawlins competed against each other, but campaigned on similar platforms and even sometimes released joint statements.
Smecca is the co-owner of Galveston Restaurant Group. Tetley is a real estate and historical preservation officer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Rawlins is a contractor and one-time mayoral candidate who previously resigned from the school district’s board of trustees, citing personal issues that required him to move out of the district.
The District 6-F seat was left vacant with Rawlins’ resignation and after trustees decided against appointing someone to the position.
The two races — for districts 5-E and 6-F — turned into a referendum on the island school district’s direction, leadership and campaign strategy.
The trio of Addison, Tetley and Rawlins ran social media-heavy campaigns to criticize district leadership and recent trustee decisions.
Addison pledged to change the board’s culture, arguing it is resistant to input from parents and community members, and pushed for greater public scrutiny of the district’s spending, highlighting the practice of passing deficit budgets and installing a new administrative team at Central Middle School for $670,000.
Rawlins and Tetley also highlighted district spending and the need to save money as central points of their campaigns.
Addison, Rawlins and Tetley made news in October when they released a prepared statement declining an invitation to a forum hosted by The Daily News, arguing it was biased and had been rigged in a collusion between the newspaper and the school district. Both the newspaper and the school district disputed that assertion.
Smecca campaigned on a more moderate platform, citing his experience on various city boards and his knowledge of business as reasons he would be a good trustee.
Smecca did, however, side more with Rawlins and Tetley in saying he couldn’t support a bond election with a tax increase until district officials considered selling property and ensured everything was running as efficiently as possible.
In the end, voters sided more with the moderate campaigns of Hay and Smecca over online-centric opposition.
“I think the majority of the voters feel we are moving in the right direction,” Hay said Tuesday night.
Both of Tuesday’s winners emphasized the election was just the beginning.
“It’s time to go to work,” Smecca said. “This has been the longest three months, honestly, for me. All I’ve ever wanted is just to go and start working. I’m excited to go and represent the voters.”