Two Mehlville board seats filled by election vote-getters

By Alyson E. Raletz

An incumbent and a vice chairman of a board-appointed committee won the most votes in the April 6 Mehlville Board of Education election.

Tom Correnti and Rita Diekemper were scheduled to be sworn into office during a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Successful in their bids for elective office, Diekemper will continue in her role as a board member and faces her second three-year term, while Correnti, vice chairman of the Proposition P Oversight Committee, is about to serve his first three-year term on the board. Correnti will be serving in a seat left vacant by Rich Huddleston, who did not seek election to a third, three-year term.

Karl Frank, who was seeking his first elective bid, did not come away from last week’s election with a seat on the board — but the former candidate has vowed to remain active in board issues and plans on seeking a board seat again in 2005.

Diekemper was unavailable for comment before the Call’s press time. However, the second-highest vote-getter in last week’s contest told the Call he was excited to serve the school district in the capacity of a board director.

“I’m glad the votes came out the way they did,” Correnti told the Call. “I was hoping the message I had was well-received and it seems like it was … I really believed I will be working very hard for people so the kids will be the first ones whose interests I have at heart — that the children of the school district will be treated equitably and fairly.”

He had no initial plans to address any certain issue once sworn into office, but planned to focus on acclimating himself to the board and its procedures, according to Correnti.

“I like to think that in the next couple of months, before school gets out, I’ll have the opportunity to sit back and learn the idiosyncrasies of the board so that I will be able to come in and adapt to the way they’re handling things,” he said. “As a new person, I probably would like to believe I can sit and absorb as much of their policies and what they do and try to add to and enhance whatever issues are before the board.”

Despite the results of the April 6 election, Frank told the Call he believed in his primary goal of participating in it. Frank submitted his name as a board candidate 20 minutes prior to the filing deadline earlier this year. If he had not filed and Diekemper and Correnti had been uncontested, no election would have taken place, under a new state law.

“As far as election went … I definitely reached my initial goal — to have a discussion on issues,” Frank said. “… There are too many important things going on right now not to have that discussion …

“I am proud of the people I met through the elections and I am proud of the 2,700 or so supporters who did vote for me.”

Diekemper received 3,918 votes — 37.72 percent. Correnti garnered 3,728 votes — 35.89 percent — while Frank received 2,742 votes — 26.4 percent. Out of the 60,477 registered voters in the Mehlville School District, 6,677 votes were cast April 6 — with an 11.04 percent voter turnout.

“I definitely plan on running again next year because just because the election is over, that doesn’t mean the issues go away,” Frank said, noting he would concentrate his activist efforts on any Proposition P-related issues and the performance of Mehlville’s public relations department.

“I definitely plan on attending most Board of Education meetings. I will definitely use the open comment period to make the comments that need to be made. I will continue to use my Web site. I will continue to elaborate on issues and include the successes of Mehlville students on the site.”

Throughout Frank’s campaign, the former candidate posted entries on his Web site,

— an unprecedented campaign strategy during a Mehlville election.

Frank acknowledged positive and negative aspects that arose from his unsuccessful campaign.

“As far as they (Diekemper and Correnti) go, they ran as a team and won as a team. I really think deep down it was kind of a hand-picked team and I wouldn’t have ran that way,” Frank said. “It was basically the initiation of another member to their social club … “I still want to focus on the issues. I want to show some way that I am a public school supporter — that’s one of the things that got lost in the fray … There’s no bigger supporter of the public school system than me. That’s the only frustration I had in this race.”