By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sue Williamson, a retired schoolteacher, has emerged as the winner of the second seat on Sea Isle City’s Board of Education following a successful write-in campaign in the Nov. 7 election.
Cape May County Clerk Rita M. Rothberg confirmed Friday that Williamson collected 72 write-in votes to defeat her closest rival, Kathleen D’Intino, who had 55 write-in votes.
“She is definitely a winner,” Rothberg said of Williamson.
The election results will become official on Nov. 22. Incumbent Kerry Mullane easily won re-election on the Sea Isle school board with 469 votes. Mullane was the only candidate whose name was on the ballot for two open seats.
It remained a mystery for days as to who would win the second seat until the write-in votes were counted by the Cape May County Board of Elections.
There was only one candidate on the ballot because longtime Board of Education president Dan Tumolo decided not to seek re-election this year due to health reasons. No one else filed a nominating petition to have their name placed on the ballot.
Williamson said she considered launching a write-in campaign while watching to see if any other candidates would run to replace Tumolo.
“What the heck. I thought, ‘I’ll do a write-in campaign,’” she said in an interview Friday.
Williamson, who has lived in Sea Isle with her husband, Doug, for a little more than four years, retired in 2019 as an elementary school teacher in the Rose Tree Media School District in Media, Pa.
She has become well-known in the community while serving as the director of the family-friendly beachcombing tours organized by the Sea Isle City Environmental Commission each summer. She is also a member of the local Garden Club.
Williamson said she hopes to use the experience she gained during her 26-year teaching career to contribute to the Board of Education and to help keep schoolchildren safe.
“I have a great deal of interest in public education,” she said.
Williamson held a number of senior-level positions, including president, with the teachers’ union in the Rose Tree Media School District. She said she would often attend Board of Education meetings in Media while representing the union, giving her even more insight and experience into how school boards work.
In Sea Isle, there is no public school. The old school was closed in 2012 due to declining student. In April, the school building at 4501 Park Road was demolished April to make room for the city’s proposed community recreation center that is expected to open in 2025.
Although there is no school, the Board of Education still has the responsibility of putting together the school budget each year. Sea Isle maintains an annual school budget of about $2.6 million to pay for the cost of sending Sea Isle’s students to other districts, primarily Ocean City. Sea Isle’s school tax rate has remained stable for at least 12 straight years.
Tuition and transportation costs make up the bulk of the school budget. Sea Isle’s school budget has also supported a number of education and community initiatives in the Ocean City school district, including mental health counseling, drug prevention, a creativity innovation project and an SAT testing reimbursement program for students.
The Board of Education also has partnerships with the city and the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization for initiatives that benefit local schoolchildren.
Williamson is the second person in Sea Isle in the last three years to win a seat on the five-member Board of Education as a write-in candidate.
In the 2021 election, a write-in campaign was successful in keeping incumbent Patricia Halfpenny on the school board. Halfpenny wanted to run for re-election, but didn’t submit her nominating petitions in time to be officially placed on the ballot.
Hoping to keep Halfpenny on the board, other members of the school board were part of a community campaign to get her enough write-in votes to win re-election in 2021.
In the Nov. 7 election, Sea Isle, West Wildwood, Wildwood and Lower Township each had one or two write-in candidates winning seats on school boards in Cape May County, Rothberg said.
Rothberg said it is not all that unusual for write-in candidates to win school board seats. She said the trend for write-in winners became more common after New Jersey’s Board of Education elections were moved from their former time slot in April to November to coincide with the general elections starting in 2012.
At the same time, school board elections are generally becoming more contested now that they are held in November, Rothberg said. As an example, she pointed to Ocean City’s Nov. 7 school board election, which had seven candidates running for three open seats.