By Allen Payton
Long-serving Antioch School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig let it be known on Saturday, July 14 that he will not run for reelection and instead join fellow Trustee Debra Vinson and take on County School Board Vice President Jeff Belle in November’s election.
While Vinson, finishing her first and rather contentious term on the Antioch School Board, didn’t officially announce her campaign, she did ride in a car in the Antioch July 4th Parade with a sign indicating her decision to run for the county board. In 2017 Vinson was censured by her fellow board members for her interactions with district employees. (See related article). She was also passed over for the board presidency, following her year as Vice President. (See related article).
On one issue all three will most likely agree, which is approving private charter schools. Both Vinson and Ruehlig were two of the three board members who, earlier this year, voted in favor of the East Bay Tech Academy middle and high charter school petitions, and Ruehlig was one of the three who voted for the Rocketship elementary charter school petition in 2016. Belle has voted against one and approved five other charter schools while on the county board.
“I have decided definitely to run for Area 5 County Board of Education,” Ruehlig stated, following rumors of the possibility.
In his official announcement, he wrote:
I will be submitting my candidacy papers on Monday, July 16th to run for Area 5 of the County Board of Education, which covers Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Clyde, Knightsen, Oakley, and Pittsburg.
In June of 1968, I dedicated myself to public service and youth education when I taught English for the Peace Corps in Sultandag, a rural village in Turkey that had no electricity. Fifty years later, the idealism continues.
I believe that that my twelve-year service, with three years as President, on the Antioch School Board, and my experience with the Pittsburg Unified School District as a California Department of Rehabilitation Workability Program Director for adults with disabilities and as a career counselor, have given me useful insight into County Trustee duties. I am excited by the challenge of overseeing career training programs, special education, community day schools, and facilities for incarcerated juveniles.
I was a late-bloomer myself but, fortunately, had teachers who didn’t give up on me. I eventually caught fire and worked my way through college. My passion for sharing opportunity and persisting with high-risk, disadvantaged or under motivated students is my way of returning thanks.
Aside from counseling, teaching and administrative background, I feel I have the proven temperament and intangible skill sets requisite for good governance.
I enjoy communication and transparency. I am open, creative and innovative but believe in sober budgeting, no-nonsense classroom behavior standards and back to the basics core curriculum. I am pragmatic and put my ego at the door to focus on getting the task at hand done one building block at a time. In this age of divisiveness, I am proud to say that I can get along without always going along. I am a consensus-builder but no pushover. I cannot be bullied or bought.
I look forward to meeting the voters of Area 5, hearing their concerns, and presenting my vision. I welcome their scrutiny and would be honored by their support. I pledge not to let them, or their kids, down.
Candidate, Area 5
Contra Costa County Board of Education
Incumbent Jeff Belle
Elected in 2014, Belle has faced a variety of controversies before and during his term on the County School Board. In January 2016, Belle admitted to claiming he was a respiratory care practitioner even though he didn’t have a license and was fined $8,200 by the state. (See related article).
In December 2016, facing prosecution by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office for lying on his ballot statement, Belle admitted in court that he didn’t have a college degree which he claimed. He agreed to community service to avoid a trial and possible fine of up to $1,000. (See related article)
He and his wife had to move from their home in Antioch in spring of 2015 for failure to pay rent, due to a loss of his wife’s job and Belle not earning enough through his consulting business. They separated and Mrs. Belle moved to Sacramento. As a result, questions have arisen about Belle’s residency. He rented rooms in other people’s homes in the district. The two have since reconciled and Belle now splits his time between his wife’s place and a home in the district.
In 2017 Belle suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Recently, he posted a fundraising effort on his Facebook page to help him pay off his medical bills. The total raised was $50 from former County School Board Trustee Richard Asadoorian.
Recently, Belle has served as a producer for a TV show entitled Modern Ageless Beauty for women over age 40.
Filing opens on July 16th and closes August 10th if Belle decides to seek reelection, which is expected. If not, the filing period will be extended to August 15th. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 6th.