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3-way race in county superintendent position is first in nearly six decades

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POSTED May 9, 2014 1:46 a.m.

San Joaquin County Office of Education Superintendent Mick Founts may not be a contender in the June 3 primary elections. But his presence still dominates the three-way election race.

That’s because he is the man waiting for a replacement. But that’s not all. His retirement announcement in late 2013 triggered the end of a 66-year unbroken tradition resulting in the first competitive election for the top post at the county Office of Education in Stockton.

Founts’ run in 2008 was uncontested. It was the same way for his predecessor, fellow Mantecan Frederick Wentworth who was county superintendent for about two decades, during which time his re-elections did not produce any contenders.

Now, there’s a crowd of three in the June 3 primary elections. If one of the three candidates, Jeff Tilton, triumphs at the polls, the superintendent’s position will continue to be filled by someone with roots in Manteca.

Now the Superintendent of Charter School for New Jerusalem School District in Tracy, Tilton is a graduate of Manteca High School where he taught after college. He was also a coach and sports writer for the Manteca Bulletin before he went on to finish his master’s degree at the University of the Pacific.

The other challenger for the superintendent’s position is no stranger to the County Office of Education. James Mousalimas of Tracy is currently working as deputy superintendent at the San Joaquin County Office of Education. Like Tilton, Mousalimas has been an educator for many years.

The third candidate, Michael Gillespie of Lodi, shares Mousalimas’ and Tilton’s administrative background. A longtime charter school advocate, he is currently working as assistant superintendent at Gateway Community Charter in Sacramento.

The three candidates will face off in the June primary. The top two vote getters will next face off in a runoff in November. However, if one of the three garners more than 50 percent of the votes, he will be automatically declared the winner. A 50 percent plus one vote will make him the winner.

Founts’ tenure as superintendent will run through December 2014.

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