There was no denying Ashley Drain’s excitement. The smile never left her face the whole time – before, during, and after the moment she was sworn in as one of the two newest members of the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees at the panel’s annual reorganization meeting Tuesday night.
As the meeting commenced after the board finished its required “housekeeping” business of electing the next year’s board president, vice president, clerk of the board and committee designations, Drain’s excitement was as palpable as that of a child opening her gifts Christmas morning.
In contrast, Trustee Alexander Bronson who, like Drain, is a neophyte on the board – both vanquished two incumbents, one of them a two-decade veteran of the board, in the November elections even without any effort expended doing the long tried-and-true campaign strategies that won many a victory for untold number of candidates – maintained a serious mien throughout the evening. Even though he is the youngest on board at 21 years of age, he displayed a formality that could be perceived as quite alien to youth by his use of “Nay” and “Aye” answers instead of a simple “Yes” and “No” as has been the long-held practice by the rest of the board members.
Notable during the evening was Trustee Sam Fant’s apparent protective hovering over Bronson. Before the meeting, I saw them in quiet conference. Fant gravitated toward Bronson again during the brief recess after the reorganization election and other “housekeeping” business. Each time, as I made the step to take their photo, they immediately broke up their conversation with Fant throwing a smile at me that sent a tacit message that he did not want a picture taken of them together.
It’s truly commendable to see someone who has been on the board for some time – two years to be exact – like Fant to be solicitous to a newcomer like Bronson, showing him the ropes. I’m not questioning his intentions.
His actions, though, that evening may be clouded by issues raised during the November elections. Investigations made by Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell revealed some questionable details, not just about Bronson’s candidacy but also that of Drain, which were legal in nature. Those legalities are right now being investigated by the Secretary of State’s office.
Those legal issues concerned the residential addresses submitted by Bronson and Drain in the candidate’s papers they submitted to the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters in Stockton. It was found that both of the newly installed trustees listed the same residence at 624 Verda Drive in Manteca in their candidate’s paperwork. Drain made efforts to correct that in subsequent papers she filed. In one of those papers, she simply crossed out the Verda address and replaced it with another address. These papers actually exist and are available for public viewing. They are being kept at the Registrar of Voters office; however, no pictures or photocopies of them are allowed.
Where does Fant come into the Bronson-Drain picture? Both trustees wrote down the name of Fant as a source that could verify the veracity of the information they provided in their candidates’ papers.
For all the details in Campbell’s reports, read the Manteca Bulletin online stories on Sept. 4, Sept, 6, and Nov. 18 (www.mantecabulletin.com).
You can also read Bronson’s response to the issues brought up by Campbell on this subject in a letter to the editor he sent to the Bulletin and was published in the Sept. 6 edition of the paper.
“Being only recently returned to the area, it should come as no surprise that I don’t yet have a long established residence. This should not preclude my ability to run for elected office in Manteca,” the 2014 graduate of the University of California graduate who works for the Stockton Boys and Girls Club explained in his letter.
When I asked Fant repeatedly if he was aware, or knew beforehand that Bronson and Drain listed him as the person who can verify the information they provided in their election paperwork, he did not give a direct yes or no answer. He simply reiterated again and again that his focus as a trustee is the welfare of the students in the school district.
Those are just the facts. We’ll just have to wait and see the report coming from the Secretary of State’s investigation into the matter, and whether it will file any charges based on the findings.
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Heartwarming to see grandmother & mom give oath
But going back to some of the highlights of the swearing-in ceremony, it was heartwarming to see Bronson’s grandmother and mother officiate at his oath-taking while his father smilingly and proudly looked on. That they are a close family was obvious to everyone, with the Lincoln High School graduate (in Stockton) warmly hugging the members of his family and being hugged back by them in turn.
It was equally heartwarming to watch Drain being sworn in by her former seventh-grade math teacher, John Payne, who came all the way from San Francisco that evening to do the honors for his former student, and to hear him tell everyone that he felt “blessed” more in having her as his student than for her to have had him as her teacher.
Watching Trustees Nancy Teicheira and Evelyn Moore take their oath taking before San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Tony Agbayani, a graduate of East Union High School, was also quite an experience. These are two board members who have dedicated their lives to the education of children in the district. Moore is a retired elementary school teacher. In terms of years of service, she is the doyenne of the board. This is her sixth term of office. Teicheira, a member of one of Manteca’s longtime farming families, is starting her fifth term of office. Through all the years she was on the board, she remained faithful and dedicated to her duties as a trustee even as she battled – and continues to battle – cancer and mourned the death of her youngest son, Daniel, who was killed in a car accident when he was a sophomore at Sierra High School. That was the only time Teicheira missed a board meeting.