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Pasco school employees union reelects president

Incumbent Don Peace won a second term by 74 votes. Former president Kenny Blankenship also claims a leadership spot.

The United School Employees of Pasco has reelected Gulf Middle School physical education teacher Don Peace to a second three-year term as its president.

Peace defeated challenger Lisa Mazza, a Wesley Chapel Elementary teacher, by 74 of 920 votes cast. The ballot count reflects a small percentage of the thousands of employees represented by the collective bargaining unit.

Peace first won the presidency three years ago by unseating Kenny Blankenship, a Land O’Lakes High social studies teacher, by a similarly narrow margin. Now, the two of them will both be part of the USEP leadership team, with Blankenship winning the group’s secretary/treasurer by 17 votes over incumbent Cheryl Vinson, an Anclote High language arts teacher.

Related: Pasco school employees union president draws election challenge

Peace argued at the time that the union needed to become more professional and collaborative with the district administration. Blankenship had a more confrontational stance with the superintendent and his top staff in both tone and action.

This year, Peace said he was running on his record of improved relations with the district staff, along with some modest successes in contract talks.

The election almost didn’t happen. The union’s election committee recommended postponing the vote because of the coronavirus and its effect on the working environment.

Related: Pasco teachers union election to take place as planned

But some USEP members insisted that the bylaws required a spring election, with the winners taking their positions in June. Rather than fight internally, the group decided to move forward.

Voting began the week of April 13, with all ballots submitted by mail to the county Supervisor of Elections office, which tallied the results.