Those seeking open positions on the Mexico School District No. 59 Board of Education or Mexico City Council filed by Dec. 17. Three have filed for positions on the school board, while one has filed for the city council.

School board seats occupied by incumbents Dustin Pascoe, Kelli Teel and Brian Rowe are open. Teel and Pascoe have filed. Lisa Ovaitt also has filed. The filing period for positions on either board ends Jan. 21. Incumbent Ayanna Shivers has filed for her open seat on the council. Council member Steve Nichols' seat also is open. No others have filed yet for city council.

Pascoe and Ovaitt recently offered remarks on their candidacy. The Ledger is working to secure a candidate interview with Teel.

Ovaitt's dedication to children is what makes her a good candidate for the school board, she said. She was a stay-at-home mom to four children, but has an educational background in public policy and administration. She attended Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, where she was seeking her master's degree.

She also currently substitute teaches in the Mexico school district, mostly at the middle school. She usually teaches social studies and English.

"I love the kids, the connections I make with them. I like being a different face for them," Ovaitt said. "My desire to help all kids is really the impetus [for my candidacy]. I just have a desire to help where I can."

Ovaitt is a Mexico native who graduated from the local school system. She moved back to Mexico around five years ago after 40 years on the east coast.

"I believe I could be a positive force on the school board,” Ovaitt said. “I will bring thoughtful consideration to all topics that are brought forward. I have a lot of life experiences in different aspects of schooling.”

One area on which she hopes to work is building safety and security.

"I do believe I was instrumental in getting the doors at the middle school. That is a very important safety item in this day and age," Ovaitt said. "There are a few more [safety upgrades] I could see that we need. That would not be my sole focus."

Pascoe has served on the school board since 2011, currently as board president. His family places a big focus on public service, which is what led him to seek a position on the board, he said. He is originally from Lohman, near Jefferson City, but lived in Kentucky prior to moving to Mexico in 1999.

He serves as a professor of language and literature at Moberly Area Community College's Mexico Learning Center. He focuses on student education in his role as a board member.

"One of the things that we still want to do is improve [assessment] results. There has been an increase in focus on that," he said. "We've been willing to try things that are likely to improve our educational offerings and curriculum."

Pascoe also hopes to see through the hiring of a new superintendent after the announcement last month of Superintendent Zach Templeton's retirement in June. A new superintendent should be selected sometime in February.

Shivers is seeking her second term on the council. She moved back to Mexico around five years ago and saw a need for a voice like hers on the council, she said. Since her time on the council she has seen an increase in citizens attending council meetings and her monthly Munch with the Mayor events to voice concerns and to learn about what is happening in the city, she said.

While Shivers is seeking re-election, her main goal is education about other issues currently faced by the city and ballot questions, such as the use tax ordinance recently approved by the council.

"It would be great for us to say we don't need taxes, but we also know that is not a feasible solution," she said.

The ballot question will ask Mexico voters if they approve of a 2% use tax on out-of-state purchases, mostly from online shopping. The tax will allow the city to collect its portion of a use tax already collected by the state. For local purchases, the city's 2% sales tax will apply instead.

Shivers wants to continue breaking barriers in bringing in more diverse voices because they will be able to work toward equitable solutions to problems, she said. This includes bringing in more business to Mexico, sewer upgrades and more.

"The more that people feel that they have access [to us], the more open they are to getting the information they need and the better and more informed community that we have. It ultimately makes them more involved, more comfortable," Shivers said.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com