The mood of nervous tension filled the air. You could feel it.
The setting was a stark gymnasium in a Plainview elementary school. The unfolding drama told a story of Democracy in action.
In some countries, what emerged Tuesday night would simply be unthinkable: Political opponents locked together in a room where the voice of voters would peacefully decide the public’s future.
The remarkable gathering of community leaders took place at, where the decision of Plainview’s voters would be tallied. In the balance hung the fate of the district’s $134 million proposed budget and the election of school board candidates.
The polls closed promptly at 9 p.m. The gym doors were locked. Joining the election officials inside was the entire current school board, including two incumbent candidates, and . Their adversary, Challenger was there, too, with Superintendent Gerard Dempsey and most of his administrative staff.
The district had argued for months that its spending plan was responsible, its direction prudent. Now, officials wondered aloud whether they had they made their case.
And, in the past few weeks, the candidates vying for two positions on the Board of Education had cordially exchanged barbs. The incumbents had stressed their experience. The challenger had criticized the district's direction. Now, without acrimony, the three awaited the results. All three spoke privately about the tension they were feeling, stress clearly etched on their faces.
They wanted this job, an often thankless post that pays nothing and requires hours away from home and family.
At 9 p.m. Tuesday, the various factions were no longer adversaries, no longer employer and employees. Now all of them were servants to the voice of the people.
One by one, election officials unlocked the four voting machines located around the gym. A procession followed them from machine to machine. The numbers were read off. The budget was passing. The incumbents were leading.
Bernstein’s husband hugged his wife. Supporters crowded around Lieberman. Challenger Mazzocchi stood alone beneath an American flag, scribbling the results on a sheet of paper. Board President Gary Bettan wandered over to him and wished him well.
Results were phoned in from the other polling places. The numbers held up. The math was checked and the outcome posted on a school chalkboard.
- The budget passed: 2,095 - 1,136
- The two incumbents were returned to office.
- A capital budget proposal passed: 2,230 - 936.
- The library budget went through: 2,098 - 970.
- Unopposed candidate Joseph Eisner was elected to the library board with 1,648 votes.
There was relief, hugs and handshakes.
Gracious in defeat, Mazzocchi approached Bettan and they shook hands. The challenger vowed to have an even bigger role in the community in the future. Bettan vowed to work hard next year to keep the trust of the community.
And following state education law, the school board sat down together and convened a meeting. They voted to accept the results of the election, the results dictated by the people.
Fittingly, the board’s vote was unanimous.