Bethel Twp. residents ‘felt ignored’ and spoke with votes, ousting incumbents

Community has seen lawsuits over school gender policy, annexation of township land; new faces win races for school board, township government

BETHEL TWP., Miami County — Voters in Bethel Twp. chose not to re-elect incumbents in both the race for the Bethel Local Schools Board of Education as well as races for a township trustee and fiscal officer seats.

The votes in the township races were among the last to come in Nov. 7 at the Miami County Board of Elections. When the results were posted, incumbent school board member Lori Sebastian finished in third place in a race for two board seats. Finishing first and second were newcomers Regan Butler and Jackie Leskowich.

In a second, one-seat school board race, another newcomer, Andrew Vieth, was successful in his bid. The incumbent in that race, Lydda Mansfield, had dropped out of the race in October citing personal reasons. Second place in that race went to Megan Black Striley.

In township officials races, Kama Dick was the winner over incumbent Don Black for the single trustee seat on the ballot. Rhonda Ross was elected township fiscal officer over longtime incumbent Deb Watson.

Both the school district and the township have had controversial and confrontational times the past few years. The township government has battled annexation of property from the township to Huber Heights, while the Board of Education’s decided to allow students to use the restroom facilities of their preferred gender identityThat dispute caused a community uproar and remains in the courts. The controversy also led to filing of action seeking to legally remove three board members, including Sebastian and Mansfield.

Butler said she was “humbled” by her election and is looking forward to dialogue with fellow board members on goals and priorities. A former Bethel schools employee, Butler said she heard from residents a desire to try a different approach to some issues in the district.

“I think this holds true for our township positions and the nation as a whole. I think the next election cycle will reflect the same. The electorate would like to be heard, and they want to try a different way of doing business,” Butler said.

Leskowich said she is excited for the opportunity to serve on the board. Safety and helping young readers and struggling students are priorities, she said.

Leskowich said running for the board was her way of trying to be heard. “I didn’t feel like the school board cared about my concerns or the concerns of other school district residents. I felt completely ignored. Running for a seat on our school board was the only way I knew to make my voice heard,” she said.

Vieth said he was “humbled by the support of the community.” His goals include ensuring students and staff are safe and protected and to improve academics. The replacement of incumbents was due in part to residents feeling their thoughts were ignored, Vieth said.

“The school board, and township offices had made several decisions that the community do not agree with. The community had voiced their opinions and were ignored, so they voiced with their votes,” he said.

Dick said she looks forward to working with fellow trustees as a team to address continued annexation attempts and the need for more transparency in dealing with residents. She is a former member of the board of education.

What does she think led to the widespread change? “I can’t speak to the school board election, but in my campaigning throughout the township, residents were very supportive of my stated goals,” Dick said.”’

Ross was making her first bid for elected office in the race for township clerk. “Transparency in all our financial transactions and accountability to our residents are my primary goals,” she said.

Sebastian will be leaving the school board after eight years.

She thanked her board colleagues, administrators and district staff. “We survived COVID, unprecedented growth and multiple building projects. I am proud of the opportunities we have created for all students to excel and succeed. I wish the new board members all the best moving forward,” Sebastian said.

Contact this contributing writer at

About the Author