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County education board election pits teen vs. incumbent

19-year-old is the youngest candidate in recent memory
By: Lien Hoang Journal Correspondent
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Could one of the next members of the county’s education board be a 19-year-old college student? It’s possible. Lindsay Mulsow, of Auburn, is throwing her youthful hat into the ring for the board of the Placer County Office of Education. “There’s not exactly a good chance for me,” the teenager said, conceding that many voters won’t take her seriously, nor find her qualified. “If I was in their situation I don’t know that I’d take myself seriously.” Her bid against incumbent Ken Tokutomi, 59, seems to lean closer to civic engagement than local politics. Mulsow likened this first step to the adult equivalent of community service she did as a Girl Scout and as an Honored Queen, the highest elected position among Job’s Daughters. It’s her chance, she said, to get involved and “affect what’s affecting me.” She is the board’s youngest candidate in recent memory, perhaps the youngest in its history. Ken Lonergan, county superintendent from 1966 to 1986, said he doesn’t recall anyone her age ever showing interest in the board’s activities. “When I was there the county board was made up mostly of retired school professional people,” he said. So what are some of her qualifications? “Well,” Mulsow said, “I didn’t hate everything involving school.” Actually, it is her status as a student that makes her an appealing candidate, she said. A 2009 graduate of Placer High, Mulsow spent a year at Laguna College of Art and Design, where she paid half of the $20,000 tuition through scholarships. Now back in Auburn with her mother and grandmother, Mulsow plans to transfer from American River College to California State University, Sacramento, for graphic design. “I’m not an adult that’s been out of the school system for years now,” she said. “I would have a different perspective than others on the board.” Her perspective means understanding the 21st-century jungle that is high school. It’s a world where, she said, “not just the geeky kids” like dances and extra-curriculars and the arts; a world where teachers sometimes tell students from day one that they’re not good enough; a world where budget cuts especially hurt the good teachers and effective programs. But is her push for change relevant? Board member Pam Robie Hart pointed out that her job is to approve budgets and hear appeals from students who are expelled or want to switch school districts — as opposed to the day-to-day concerns of school district boards. “I don’t know that she knows what she’s getting into,” said Hart, 60, adding, “I would challenge if a person at that age would have that experience or knowledge.” In an initial interview, Mulsow admitted she knew little about how the board functioned. But in a later e-mail, she had dug up some homework: a document outlining the board’s bylaws, found on its website. Mulsow’s rival, Tokutomi, treated the challenge as more of an irritation than an all-out battle. “I thought, ‘This sucks, I have to run a campaign,’” Tokutomi said of first hearing about his opponent. But, “it’s a campaign, so I gotta take it seriously.” He’ll try to raise $2,000 to $3,000, a modest figure, but still more than Mulsow will likely bring in. She said she doesn’t know how much she’ll canvass. The same goes for her cousin-in-law, Desiree Mulsow, who is also running for a board seat, against incumbent Robert Tomasini and newcomer Mark Wilder. Though a long-shot candidate, Desiree, 28, wants to get her feet wet for more serious campaigns down the line to improve fiscal responsibility. A paralegal-turned-stay-at-home-mom, Desiree heard about the open seat through the same source as Mulsow — the latter’s mom, Valerie, who works in the office of the county’s district attorney. Mulsow, who works at Gilly Hicks, a clothes store at the Galleria, said she was looking for a job when her mom suggested running. She accepted, reasoning, “Maybe it’d be a good thing to have somebody younger with different ideas.”