Doug Otto

School board candidate Doug Otto.

Two longtime Long Beach Unified School District Board members — Felton Williams and Jon Meyer — have announced they will step down next year.

Both Williams, District 2, and Meyer, District 4, will be completing their fourth term next year — 16 years on the board — Meyer was elected in 2003 in a special election to replace Ed Eveland after Eveland died. Meyer already has endorsed attorney and current Long Beach Community College District trustee Doug Otto as his replacement.

Last Tuesday, the Teachers Association of Long Beach endorsed Otto for the District 4 seat and Erik Miller for District 2.

“Filling Jon Meyer’s shoes will be no easy task; however, Mr. Otto has a long history of advocating for our communities," Barry Welsch, TALB president, said in a release, "whether it be his tireless work at Long Beach Community College or the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific.  His steady leadership is just what LBUSD needs as we deal with the prospect of hiring a new superintendent and declining enrollment.” 

Superintendent Chris Steinhauser has been in that position since 2002 — one of the longest tenures seen in the post. He has begun mentioning retirement, but has made no official announcement.

Otto will be completing his fourth term on the LBCC board next year. He also served eight years (two terms) on the city Planning Commission from 1992 to 2000 and has been on multiple other committees and task forces. He is an attorney with his own practice.

"I have been a student of education policy for almost 20 years," Otto said. "In my opinion, the most important work in that field over the next decade will be in early childhood and K-12 education. Long Beach Unified is celebrated as one of the best urban school districts in the nation. But with declining enrollments and the unwillingness of our legislature to adequately fund education, Long Beach will be in trouble if we don’t work hard starting right now to ensure that our students succeed.

"I want to be part of that effort."

District 4 covers southeast Long Beach and includes Catalina Island. Before joining the school board, Meyer worked for the district as a teacher and principal for nearly 40 years, rising to become principal at Lowell Elementary, Avalon High, Lakewood High and Wilson High schools.

"When I announced I would run for this last term, I shook hands with Chris (Steinhauser) and said I would run if he would stay until my term is done," Meyer said. "I love the school, I love the kids… But I'm 83 now. It's time."

Meyer has endorsed Otto.

Erik Miller grew up in Long Beach and has a degree in architecture. He has worked in the nonprofit sector as well, serving as director of Operation Jump Start, a mentoring organization. He announced last Wednesday, May 29, that he would run for the school board seat. He came in second in 2016 in the race for the Sixth District Long Beach City Council seat.

Williams was a college educator and administrator before retiring in 2007. District 2 covers central Long Beach, including Poly and Cabrillo high schools.

The LBUSD board election is on March 3, 2020, in tandem with the city's election of even-numbered City Council districts and the state primary. If no candidate wins 50 percent plus one of the vote, there would be a runoff with the final election in November.

The LBCC trustee election is not until November 2020 and does not include the option of a runoff.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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