Billings business owner Susan Layton beat out her challenger for a seat on the School District 2 board after ballots were tallied Tuesday night.
When final results were posted at 9:30 p.m., Layton led with 1,297 votes over her opponent Eric Olsen, who had 866.
“I’m excited,” Layton said. “I think the voters made the right choice.”
Layton owns the local Great Harvest Bread Co. store on Poly Drive with her husband and was running against Olsen, a grandfather of SD2 students and founder of the Montana Tea Party group, Montana Shrugged.
She’ll represent Zone B on the board, which covers the areas south and west of Billings and includes non-SD2 elementary schools, like Blue Creek, Elder Grove and Elysian. The Lockwood area is Zone A, and it’s represented by Teresa Stroebe, whose term expires next year.
Early on in the race, Olsen was vocal about his desire to pressure the school board to address the issues he was most interested in, like taxes and student achievement. At one point, he criticized the district for spending inordinate amounts of time on trivial subjects, like dinosaurs.
He also talked about bringing in his supporters to fill up board meetings and spoke about having no real desire to work with other trustees.
Layton repeatedly talked about the importance of collaborating with other trustees and finding smart ways to address budget shortfalls and other issues repeatedly faced by the board.
Layton was part of the PTA when her children attended Poly Drive Elementary and she’s similarly involved now at Elder Grove where her children currently go to school.
As a business owner, she’s said she understands the importance of community dialogue and being a good neighbor. Her and her husband’s business has found success and she hoped that by running for the school board, she’d find her way to give back to a community that’s been supportive of her.
With favorable election results showing Tuesday night, she’s now got her chance.
“I’m looking forward to getting to work,” she said.