Santa Monica Leader Plans Board of Ed Bid

Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein

The co-chair of the Santa Monica’s largest political party has decided to run for school board after hearing that at least one current member of the board won’t seek reelection.

Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, who has co-chaired Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) for four years alongside longtime co-Chair Patricia Hoffman, would have to resign from his position if he is elected to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.

Current Boardmember Nimish Patel announced last week that he would not seek reelection, citing increased responsibilities at his day job and a desire to spend more time with his family. Patel is the only board member not endorsed by SMRR.

Tahvildaran-Jesswein has eyed the school board for years and with Patel’s announcement he decided the time was right.

“There was never an open seat where there wasn’t one of my SMRR peers seeking reelection,” he said. “I had no intention of running this go-round because I fully believed that the incumbents would seek reelection. And while Nimish did not get the SMRR endorsement four years ago, I had every expectation that he would get the endorsement this time. I thought we had good, fine people in there.”

He will seek SMRR’s endorsement next month and if he receives it he will ask the steering committee, of which he is also a member, for a leave of absence. If elected, Tahvildaran-Jesswein will resign from his positions.

The move would be bittersweet, he said. There are restrictions placed on elected officials that aren’t placed on the average resident. There are advantages to being a SMRR co-chair that won’t be available to him as a school board member.

“But I think it’s a natural step for me and I think that people who know me know that education is my passion,” he said.

The last SMRR co-chair to jump into the Santa Monica political arena was Gleam Davis who has been a member of City Council since 2009.

The terms of three other school board members are also set to expire this year.

Laurie Lieberman, who served as the board president last year, is the only member to file re-election paperwork, according to Santa Monica City Hall’s campaign disclosure website.

She filed her first papers in January. Lieberman was the top vote-getter in 2010.

The term of Oscar de la Torre, founder of the Pico Youth and Family Center and co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association, is also set to expire at the end of this year. 

Ralph Mechur, current vice-president of the board, is also at the end of his term.

Boardmember Ben Allen is not up for re-election this November but he is running for State Senate. Earlier this month he was the top vote-getter in the primary election. He’ll face-off with Sandra Fluke in November. If elected, he would have to vacate his seat on the board.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press