Voters Elect Mumby, Cheff to Columbia Falls School Board

Heather Mumby and Justin Cheff were elected from six candidates who had sought a seat on the board after Mumby and Larry Wilson's terms on the board expired.

By Mike Kordenbrock
Heather Mumby and Justin Cheff were elected to the board of School District 6. Courtesy photos

Voters in Tuesday’s Columbia Falls school board election have chosen to bring back an incumbent trustee, and bring on a newcomer to the board who has deep community ties.

Heather Mumby was re-elected to the board with 1,145 votes, the second-highest total of any of the six candidates on the ballot. Mumby, 49, is a Flathead High School graduate who works as the business manager and district clerk for the Cayuse Prairie School and has a son attending Glacier Gateway Elementary School.

Joining Mumby on the board will be Justin Cheff, a longtime Columbia Falls resident who works as a locomotive engineer for BNSF Railway Co. Cheff received 1,522 votes, which is the most of any candidate. Cheff, 46, has two children at Columbia Falls High School, and a daughter at Columbia Falls Junior High. Both Cheff’s grandfather Harry Cheff, and uncle David Cheff, previously served on the Columbia Falls school board.

 Cheff and Mumby will each serve a three-year term on the board.

After Cheff and Mumby, the third highest vote total went to Jessica Bostock. Bostock received 1,002 votes. Corydon Albrecht received 983 votes, Alice Biel received 704 votes and David Shaffer received 426 votes. Of the 9,609 registered voters in the school district a total of 2,945 voted, for a turnout of 31%.

In response to questions from the Beacon before the election, Cheff had pointed to community growth and upcoming teacher retirements as some of the major issues School District 6 is facing. If elected, I will work with the other board members, administrators, teachers, and our community to ensure our schools keep moving forward. First and foremost, I’m going to be an advocate for the students of Columbia Falls school district,” Cheff said.

In the leadup to election day Mumby described herself as an advocate for students, parents, community members and staff. She noted growth, as well as housing and staffing shortages, as major issues facing the district. Mumby touted her experiences as both a parent and an employee at another school district, saying they gave her a unique perspective to “look at and understand the limitations and opportunities we are faced with as a public school.”

Asked about her victory, Mumby spoke of the community support she has received and said “it feels good to be able to continue to work with amazing staff, parents and community to educate our students for success in the 21st century.”

She said that it’s important to keep the focus on students amid the challenges public education is facing and that means hiring and keeping qualified staff, keeping technology and curriculum up to date “and making sure that every child feels that they have worth and have the tools they need to learn.”

She also pointed to rising mental health issues and the need for students and staff to have the resources they need.

“No amount of curriculum or professional development will be effective if we don’t make sure mental health is a priority,” Mumby said.