October 24, 2021
Pickerington Online’s Meet the Candidates
J.D. Postage has joined incumbents Clay Lopez and Vanessa Niekamp on their unified campaign for Pickerington Local School District (PLSD) Board.
The team’s top concern is that the schools are overcrowded.
In a joint statement, the three stated that, “The district must immediately address the number of students in the buildings. Any person can look throughout the district and see the tremendous growth as well as the future growth.”
Over the course of the past year, the board placed two bond issues on the ballot which would have built a new junior high school and added classrooms to both high schools. Both were defeated. The board surveyed the community to determine why the levies failed and the overwhelming response was “no new taxes”.
“We must now consider alternatives such as limiting or encouraging intra-district transfers, scouring the district for available space that can be converted to classrooms, and/or evaluating home school boundaries for current and new neighborhoods,” they stated.
In addition, the district needs to continue to focus on student achievement.
“PLSD must continue to be a destination district for families in Central Ohio because of the academics. For the past few years, the board has had the honor of being at graduation and hearing the millions of dollars in scholarships awarded to our graduating seniors each year. We truly marvel at the achievements of our students. We also realize that not all students are going to college.” they said.
The team would continue to advocate for relationships to be built with other districts to provide education and opportunities for students that are not available within PLSD boundaries.
“Further, we think it is important to continue to push for more opportunities for the students to earn credentials. For example, the district has established a relationship in the biomedical field with OhioHealth. This is a great opportunity for our students to gain real world experience and enter the workforce if they choose to do so upon graduation,” they said.
Over the past year the three say they have faced multiple challenges including issues of Covid, diversity and staffing. The district needs “experience and dedication more than ever”.
As a board member, we must be good stewards of the finances for the district. At the time of our last survey, 74% stated PLSD gave good value for their tax dollars. During the tenure of Lopez and Niekamp, the board of education has not been on the ballot for operating funds.
“Clay Lopez, Vanessa Niekamp, and JD Postage have chosen to support each other as candidates for the Board of Education because they each believe the other shares their dedication to this community, a willingness to give of themselves to improve the learning environment of our children, and the same degree of professionalism needed to represent the families who elect them.”
Who is Clay Lopez?
Lopez grew up outside of Charleston, West Virginia. He attended Nitro High School and participated in athletics. After graduating high school, Lopez went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University.
In 1999, he earned his Juris Doctor from the Capital University School of Law. His father worked in finance and his mother made her career as a homemaker. They still reside outside of Charleston, West Virginia. Lopez has an older sister who works in an office and also resides in West Virginia. His younger brother passed away suddenly in 1996.
Lopez has resided in Pickerington for over 20 years. He decided to stay in Ohio to pursue his legal career after passing the bar exam. His wife graduated from Pickerington High School, and they decided it was the community where they wanted to raise their family.
Lopez is the current president of the PLSD Board of Education, serving on the board for 10 years.
He was originally appointed to complete a term of a board member after she relocated outside of the district. At that time, he had only one child in the district, but was looking for a way to serve the community. His son is now enrolled in the district and his daughter has since graduated from Pickerington High School Central.
Lopez has resided in Pickerington for over 20 years. He and his wife, Shannon, have a daughter, Kaitlyn – age 25, and a son, Nick – age 14 and an eighth grader at Ridgeview STEM Junior High.
In addition to his service on the school board, Lopez is a volunteer coach for PYAA and PASA. He is an active supporter of both Panther and Tiger athletics, a member of the Columbus Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Central Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and the Central Ohio Association of Juvenile Lawyers.
Lopez actively supports his son in travel soccer and enjoys spending time with his family at sporting events in Columbus. He has a dog named Stella who spends time with Lopez on walks at least once a day.
He has always felt like Pickerington is home even though he is a not a lifelong resident. Over the past 20 years, he has learned the commitment individuals have to the city and township.
“People are anxious to help and genuinely care,” Lopez said.
Who is Vanessa Niekamp?
Niekamp grew up on the east side of Columbus, loving Star Wars and comic books. She attended both Columbus and Reynoldsburg City Schools. Vanessa participated in music programs from third grade throughout graduation. After graduating from Independence High School, Vanessa went on to double major in business administration and jazz performance at Capital University, and human resources management at Columbus State. Vanessa’s mother is a retired administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation, and her father owned an engineering and land surveying business.
She married Philip Niekamp and in 1997 the couple built a house in the Pickerington community to raise a family. Their son, Erik, is a senior in the band at Pickerington High School Central and their son, Alan, is an eighth grader at Ridgeview STEM Junior High.
Niekamp believes “the people of Pickerington truly care for one another; always willing to look-out for each other and lend a hand when needed.”
She originally decided to run for school board back in 2011 after an operating levy passed, but the districted failed to return music, art, gym and technology back to grades Kindergarten through six.
Niekamp ran against two incumbents, Lisa Reade and Jim Brink, but came in third for two seats. She continued to be actively involved in the district and ran again in 2013 and won. It took several years to get the programs re-established. She is running again this year, because she wants “to continue to be involved and help our district”.
She has more than 28 years of government leadership experience, where she helped managed the state’s controlling board which authorizes adjustments to the budget for the entire State of Ohio. Niekamp has personally been responsible for a $1.3 billion dollar budget with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and has human resource and collective bargaining experience with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
In addition to her position on the school board, Niekamp was elected and is currently serving as the fiscal officer for Violet Township. She is the executive director of the Pickerington Food Pantry, a member of the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Pickerington Women’s Leadership Coalition.
She previously served on the city of Pickerington’s Personnel Review Board and she was a past president and current member of the Pickerington Lions Club. She is a member of the Violet Township Women Leaders, member of 100+ Women Who Care, and the treasurer of the Central Band Boosters.
In her free time Niekamp enjoys reading and studying world history.
She enjoys helping the PHSC Marching Tigers with uniforms, concessions, or even moving equipment. Her oldest son, Erik, is a percussionist, and the entire family treasures the memories they have made together supporting him. Vanessa has a dog named Cuddles.
Who is J.D. Postage?
“JD brings positivity and collaboration to the community as the role of community paramedic with fire department. JD wants to bring that demeanor to the board of education. JD wants to shape the future of our community by influencing the youth of our community,” the group said in a statement.
Postage has resided in Pickerington for over 40 years and has been actively involved in the Pickerington Schools for decades. He is a graduate of Pickerington, his mother is a retired Pickerington teacher and his brother is currently teaching at Pickerington High School Central. He has been interested in running for the board for several years and believes now is the time to give back to his community by serving as a board member .
Postage has been with the Violet Township Fire Department since 1999. He is currently a lieutenant serving as a community paramedic.
Postage started one of the first community paramedic programs in the state of Ohio and helped with legislation to allow paramedics to operate in non-emergent situation in the state of Ohio.
He is one of the founding members of Project FORT, Fairfield County Overdose Response Team, a board member for the United Way of Fairfield County, and the president of the Pickerington Area Resources Coalition.
When not working or volunteering, Postage enjoys watching football and moments spent with friends and family.
He has three daughters Angela (age 20), Kaylee (age 15) and Isabella (age 6), who is a first grader at Sycamore Creek Elementary. He appreciates his time with them and attending their school events.
He “loves the caring and compassion of the community and how the community comes together in times of need.”
Pickerington Online does not endorse any candidates or issues.