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October 25, 2014

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ELECTION 2008:

Assembly District 23 – Henderson: Woodbury, Herr vie for open seat

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Melissa Woodbury, 39, is the Republican candidate for Assembly District 23 in Henderson.

  • Melissa Woodbury

    Party: Republican

    Age: 39

    Occupation: Teacher at Sue H. Morrow Elementary

    Education: Bachelor's degree from BYU in special education and master's degree from Southern Utah University in education.

    Southern Nevada Residency: Boulder City Native
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Allison Herr, 44 is the Democrat candidate for Assembly District in Henderson.

  • Allison Herr

    Party: Democrat

    Age: 44

    Occupation: Family attorney

    Education: Undergraduate degree from Wichita State University in healthcare administration and graduated from law school at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.

    Southern Nevada Residency: 14 years, six in Henderson.

Expanded coverage

Don’t call the Assembly District 23 race yet. Although the district, which was vacated by Democrat one-termer Rosemary Womack and is largely a Democratic neighborhood with 9,835 registered Democrats and only 7,682 Republicans, the Republican nominee has a weighty Southern Nevada last name that could even out the playing field.

Republican candidate Melissa Woodbury, 39, is the daughter of recently term-limited Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury for whom a middle school and a portion of Interstate 215 are named.

But Woodbury didn’t mention her father’s name once in the interview and only makes a brief connection between her and the Commissioner in her bio.

The lifelong Southern Nevada resident has a 14-year background in education, teaching elementary-aged students in both the special needs capacity and bilingual education. She makes no concessions that her experience with education in Clark County was the motivation for her candidacy.

“Education is my passion and I thought if I could help a few kids at a time in the classroom, what if I could help all the kids in the state?” Woodbury asked rhetorically.

Specifically, Woodbury wants to transfer some of the power at the top of the education hierarchy to the administrators and teachers at the school site, provide school choice for parents and give incentives for teachers to make Clark County School District their home.

In addition to incentives for great teachers, Woodbury firmly believes in ending the tenure of underperforming teachers in Clark County as well. But she is careful to point out that such an action should not be carried out based upon the performance of student test scores.

“I think it’s very dangerous to do it by test scores because we have a unique demographic, we have a very transient district,” Woodbury said. “A lot of them have been schooled in other states and come here, some come from other countries and they’re suddenly schooled here and they haven’t been schooled in Clark County their whole education career.”

Instead, Woodbury suggests looking at students’ progress in comparison to the previous year as a way to assess teacher performance.

“It’s not just education that I want to focus on, although I feel like I can add a lot to that area because of my background and experience in education.”

Both Woodbury and her opponent, Democrat Allison Herr, 44, have boasted their non-political professions on their Web sites as an asset they will bring to the Nevada Assembly.

“I am not a career politician or someone who sees the Nevada Assembly as a stepping stone to higher office,” Herr said on her Web site.

Herr, a Kansas native, has lived in Southern Nevada for 14 years and is a family attorney who owns and managers her own firm, The Herr Law Group in Henderson. Her experience with small business is something that she hopes to bring into the spotlight if elected to the Nevada Assembly.

“As someone who has in the past owned my own business and still works with a small business, I think that is a voice that’s often times difficult to be heard,” said Herr. “Larger businesses generally can afford to have lobbyists there, smaller businesses - generally mom and pop institutions - we can’t individually afford a lobbyist.”

During her time as a family and elder attorney Herr has been an advocate for children.

Bringing some of those experiences to the Nevada Legislature, Herr would push for an education system with a stronger base at the school level with more accountability.

“I think we all agree that accountability is a good thing, but if we’re going to demand accountability from our school system, we have to give them enough leeway and freedom that they have the ability to reach out and touch the needs of their students,” Herr said.

But for Herr, the idea of accountability, which has been echoed throughout the past weeks by local and national politicians in the midst of the financial crisis, isn’t just something politicians should demand of institutions.

“If we’re going to ask for accountability from our government, we have to, likewise, be willing to participate in our government,” Herr said.

As for her Democrat-registered voter advantage Herr said while it helps, it is never something she takes for granted.

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