It's two months before Election Day, but the two unions who represent most of the employees of the Hesperia Unified School District have already made their choices.

The Hesperia Teachers Association has endorsed school board candidate Anthony Riley and the California School Employees Association has endorsed Frank Rich and Eric Swanson.

The two groups represent all the HUSD employees other than management.

HTA endorsement

Both unions have political action committees that will raise funds and contribute to the campaign efforts of their chosen candidates. It's a model that's worked out well for the HTA in the past: All five of the school board members on the 2006-2008 school board were endorsed by the teachers union during the election.

"Well, of course we hope for that" every year," said Thomas J. Kerman, the chairman of the HTA's Political Action Committee. "We're assuming that the candidates who came to us and asked for our endorsement knew what it means."

Although the HTA PAC financially supports their choices, their support goes beyond that.

"What we have been able to do in the past is mobilize members and go and do all the things required in an election. It's really not all about money."

Although the HTA rep council interviewed four potential candidates, they ended up endorsing only one person in an election where two seats are wide open. The HTA went with Anthony Riley, a newcomer to Hesperia school politics.

"He had experience working within a government organization," Kerman said. "He is, I believe it is, the executive director of the San Bernardino County airport. He's also worked in private industry [and] was involved in a charter school for performing arts, in the development and operation of it."

Riley is also ready to hit the ground running, Kerman said.

"He already has a campaign set to go and to run, so we felt comfortable with that. He's 36 years old and he's single, so he's got some youthful energy and new ideas."

And despite his single status, Riley also understands the needs of parents, he said.

"He had taken on the responsibility of raising a foster child all on his own," Kerman said. "So to us, that was a real strong character issue."

CSEA endorsements

For the first time, the local chapter of the union representing non-teaching, non-managerial staff is endorsing candidates in the school board election.

"Honestly, we're concerned about the direction of the school district," said Ruth Ter Keurst, president of CSEA chapter #684. "It came to the point where you have to decide if you're going to sit back and complain or try and make a difference. We would like to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."

Ter Keurst said the union is hoping voters will elect their choices, and that Rich and Swanson will be board members that they can work with.

"[Incumbents] Bruce [Minton] and Helen [Rogers], we didn't always agree on everything with them, and we don't always expect to agree on everything with these two candidates," she said. "One thing that we wanted was someone who would look at all sides and take in the point of view of all stakeholders, not just one side."

Neither Minton or Helen Rogers will not be running for reelection.

CSEA representatives met with potential candidates in June and July.

Candidate Frank Rich is himself a CSEA member.

"We knew him," Ter Keurst said. "In fact there were two other previous employees who were considering running."

But 29-year-old Rich had an edge on the others.

"Quite frankly, because he's younger, and we need to look toward the future of the Hesperia Unified School District," Ter Keurst said. "We need to have some people who care more about what younger families do. ... We'd like someone in there who doesn't have any political ties or any political agenda."

Former board member Eric Swanson is even more of a known quantity for CSEA, and voters. Ter Keurst said that known quantity -- including being mentioned in a state audit of the failed California Charter Academy and subsequently appearing before a grand jury investigating potential criminal wrongdoing related to its collapse -- has been something the membership has paid close attention to.

"We did look at both sides. I was concerned because he was a former board member and because of some other issues, there was some baggage there," she said, "But after meeting with him several times and asking him some tough questions, we were happy with the answers."

Beyond his experience on the board, Swanson has a stake in how things go in the HUSD, she said.

"His kids do go here, his wife teaches here, and he thinks he can make a difference."

While the HTA has the winning track record, the CSEA has an advantage that their counterpart does not have: Most teachers do not live within the borders of the HUSD, and thus cannot vote in the November election for HUSD school board members, but the reverse is true for CSEA membership.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.