Amy Leafe McCormack admitted she could see herself serving on the high school board but not running for it.

She insists she wasn’t a reluctant candidate, but found the notion of running for political office daunting. By 9 o’clock Tuesday night, however, McCormack was the leading vote-getter in the seven-person race for four open seats on the high school board.

A first-time candidate, McCormack led the race for most of the evening. With 54 of 73 precincts counted, the River Forest resident had roughly 18 percent of the vote. Incumbent Dietra Millard was second with nearly 17 percent of the vote. Terry Finnegan, an Oak Park resident, was next with nearly 16 percent of the vote and incumbent Jacques Conway, the current president of the Dist. 200 board, tallied 15 percent of the vote. Millard and Conway were both elected in 2005. The race tightened as the night went on with the four leading candidates hovering between 15 and 18 percent of votes counted.

Conway, a resident of River Forest, was unavailable for comment Tuesday night. Millard, who resides in Oak Park, was out of the country on a trip with Oak Park and River Forest High School students and was unreachable. McCormack watched returns at her home with friends. As the evening went on, about 50 people filled her River Forest home.

“I’m shocked and delighted,” said the mother of two, including a freshman at OPRF. “In my mind, I was such an unknown coming in, and to be able to get our message out with so much help from others, it was a tremendous effort.”

McCormack led the successful River Forest referendum campaign in 2006 and said many of the people involved in that campaign helped her in this race.

“They went out on a limb for me. I’m honored that so many people supported me, and I think it’s because of the people I touched and who they touched on my behalf.”

McCormack, though, said she could just as easily have come in last in what was a strong field that included a number of well-known candidates. She said she was pleased that the race was not contentious, as was the case with some other races in the village this year.

Finnegan, who had about 40 people at his Oak Park home watching returns, echoed McCormack’s sentiments about the collegiality of the campaign. He said all the candidates e-mailed one another earlier in the day Tuesday, wishing each other well in the race.

Finnegan, also a candidate for the first time, said the entire campaign was run with mutual respect. Finnegan added that he didn’t run on a single issue but on a broader message of building relations and working with people. He believes people responded well to that approach. As a new board member, he wants to seek out advice from current members, and reach out to people in the school community.

“I want people to know that my phone is always on and my door is always open. I feel like I’ve done a lot of talking during this campaign, but now I’m ready to listen.”

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