Tonya Hickman

Although the 2021 election is unofficial until Nov. 23, Tonya Hickman is more than 3,300 votes ahead of Steve Jilk for the Position 4 seat on the Lynden School District’s governing board. (Bill Helm/Lynden Tribune)

Challenger more than 3,300 votes ahead of Steve Jilk for Lynden School Board seat 

LYNDEN — With close to 50% of Whatcom County’s registered voters having participated in the 2021 election, voting is down from the roughly 88% who participated in the 2020 general election which provided, among other things, a new president.

This year’s total, however, isn’t far off the 56% from 2019, and actually, it’s better than the roughly 46% voter turnout in 2017. 

In Tonya Hickman’s world, the only number that matters right now is 1. Or phonetically, won.

In her quest for Position 4 on the Lynden School Board, Hickman, the challenger, is ahead of Board President Steve Jilk, 5,475 votes to 2,160. 

Three weeks after the Nov. 2 election – Nov. 23 – the election will be official. On Nov. 22, the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office will upload the official final results.

Election Supervisor Amy Grasher explained that the Auditor’s Office is “still receiving ballots to be processed daily.”

As of Nov. 5, there were an estimated 24 ballots left to count, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office website.

According to Grasher, the number of estimated ballots left to count is “the number of ballots we have in house to process on the day we last tabulated.”

The Auditor’s Office will release results again on Nov. 12 and will provide another estimate based on how many ballots the office has left in house to process.


“School was created to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, history and science. No more, no less.”

Hickman said it is “humbling to be entrusted with the task of representing and being a voice for those who voted for you.”

Hickman explained that she looks forward to spending her first year on the Lynden School Board by “engaging families in the community, getting to know staff and spend time in classrooms in our district.”

“Parents need assurance that Lynden Public remains committed to their rights as parents as primary stakeholders to ensuring their child’s academic success,” Hickman said. “School was created to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, history and science. No more, no less.”

Lynden’s newest school board member admitted that until recently, she “never had aspirations of running for any elected office” and also said she was “fairly certain I will never do it again.” 

But she wanted to be a part of the change that she wanted to see.

“I want to ensure that decisions made in the area of education are done so from the perspective of what parents and families would like to see, free from ideology that harms the minds of their children and plants ideas that portray a negative and shallow view of personhood,” Hickman said. “Working with youth is a high calling; parents entrust the school with their children for a large part of their day and have a huge influence on what is placed in their minds and thoughts. We all know thoughts have actions and actions have consequences. I want to be part of protecting what goes into the minds of a family’s most precious procession.”

If Hickman retains her lead, she will take over for Jilk on Jan. 1, with Jilk’s last official day on the board to be Dec. 31.

In 2010, Jilk was appointed to fill a vacant position on the board. He then chose to continue running for the Lynden School Board because he “grew up in a family where education was supported and encouraged.”

“I have one strong interest in mind,” he said. “Supporting all of the kids that enter into our school district in getting the best education the community can provide. Whether it is curriculum, buildings, teachers. It is always about the kids. Not about a personal desire to get something for yourself other than the satisfaction of seeing those kids learn, thrive, safely.”


Next ballot count

With a measured 48.81% voter turnout as of Wednesday, the next ballot count will be posted by the Whatcom County Auditor at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22.

However, Whatcom County Auditor's office’s estimated figure of ballots to count only includes ballots currently in the Auditor's office. It does not estimate ballots that have not yet been received.

According to the Whatcom County Auditor's website,, ballot signature cures and overseas ballots are not included and can be received up until the day before the Nov. 23 certification date.

Of Whatcom County's 156,982 registered voters, 76,630 ballots have been counted as of 3:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12.

Q&A with Tonya Hickman

Lynden Tribune: What inspired you to run for a seat on the Lynden School Board?

Tonya Hickman: I decided to run because I was tired of hearing myself complain and no longer wanted to be complacent to what was happening to the culture surrounding education. COVID-19 was politicized and as a result we have disenfranchised kids, parents, and teachers and our kids lost over a year of learning.

Tribune: With two incumbents up for re-election, what inspired you to run for Steve Jilk’s seat as opposed to Kelli Kettels’ seat?

Hickman: Kelli has children in the school district, so I figured as a mom she knows the environment and what kids are up against. Mr. Jilk has served on the board for some time and as a person who feels very strongly about term limits, I chose to run against Steve. It was not personal but seemed to just make sense that the board might be in need of a fresh perspective.

Tribune: Please talk about the support you received leading up to the election.

Hickman: The support I received from those closest to me was that they were thankful that I stepped up to challenge. I am assuming because they know what I value, and I am not shy about sharing my perspective when asked. All kids are precious and deserve to be protected from ideology that doesn’t belong in public schools. People who reached out to me were mostly like-minded parents who were aware of the liberal agenda to oversexualize our kids and create racial divide on a statewide and national level. This ideology has no place influencing our youth.

The following are the unofficial results from the Nov. 2 election:

Lynden School Board Director 4

Tonya Hickman: 5,492 (71.63%)

Steve Jilk: 2,168 (28.28%)


Lynden City Council Position 5

Khush Brar: 1,359 (25.19%)

Nick Laninga: 4,027 (74.66%)


Nooksack Valley School Board Director 2

Stephen Jones 1,678 (54.34%)

Chris O’Day: 1,3859 (44.98%)


Nooksack Mayor

Kevin Hester: 280 (54.16%)

Marshall Judy 235 (45.45%)


Nooksack City Council Position 3

Dave Finet: 226 (45.2%)

Collin Hester 272 (54.4%)


Nooksack City Council Position 4

Jayson Loreen: 179 (38.41%)

Ryan Steward 285 (61.16%)


Everson City Council Position 1

Michelle Beck Fox: 270 (40.18%)

Trevon Myhre: 400 (59.52%)


Everson City Council Position 2

Jennifer Lautenbach: 541 (81.6%)

Josh Ordos: 115 (17.35%)


Sumas City Council Position 1

Steven Brock: 122 (30.27%)

Todd Daniels: 277 (68.73%)


Whatcom County Council At-Large Position A

Kamal Bhachu: 33,318 (45.37%)

Barry Buchanan: 39,742 (54.12%)


Whatcom County Council District 3

Tyler Byrd: 8,116 (53.17%)

Rebecca Lewis: 7,103 (46.53%)


Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 1

John Huntley: 31,264 (43.37%)

Michael Shepard: 40,687 (56.44%)


Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 2

Ken Bell: 39,035 (53.85%) 

Kelly Krieger: 32,699 (45.11%)


Fire Protection District 4 Proposition 2021-12 (Levy Lid Lift)

Rejected: 59.09%, 2,320-1,606 votes


Fire Protection District 21 Proposition 2021-9 (Levy Lid Lift)

Rejected: 60.28%, 7,095-4,676 votes