Nystrom, Shogren, Boyles lead Brainerd School Board race

Bob Nystrom (1).jpg
Bob Nystrom.

Incumbent Bob Nystrom led the pack for the Brainerd School Board race in the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 4, followed by first-timers Jana Shogren and Kevin Boyles.

Eight candidates vied for three open seats on the board.

“I’m feeling great. It’s really an affirmation from the voters that they like the job that I’m doing. And I’m really forward to serving another four years,” Nystrom said Tuesday night.

Nystrom had 10,573 votes — or 21.92% — with 962.31% of precincts reporting. Shogren had 8,544 (17.71%), followed by Boyles with 8,414 (17.44%).

Nystrom will begin his 17th year on the board after serving from 2002-09 and being elected again in 2012 and 2016. A lifelong Brainerd resident, Nystrom, 63, previously operated Nystrom Drug downtown. Four generations of his family have gone through Brainerd Public Schools, from Nystrom’s grandmother down to his children. His campaign touted his experience, a hard work ethic and passion for education. He has praised district leaders for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and in recent months has advocated for promoting racial equality in the district.


“I just think the people in the district expect steady leadership from their leaders. Those hard decisions have to be made, but ultimately we have to do what’s best for kids. And we’ve got a great staff. They’re working as hard as they can, so we’re going to get through this pandemic.”

Nystrom said he decided to run for re-election because he believes the district needs steady leadership.

Shogren said she was excited Tuesday night but still reluctant to declare herself a winner when she spoke to the Dispatch with about 76% of precincts reporting.

“I’m so happy,” she said. “I feel very supported by our community. And if the community wants me to serve in this capacity, I’m very excited to do so.”

Jana Shogren (1).jpg

Shogren, 43, is executive director of Bridges of Hope and will begin her first term on the board. She has lived in the Brainerd lakes area for 19 years with her husband Mike and has two kids at Brainerd High School. She has experience working in both education and the nonprofit sector. Shogren has worked on the district’s comprehensive planning committee and was a member of the “Vote Yes” committee that worked to get the 2018 referendum passed.

Boyles, 52, works for Millennium Trust Co. and is set to begin his first term on the board. After growing up on a farm in Pillager, Boyles is back in the lakes area after moving around several other states. He has been married to wife Kelly since 1989 and has three sons ages 29, 22 and 15. All three boys have attended Brainerd Public Schools.


Boyles, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, ran his campaign on four cornerstones — enhanced board transparency, community engagement, making the board more proactive and building consensus. During his campaign he also spoke of marrying the two ideas of building progress and staying true to traditional core values.

Kevin Boyles (1).jpeg

Incumbent Sue Kern was in fourth with 6,394 votes, followed by Amanda Ciesinski Chan at 6,156.

“If this door closes, hopefully God will open another one,” Kern said Tuesday night.

The other candidates were Emily LeClaire (3,631), Freedom Porter (2,402) and Jacquelyn Calos (1,915).

Current board member Reed Campbell did not run for re-election after serving on the board since 2003.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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