Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan announces intent to run for District 3 council seat

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Mark Coplan, spokesperson for Berkeley Unified School District, announced his intent to enter the Berkeley City Council race for the District 3 seat Sunday night.

Coplan, born in Berkeley, has been involved with the Berkeley school district for more than 20 years. Because he will retire in June, Coplan recently decided to begin the next phase of his public service by running for City Council, announcing his candidacy in an email.

Councilmember Max Anderson, who currently represents District 3, said he will not run for re-election, leaving a vacant seat. Other candidates running for the seat include Deborah Matthews, Planning Commission vice chair; John Selawsky, Rent Stabilization Board commissioner; and Ben Bartlett, a Planning Commission member.

Before Coplan became the school district spokesperson — his role for the past 14 years — he was the president of the Parent Teacher Association for John Muir Elementary School and a deacon at St. John’s Presbyterian Church. He was also a member of the superintendent’s budget committee and spent three years in Nicaragua producing documentaries.

Coplan, who typically works 12 to 16 hours a day for the school district, said that as a council member, he would put the same amount of time and energy into serving the community.

“We’re going to really run a ground campaign,” said Merlin Edwards, Coplan’s campaign manager. “We’re going to be door to door, we’re going to community events. And we’re going to find out what the citizens of District 3 are really saying about their needs and wants.”

Coplan’s main platform is to provide service and address the community’s needs. He added that he believes elected officials have the responsibility to share their opinion, but that they should also be open and unbiased in order to represent the desires of their constituency.

“I know that I can serve my neighbors and my community,” Coplan said. “I can do it in a fair and balanced way that will reflect what I learned from the people in the district.”

In addition, Coplan intends to focus his campaign on the education and safety of children, gentrification and police relations with the community.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, the president of the school district’s Board of Education who works closely with Coplan, said she was pleased to see that he decided to continue serving the community after retirement.

“He’s a person who is very committed to Berkeley and our students,” Levya-Cutler said. “He’s out there in our community and he’s very supportive of Berkeley.”

Bartlett, who holds Anderson’s endorsement, said he looks forward to future debates with his competitors. Matthews echoed his sentiments, adding that the increasingly competitive race will present a variety of leadership strategies and opinions on pertinent issues to city voters.

According to Edwards, Coplan plans to file his candidacy in the next couple of days, but Coplan said he hopes to file within the next two weeks after obtaining the required number of signatures.

“I really look forward to moving to the next level of service for the community I really love,” Coplan said.

The deadline to file nomination documents for a City Council seat is Aug. 12.

Contact Chantelle Lee and Jason Tran at [email protected].