Julie Dahlgren promised public openness in selecting a new school board member and that's what was delivered at a special meeting Tuesday when Hailey resident Kathryn Graves was chosen as the newest member of the board.
Dahlgren, chair of the Blaine County School District board of trustees, described the selection as a "Blaine County-style appointment process." A near-capacity crowd filled the school district office meeting room as four applicants for the position were interviewed by board members, who kept score on tally sheets.
Dahlgren also promised that board deliberations would be conducted in public, but there were none. Instead, board members submitted their tally sheets to board Clerk Laurie Kaufman, who added up the scores and delivered the results to Dahlgren.
"We have a clear winner," Dahlgren announced.
Board members did not disclose why they selected Graves, but she seemingly was the most informed about the workings of the school district, having been actively involved for 10 years, being part of a delegation that lobbied the Legislature in 2006 to allow a tax override levy, serving on a district strategic plan development committee and being a frequent attendee at school board meetings.
"I feel like I'm someone who doesn't need to get up to speed on the issues," Graves said during the interview process.
Graves will be sworn in at the next regular school board meeting scheduled for Oct. 19. She replaces Mari Beth Matthews as trustee for Zone 3, which includes western and northern Hailey and the area north of the city. Matthews resigned in July because she had moved out of Blaine County.
Other applicants for the post were David Gardner, the manager of Electrical Wholesale Supply, Jackie Mizer, a pharmacist at St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, and Tommy Richmond, the owner of Richmond Construction.
Questions to the applicants concerned knowledge of the district, financial matters, the district's strategic plan, experience with education and what each applicant might bring to the board.
Gardner said he supported the direction the district was going with its strategic plan.
"I would not come in and disrupt this plan or try to push it off its course," he said.
Mizer said the district needs to focus more on education and less on construction.
"I would like to see fiscal management be the utmost responsibility," she said. "Let us stop putting money into bricks and mortar."
Richmond said the district needs to improve credibility with the public.
"I think right now it's really important to re-establish a trust with the constituents," he said.
The most sensitive question concerned the $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by voters in 2009 and whether the applicants supported it.
Some of the applicants, and even Trustee Steve Guthrie, didn't think it was a fair question, but all four answered it anyway. Two said they voted for it and two said they didn't.
"I did support it," Gardner said. "I felt like the physical facilities would help create an environment where our children could learn, plus it helped our local economy."
Richmond said he voted in favor, even though he had concerns that "with the economy whether the timing was best for it."
Mizer said she voted against the levy.
"I do not believe the modeling of green energy in this valley should supercede the content of education," she said, referring to geothermal development funding authorized by the levy.
"I did not vote for the levy," said Graves, explaining that she thought the amount was excessive. "I would have been much more comfortable with half that amount."
Trustee Paul Bates said he liked the levy question because he wanted to see the applicants' thought processes in arriving at their decisions.
"It doesn't make any difference to me whether you voted for it or not," Bates said.
After making their selection, current board members agreed that any of the applicants would have been good additions to the school board.
"I think any school district would be happy to have you serve," Bates said. "Don't stop caring, because that is what's going to make us great."
Terry Smith: email@example.com