Friday, July 19, 2013

Schwerdtle appointed to school board

Trustee Bennion casts lone dissenting vote


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

    Hailey resident Elizabeth Schwerdtle was appointed Wednesday evening as the newest member of the Blaine County School District board of trustees.
    The vote was 3-1, with Trustee Shawn Bennion voting against the appointment. The vote came at a special meeting of the board to decide on a replacement for former Zone 5 Trustee Don Nurge, who resigned in June.
    Bennion, who is also board vice chair, on Thursday declined to discuss his reason for voting no.
    “I would like to speak with Liz first before I comment on this,” Bennion said in an interview. “Out of respect, I’d rather talk to her first.”
    Schwerdtle was not at the meeting but attended by teleconference. Supporters said she was out of the state on an earlier commitment attending her father’s 80th birthday party.
    Schwerdtle was the only remaining applicant for the appointment. Janet Evans, a co-owner of Evans Plumbing, submitted an application but withdrew it on Tuesday. She did not state her reason for withdrawing in an email to Clerk of the Board Laurie Kaufman. Evans also did not respond by press deadline Thursday to an inquiry from the Idaho Mountain Express.
    Board Chair Paul Bates said in an interview Thursday that the withdrawal was likely because of a possible conflict of interest because Evans Plumbing has often been involved in School District construction projects.
    Schwerdtle, who describes herself as School District supporter, has been active in district affairs for many years. However, she has often been critical of district decisions and policies.
    She seemed to have many supporters for the appointment, however. Hailey resident Diane Barker told the Express that 278 people, 73 of them residents of Zone 5, signed a letter of support for Schwerdtle’s appointment.
    Zone 5 encompasses the east Ketchum and Sun Valley areas but extends south into the northeast corner of Hailey.
    Voting in favor of Schwerdtle’s appointment were Bates and Trustees Kathy Baker and Kathryn Graves.
    Bennion did not state a reason for his no vote at Wednesday’s meeting.
    “Shawn appeared to be thinking about it deeply,” Bates said Thursday. “That being said, he made a choice that was right to him.”
    Bates said Schwerdtle will likely take the oath of office and become an official board member at the next regular board meeting in August.
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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