A closer look at the State Board picks


Newly appointed State Board of Education member David Hill of Boise pointed up his resume with federal energy labs — and his involvement in higher education issues in Idaho.

Meanwhile, fellow appointee Debbie Critchfield of Oakley touted her work with Cassia County public schools, and her GOP credentials.

Otter 2014 preview

Gov. Butch Otter

Hill and Critchfield were appointed Wednesday, filling two vacancies on the eight-member State Board. Application materials released by Gov. Butch Otter’s office shed additional light on the appointees, and some of the other applicants for the posts.

Idaho Education News requested the application materials, under the Idaho Public Records Act. Otter’s office released 70 pages of application materials late Monday afternoon. The documents including paperwork from Hill and Critchfield and some — but not all — of the applicants for the two vacancies. Other applications have already been destroyed, an Otter aide said Tuesday.

Otter’s office solicited the applications to fill two board vacancies. Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls left the board in November to head the state Department of Labor. Milford Terrell left the board on July 1.

Hill, Otter’s choice to succeed Terrell, was the Idaho National Laboratory’s deputy of science and technology from 2005 to 2012, directed programs with an annual budget of about $1 billion. He also helped lead development of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, an Idaho university collaboration based in Idaho Falls.

While Hill said higher education has been an emphasis, he spoke briefly of K-12 in his cover letter. “For Idaho to grow and prosper we must educate our youth and the geography of Idaho presents special problems. Technology must play a role but what is that role? Again the SBOE will be called upon to guide the transition.”

Critchfield’s resume, meanwhile, includes several roles with the Cassia County School District: 10 years on the school board, including four as board chairman; a stint on the Idaho School Boards Association’s executive board; and treasurer of Oakley High School’s booster club. She is the school district’s public information officer.

Since 2012, she has held two Republican Party positions: precinct committeewoman and secretary of the county central committee. She lists her party affiliation as Republican on her application; Hill left the space empty.

State Board appointments are nonpartisan. The board does not have a set number of seats for members of a political party, and according to state law, appointments are to be made “without reference” to party, locality, occupation or religion.

The two board vacancies drew a list of prominent applicants. Before settling on Critchfield and Hill, Otter interviewed two former legislators, former House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, a Ketchum Democrat, and former state Sen. Melinda Smyser, a Parma Republican. He also interviewed an outgoing legislator, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who was defeated in the May 20 GOP primary.

Other noteworthy applicants include Cortney Abenroth, a College of Southern Idaho English teacher who holds a master’s in education from Harvard University; Trudy Anderson, a retired associate vice president from the University of Idaho; Twin Falls Mayor Greg Lanting; Afton Patrick, a 45-year teacher in the Magic Valley and the wife of state Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls; and Robert Sanchez, an assistant to the mayor of Nampa and vice president of the Idaho Arts Charter School board of trustees.

Previously, Otter’s office issued a list of 24 applicants for Edmunds’ vacancy. On Monday, the governor’s office released materials from only some of these applicants.

“We have given you all of the applications we have,” Otter associate counsel Cally Younger said in an email Tuesday. “Previous submissions were destroyed because they contain sensitive personal information.”

In April, Younger was named the state’s public records ombudsman, a new position.