Gooding educator considering super race

Gooding School District Superintendent Heather Williams said Friday she is considering entering the crowded race for state superintendent of public instruction.

The 42-year-old lifetime educator told Idaho Education News she has had multiple supporters ask her to run in the Republican primary, including Roger Quarles, the former deputy superintendent of the State Department of Education.

Heather Williams
Heather Williams

“I’m weighing my options,” Williams said. “I want to do what’s best for my family and decide where I can best be of service to public education in Idaho.”

Republicans John Enyon of Grangeville and Randy Jensen of American Falls have already announced their candidacy; Democrat Jana Jones also has officially declared to run. Two Republican lawmakers have said they are considering a run — Sen. Steven Thayn and Rep. Jeff Thompson, as is former House member Steve Smylie. (For our past stories on this race, click here).

After six years as Gooding’s superintendent, Williams resigned Jan. 16 but she remains in the leadership role until July 1. Her resignation closely followed the resignation of Gooding High School’s principal, according to an article in the Twin Falls Times-News. The principal filed a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees in June 2013 because he contends the board violated open meeting laws.

Williams said the district’s turmoil is unrelated to her decision.

“I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences in Gooding because they helped me be a better leader,” Williams said. “No matter what I decide, I know I will always be an Idaho educator.”

Quarles considered running for state superintendent, but is instead backing Williams. He was Luna’s deputy for six months before resigning this week to return to work for Boise State University and its Idaho Leads project.

“What Heather brings to the table is exactly what Idaho needs moving forward,” said Quarles, who has known Williams for 12 years. “She’s a confident and hardworking person. She has the right disposition, background and skill for this job.”

Williams is a part-time teaching consultant with Idaho Leads.

Tracie Anderson, Gooding’s longest-serving trustee, said on Friday that she would support Williams “100 percent” if she decides to run for state superintendent.

“She has led with exemplary service and integrity,” Anderson said. “She sees the whole picture. She’ll find out what works best for the people in Idaho.”

Williams and her husband, Travis, are fourth generation Idahoans. The high school sweethearts from American Falls High School have been married 23 years and have two sons who attend Gooding schools. Travis is a former rodeo cowboy who now runs their family farm near Gooding.

“We love Idaho and care about its conservative values of hard work, determination and personal responsibility,” Williams said. “It’s a critical time in Idaho education and we need to get it right — right now — for future generations.”

Williams began her career with Gooding schools in 1994. (For more about her educational and professional background, click on this recent Idaho Education News article.)

Disclosure: Idaho Education News and the Idaho Leads project are both funded by a grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Idaho Education News reporters are Boise State University employees. 

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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