Keough emerged late in Little’s State Board search

Shawn Keough put in for a spot on the State Board of Education in August, more than a month after Gov. Brad Little had said he was cutting off applications for two board vacancies.

Little named Keough to the State Board Thursday, filling one of two openings on a powerful panel that crafts K-12 and higher education policy for the state.

Little began courting applications for the openings in late May, when board veterans Don Soltman and Richard Westerberg announced their plans to step down.

“Applicants may submit applications and resumes … by 5 p.m. on June 17, 2019,” Little’s office said in a news release.

All told, 38 applicants met that timeframe. Keough did not.

Shawn Keough

Keough did not apply until August, Little spokeswoman Marissa Morrison Hyer said Monday. But Hyer wouldn’t say whether Little or his staff encouraged Keough to apply.

On Monday, Keough deferred to the governor’s office. But she said she decided to apply because she saw it as a “logical next step” from her work this summer on Little’s Our Kids, Idaho’s Future K-12 task force.

“I applied when I did, as a result of the work on the education task force,” Keough said in an interview.

Keough was named to the 26-member task force in mid-May. She has chaired one of the task force’s four subcommittees — a panel focused on Idaho’s teacher pipeline.

But Keough’s ties to education politics — and to Little — far predate her time on the governor’s task force. Keough, of Sandpoint, served in the state Senate from 1996 to 2018, spending 18 years on the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. When she retired from the Legislature, she was a co-chair of JFAC, and the longest-serving female senator in state history.

She also spent much of that time working with Little, who served as a state senator and lieutenant governor, the Senate’s presiding officer, before he was elected governor in 2018.

There was nothing legally binding about the June deadline for State Board applications — and it’s unclear whether Little has received any additional late applications. Hyer did not say.

“The goal in the appointment process is to find the best people to serve on the State Board of Education, and the governor’s office will utilize timelines that help meet that goal,” Hyer said in a statement.

Pending Senate confirmation, Keough will replace Soltman and serve a five-year State Board term. Little still is looking for a successor to Westerberg.

“All of the candidates who submitted their applications are still being considered for the remaining vacancy on the board,” Hyer said Monday.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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