Little names Boise businessman to State Board

(UPDATED, 9:55 a.m. Friday, with details on Liebich’s application timeline.)

After a six-month search, Gov. Brad Little has an eighth member of the State Board of Education: Boise businessman Kurt Liebich.

Little announced the appointment to the influential and far-reaching policymaking board Thursday, saying his new appointee is “enthusiastic about improving opportunities for Idaho’s youth.”

Kurt Liebich

“Kurt has proven he can lead and build consensus with a thoughtful, analytical approach,” Little said in a news release. “His extensive experience in education policy and business is a welcome addition to the body that governs Idaho’s public kindergarten through college education system.”

The appointment means that, for the second time, Little has tapped into his “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force to fill a vacancy on the State Board. It also means that Little looked beyond a list of dozens of applicants who applied over the summer.

Liebich is CEO of two companies: RedBuilt LLC, an engineered structural solutions supplier; and New Wood Resources, which specializes in veneer and plywood products. He was one of several business leaders on the 26-member task force, which completed its work in November. Liebich served as chairman of the task force’s budget stability subcommittee.

“Idaho’s public education system — across K-12, career technical education, and our community colleges and universities — is the foundation for Idahoans’ future prosperity,” Liebich said in a news release. “I am excited to continue my work on these important issues, now as a member of the State Board of Education.”

In introducing Liebich as a new State Board member, Little’s news release touted Liebich’s work in education circles — and Liebich’s own educational background.

Liebich has served on several boards for several education-related nonprofits, including Idaho Business for Education, a group representing about 200 CEOs statewide; Riverstone International School, a Boise private school; and the Lee Pesky Learning Center, which focuses on finding methods to help students overcome learning disabilities. Liebich, meanwhile, holds a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College in Maine and an MBA from Harvard University.

“Kurt and I have served together on two education task forces during the last four years, and I saw first-hand how committed he is to public education at all levels,” State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said in a news release. “I have also been impressed by his financial expertise and his ability to dig into complex budgets and explain what the numbers mean in simple terms.”

Liebich is Little’s second State Board appointment.

In September, Little appointed Shawn Keough of Sandpoint — a retired state senator with 22 years’ legislative experience, the executive director of Associated Logging Contractors, and an “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force member.

Keough applied in late August — more than two months after Little’s stated deadline to apply for two State Board vacancies. Little had received more than three dozen resumes by mid-June.

Liebich’s name had never appeared on any applicants’ lists supplied by Little’s office — and for good reason. He applied on Nov. 27, Little spokeswoman Emily Callihan said Friday.

The two State Board appointments run for five years apiece, and are subject to Senate confirmation.

The State Board is comprised of eight members: seven gubernatorial appointees and the elected state superintendent of public instruction. The panel has wide-ranging policymaking authority in K-12 and higher education.

Liebich replaces Richard Westerberg of Preston. In May, the 12-year board member announced he was stepping down, effective May 30, but he stayed on while Little sought a successor.

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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