Otter fills State Board vacancies

UPDATED, 6:08 p.m., to include a full list of the finalists.

The State Board of Education is back to full strength after being short-staffed since November.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Butch Otter appointed David Hill of Boise and Debbie Critchfield of Oakley to fill two vacancies on the eight-member board — choosing them over three former legislators and four other applicants interviewed for the board spots.

Critchfield, a former chairwoman of the Cassia County School Board, fills the seat that has been vacant since November. She replaces former board member Ken Edmunds, who left his seat to become director of the Idaho Department of Labor.

Critchfield will complete the remainder of Edmunds’ term, and is expected to serve until March 2018.

Hill, a retired executive vice president of Battelle Energy Alliance and deputy director of Idaho National Laboratory, replaces former board member Milford Terrell.

Terrell resigned June 30, and Hill will fill out the balance of his term, which runs until March 2017.

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“These two are great representatives of the diverse but interconnected priorities of the State Board of Education,” Otter said in a news release. “They are champions of local control of our schools and they have a keen understanding of the big picture – the critical importance of building a world-class education system for our students, our families, our communities and our economy.”

The State Board of Education is a policy-setting body that oversees Idaho’s public K-12 schools and the state’s colleges and universities.

The board is made up of seven appointed members and the superintendent of public instruction. The winner of November’s superintendent’s race will succeed Tom Luna on the board.

Both new appointees bring educational experience to the table. Hill chairs Otter’s Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) Council and is a member of the Higher Education Research Council. He also serves with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies steering committee and has advised the State Board through his work with the EPSCor Committee.

Critchfield is a past regional chairwoman of the Idaho School Boards Association, a member of the State Technology Task Force and has been active with local parent-teacher organizations.

Critchfield was among the 24 candidates who applied in December to fill Edmunds’ vacant seat. Otter’s office has not said how many people applied for Terrell’s post; Idaho Education News has filed a public records records for the applications for both posts.

However, Otter spokesman Jon Hanian released a list of the nine candidates interviewed for the vacancies:

Otter interviewed four people for Edmunds’ post: Critchfield; former state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, an 18-year legislative veteran and former House minority leader; Cortney Abenroth of Burley; and Dick Vester of Wallace.

Otter interviewed five people for Terrell’s post: Hill; John Goedde, a Coeur d’Alene Republican and Senate Education Committee chairman, ousted in the May 20 GOP primary; Melinda Smyser, a former state senator from Parma, now working in Sen. Jim Risch’s Boise office; Tommy Ahlquist, a doctor and chief operating officer of the Gardner Co in Boise; and Trudy Andersen, a retired associate vice president from the University of Idaho’s Boise office.

“Frankly, I couldn’t have made a bad choice,” Otter said in Wednesday’s news release. “I’m very grateful for the willingness of all the candidates to serve and to help advance my vision for education in Idaho.”

Kevin Richert contributed to this report.