West Ada School District’s Board of Trustees is whole once again, as it voted to add Rusty Coffelt as its newest member on Tuesday night.
Coffelt said his recent retirement from fire service has given him more free time to help others, so he decided to apply for the open board position.
“I’ve spent all of my adult working life in public service,” Coffelt said. “I believe there is no greater thing that we can do than to give back to our community.”
Coffelt is the former fire chief for the Eagle Fire Protection District, a position he held for three years. Coffelt’s contract with Eagle Fire was not renewed in April 2020, ending his 33-year career in fire service. He is currently a senior leadership consultant for Tenzinga Performance Management.
The motion to choose Coffelt for the open Zone 4 board position was made by trustees Sheena Buffi and seconded by Ed Klopfenstein. The vote was unanimous. He will be sworn into the position on Jan. 26, and his term is scheduled to expire in 2024.
Coffelt was one of 22 people who applied for the open school board position.
Of the applicants for the position, Coffelt was one of five that did not provide responses for the written interview (the interviews can be read HERE and HERE), which was eight questions long. He did provide the written answers to the district after the meeting, which were posted online but were not a factor in the interview process.
During Tuesday’s meeting, West Ada Chairwoman Amy Johnson said every board member uses their own criteria and individual decision-making process for their selection. In the decision-making process, all four board members picked their top eight finalists based on the applications sent in. The eight candidates who were part of the verbal interview process were Coffelt, Cory Scott Williamson, KimberlyAnn Brown, David Bailey, Liza Long, Reuben Ortega, David Binetti and Wendy McKinney.
There were questions asked on the application itself (separate from the written interview questions) that Coffelt did answer.
When asked by trustees about taking on the criticisms of the board position, Coffelt said he’s used to talking to emotional people in high-pressure situations.
“You know, when someone calls 911, tensions are high,” Coffelt said, adding that it’s important to listen.
Coffelt said his background in public service will help him handle the pressure of serving the district.
“I’m not averse to conflict and differing of opinions,” he said.
The addition of Coffelt is the latest in the year’s series of changes in West Ada:
- On Oct. 13, board member Ed Klopfenstein resigned as chairman but retained his school board seat.
- On Oct. 27, board member Steve Smylie resigned after saying volunteer trustees are under enormous pressure because high-stakes reopening and closing decisions have been kicked to local school boards.
- On Dec. 8, board chair Philip Neuhoff announced he will resign rather than face a recall election.
- On Jan. 5, Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells announced her resignation, which will be effective June 30.
Later in Tuesday’s meeting, candidates were asked about how they would help build trust in West Ada. Coffelt reiterated how communication is key and he will “listen to understand” during discussions with district patrons.
Coffelt said one of the keys moving forward for the district will be to communicate with patrons more effectively, adding that some parents don’t go onto the district website regularly or attend the board meetings, but that information needs to reach as many patrons as possible.