Betsy Ruggles and Dan Bemis were sworn in as the district’s newest representatives, two of eight “highly qualified” applicants, filling the seats that had been occupied by Brian Watt and Scott Sparks.
Watt turned in his resignation in a closed door session after the April 17 board meeting, but did not give any reason for his actions. His four-year term was up at the end of the year.
Sparks, who retired from the Air Force earlier this year, turned in his resignation letter last week according to board president Nancy Brown. He was in his second year with the board.
Another board member, Sandy Lonz, also will be retiring. Her last day is May 5. She has served as vice president and president of the board multiple times in her 15 years but felt “it was time” and opted to retire early to aid a smoother transition.
“We interviewed eight really good candidates and every one of them was someone who brought value to what this board needed,” board president Nancy Brown said.
“We looked at what the board was lacking and we thought Mrs. Ruggles brought in a farm community aspect that we didn’t have on the board at all,” she said.
“Mr. Bemis brought in a professionalism and from the career path he’s been involved in — technology and consulting corporate types of businesses,” Brown added. “So those were two thing that we thought we needed. And his kids have gone to multiple school districts; his wife is a school teacher. So he can bring in multiple perspectives besides what we’re most familiar with.”
“I’m already in the school anyway,” Ruggles said as to why she applied. “We have five of our six kids that attend here and I thought now is a good time to make sure I’m a part of what is happening to make sure that the school is here for the five years, 10 years, etc.”
Ruggles, whose family owns and runs a farm, said she is “very passionate that this is a great school.”
“I just feel it’s important,” she added. “I’m hoping the knowledge I have of the inner workings of the school will help to get more information out to the community to show them what is really happening here and that there are really good things going on here every day, that maybe people don’t know.”
Bemis said his father worked for the district for 30 years and his family comes from a strong background in education — something that is still very important to him today after raising four daughters.
“I really believe the school system is an intricate part of the community and drives, really, the whole area in terms of its community spirit as well as education, which is such a critical component (of the community),” he said. “We just felt it was time to give back and to make sure the investment community has put the building can really produce something in terms of quality education and really be a central focal point for the community.”
The board will be in search of a third new board member to replace Lonz, once she retires to “give another person a chance” and to spend time with her “two sweet grandsons.” The new member, once he or she is selected, will not officially assume the role until a minimum of 10 days has passed following Lonz’ last day, according to Brown.
This November, the seat vacated by Watts (now held by Bemis) and the being vacated by Lonz will be up for election, as will the one held by Mike Helmstetter, who said he will seek re-election.
There also will be an election for someone to fill the rest of Sparks’ unexpired term. Ruggles now occupies that seat.
Brown’s seat is not up for election this year.