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Utah school board incumbents still in running

They are among 14 candidates OK’d by committee after first day of interviews.

First Published Jun 02 2014 12:37 pm • Last Updated Jun 03 2014 11:27 am

Three state school board incumbents are still in the running to re-take their seats after a day of voting and deliberations by a governor-appointed committee.

The 12-member committee, tasked with nominating and recruiting state school board candidates, publicly interviewed 21 hopefuls for four seats on Monday. Ultimately, the committee narrowed the field to 14 candidates.

At a glance

State school board selections

A governor-appointed committee began interviews with state school board candidates Monday, and will continue them Tuesday. Here, so far, are the candidates the committee has decided to forward to the governor, who will then choose two for each seat to appear on the ballot:

District 1 (parts of Morgan, Rich, Box Elder and Cache counties):

David L. Clark, an associate vice president at Utah State University

Terryl Warner, incumbent and victim advocate at the Cache County Attorney’s Office

Bryce B. Day, educator in Box Elder District and adjunct faculty at Weber State University

District 2 (Weber County):

Spencer F. Stokes, government relations

Jana Rae Shaw, president of J.R. Consultants LLC

Willard Z. Maughan, physician

District 3 (Tooele County and part of Salt Lake County around Magna and West Valley City):

Jeffrey D. Meservy, a BYU educator and seminary teacher with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Michael G. Jensen, incumbent and Department of Veterans Affairs employee

Garrick A. Hall, a manager with the Utah Farm Bureau Federation

Linda B. Hansen, former Utah PTA officer

District 6 (parts of Salt Lake County around Taylorsville and West Jordan)

Melissa K. Johnson, former mayor of West Jordan

Dan Griffiths, incumbent and consulting, director of strategic planning for Tanner LLC

Pat Rusk, Eastern Utah UniServ director with the Utah Education Association

Brittney Cummins, board member of Endeavor Hall charter school in West Valley City

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It will now be up to the governor to choose two for each seat to appear on the November ballot.

Incumbents Michael Jensen, Terryl Warner and Dan Griffiths all gained committee approval, moving forward to the governor for ballot consideration. Jensen has won elections for his seat twice, while Warner and Griffiths were recently tapped by the governor to serve because of mid-term vacancies.

The committee will continue interviews for additional seats and voting on Tuesday. In all, seven of the state school board’s 15 seats are up for election. Before this week, it had already narrowed the list of candidates from about 70 to 37.

On Monday, committee members asked candidates to talk about their feelings about charter schools, new Common Core State Standards and the role of the board, among other things. The board sets statewide education policy and rules.

Committee chairman and former Utah House Speaker Nolan Karras said Monday he was happy to see the incumbents make it through.

"I’m anxious to not supplant our judgment for the public opinion and vote," Karras said.

Dawn Davies, Utah PTA president-elect, who watched the proceedings Monday, said she was also pleased to see Jensen make it through.

"To me, that’s the vetted person," Davies said.

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In years past, incumbents have often been booted from the race at the committee stage, angering education advocates who argue that voters should have the chance to weigh in on candidates whom they voted into office in the past.

The committee, which has different members each election cycle, has also occasionally come under fire for conducting its business behind closed doors or by secret ballot. But the interviews, discussions and voting on Monday were all done publicly and openly.

The entire process of electing state school board members has long drawn criticism as one that takes choice out of voters’ hands. Lawmakers, however, have been unable to agree in recent years on how to fix it, with some looking to keep the race nonpartisan and others hoping to make it partisan.

Committee member Chris Sloan said so far he’s been impressed with the candidates.

"The quality of individuals we’re talking to today is significantly higher than it was four years ago, in my opinion," said Sloan, who chaired the committee several years ago. "Everyone brings something really good to the party."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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