Utah’s governor appoints a businessman and NAACP vice president to the state Board of Education

Gov. Gary Herbert has appointed a longtime businessman to the Utah Board of Education, replacing a seasoned teacher — and one of the more liberal members — who stepped down midterm after winning a seat in the state Senate.

Shawn Newell, the vice president of business development at a Utah industrial equipment company, would, if confirmed, represent District 10. That area covers Canyons School District on the south end of Salt Lake County and includes more than 34,000 students.

“His ingenuity and perspective will help better connect our public and higher education systems, and he will be a strong voice for students, teachers and parents,” Herbert said in a statement announcing the choice Friday.

The 15-member board saw a small bit of turnover this year, with one incumbent unseated, two not seeking re-election and Kathleen Riebe, elected in 2016, joining the Legislature.

Newell, selected to fill Riebe’s seat, needs to be confirmed by the Senate to join the board that governs public education from kindergarten through 12th grade and tends to lean more conservative. In addition to his background in business, much of his experience with schools is at the college level.

He graduated from Salt Lake Community College with an associate’s degree, the University of Utah with a bachelor’s and the University of Phoenix with a master’s.

Currently, Newell, 56, is a member of SLCC’s board of trustees and serves as the president of the school’s alumni council. He also advises the business department there, works on the campus’s economic development projects and funds a marketing scholarship.

When he was honored in 2017 as a distinguished alumnus, Newell said: “It is humbling to be recognized by an educational institution, knowing how when I was young, I struggled with school. I had to learn, at a young age, that my future depended on my willingness to put forth the effort to create what I want through the educational process.”

Newell played football while he was at the University of Utah and tried out for the Chicago Bears in 1984. He made the team, but injuries kept him from pursuing an NFL career.

He has worked at Industrial Supply Company in Salt Lake City for more than three decades. He serves in a number of community advocacy groups, including as vice president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, a member of the governor’s Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission and head of the Utah Multicultural Civic Council.