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Chairman: Shoshoni seat filled properly

Dec 14, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Fremont County School District 24 Board of Education chairman Kevin Smith says there is lot of misinformation in the Shoshoni community concerning the recent election and how trustees came to appoint a former board member to a vacant seat.

"Unfortunately there was so much misinformation out there before the election, and it was a train wreck," Smith said. "It probably looks like it was preordained, but how were we to know who was going to be elected?"

Smith is referring to opinions floating around the community that the board intentionally waited until after the Nov. 6 general election to remove Sean Walker from his seat on the board.

Next-best finisher?

Trustees decided to remove Walker from his elected position Nov. 19 after learning he no longer lived in the area and had not for some time.

Some in the public immediately suggested the fourth top vote-getter in the general election should be appointed to the vacant seat, which would be Garry Smith.

"If the town of Shoshoni wanted him to represent them, why didn't they vote Garry in the first place?" Kevin Smith asked. "Three people were voted for, not four, and it's kind of a moot point when you look at it in these terms."

Smith also noted a fact brought up at a special board meeting Dec. 10 that there would have been 736 more votes in the mix had the ballot had four candidates and not three.

"By and large they voted for Emily (Jarvis) and Wedge (Fike)," Smith said. "If they wanted Garry, they should have voted for Garry."

Incumbent Kelly Gardner was also elected.

Community input

The board decided to allow community members to submit a letter of interest for the open spot. Those individuals were interviewed at the Dec. 10 meeting. Among the candidates were Garry Smith, Monica Gabriel, Charlie Dewitt, Becky Zent and Teffany Fegler.

Fegler lost her seat in the election.

At the meeting, both Gabriel and Zent, who ran in the general election, rescinded their letters of interest and supported Garry Smith's appointment. Gabriel submitted a petition with 170 signatures from people who also supported Garry Smith.

"There is nothing to validate the petition," Kevin Smith said. "It was just names, and we know there were people from Riverton who signed it, and they can't vote in our district."

4-2 vote

Fegler eventually was appointed to the seat with a 4-2 vote. Fike and Jarvis voted against the appointment.

"We lined three candidates out in front of us," Smith said. "Two of them we knew well, Garry and Teffany. We have a lot of history with those individuals. Their questions weren't as important to us as Charlie's were because we didn't know him as well. ... Some might have looked at it as a dog and pony show, but it was not."

Before the board voted to appoint Fegler, members held an executive session to decide.

"We hashed it out who we thought who would do the best in moving us forward," Smith said.

Shoshoni is in the midst of trying to get a new school built, district test scores are up, and "things are in a good direction," Smith said.

"We really didn't want to break that dynamic," he said about the decision to appoint the former trustee.

He questions a perception that the board had decided to appoint Fegler before the special meeting.

"I don't know if I believe that," Smith said. "I thought Charlie was an excellent candidate actually."

He said the board took the community's support for Garry Smith under consideration.

"We just need to get the correct information out there," he went on to say. "The patrons, the people who scream the loudest, are those who show up late at the meetings or not at all."

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