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Whiting selected for Bemidji School Board

BEMIDJI—The Bemidji Area Schools District School Board voted Monday to fill a vacancy on the board.

Shawn Whiting was selected in a 3-2 vote to finish out the term of longtime board member Bill Faver, who retired in November. Faver's term expires at the end of 2018 and the seat will be up for election this November. With less than a year remaining on the term, state law requires the board to appoint a replacement rather than hold a special election.

"I am very honored to be selected," said Whiting, 33, a mental health therapist with Sanford Behavioral Health in Bemidji. "When I saw the other names on the list, I was very impressed and am honored to be picked from that pool."

In all, there were eight applicants for the spot. The other applicants were, listed alphabetically:

• Bill Blackwell, Jr.

• Ashley Charwood

• Tanya Hasbargen

• Todd Haugen

• Jeffrey Lind

• Nate Nolting

• Bonnie Solomon

Before voting, School Board members were asked to put forth their nominations from the pool. Board member Melissa Bahr put forth Whiting's name, while board member John Gonzalez nominated Blackwell and board member Ann Long Voelkner nominated Haugen.

Before paring down the list of three to two, several board members said they were pleased with the quantity and the quality of those vying for the seat.

In looking over the list of applicants, Long Voelkner said she believed that everyone who applied would do well on the board and that she'd be honored to serve with them.

"I don't think we can make a bad decision on this," echoed board member Jeff Haack.

The five board members then took a paper ballot vote to pare down the nominations to two applicants. Gonzalez voted for Blackwell, and Long Voelkner and board chair Carol L. Johnson voted for Haugen and Bahr and Haack voted for Whiting, which eliminated Blackwell.

The board then took another paper ballot, with Gonzalez then voting for Whiting, which resulted in the 3-2 vote.

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess then notified the board that Whiting would be sworn in at the next School Board meeting, which is set for Feb. 26. (The February meeting is a week past the normal third Monday of the month meeting because of the President's Day holiday on Feb. 19).

Whiting is a Bemidji High School alum and said he has two young children who will soon be entering the school district. At Sanford Behavioral Health, he also supervises the children's programming for the program and has worked with the district in the past.

"I feel my training and experience as a mental health professional while also providing services within the district have prepared me to be an excellent addition to the school board," Whiting wrote in his cover letter when he applied for the job.

Whiting said there will definitely be a learning curve for him on the board, and, at this time, he's unsure if he will run for a full term on the board in the fall 2018 election.

In other news, the board:

• Heard an update from Hess on construction at Gene Dillon Elementary. Hess said contractors have informed the district they should have the building enclosed by Feb. 1 and that the roof should be completed by Feb. 9. The school, which will house the district's fourth- and fifth-graders, is on track for a fall 2018 opening, Hess said. School board members are hoping to take another tour of the project, most likely in February.

• Voted to approve the bid to purchase five buses (two diesel and three gas) at a total cost of $480,278.79 from North Central Bus.

• Heard an update on the process of annexation for the Gene Dillon parcel to the city of Bemidji, as well as an update on the upcoming construction projects on Division Street near the new school. Chris Leinen, the school district's director of business services, told the school board that the various agencies are looking at a target date in April to have the annexation completed.

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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