After three rounds of voting, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education elected its newest member Monday night.
Greg Gabriel Jr. will serve in the seat for District 2, Kenai, through out the rest of the remaining term, expiring in 2009.
Bill Hatch, who resigned Oct 15, citing family concerns, initially held the seat. The board was supposed to have filled the vacancy at its Nov. 3 meeting, but at the last minute the two candidates were disqualified, as they did not live within the boundaries specified for the seat.
The application was reopened, allowing Kathy East, Janine Espy, Ryan Marquis, Kim Navarre and Gabriel to throw their hats in the ring.
At a board's work session Monday afternoon the candidates came in to introduce themselves and answer questions. Tim Navarre withdrew himself from the running, citing family health issues.
Sunni Hilts, of Seldovia, asked each candidate the same five questions, after which they were allotted a closing statement.
Board members commented afterward that they believed all the candidates were well qualified for the position.
"I really felt all four of the candidates were really excellent," said board member Bill Holt, of Kasilof.
The board had to check its bylaws as there was some confusion regarding the voting process when appointing a new member.
They determined the first person to receive a four vote majority via a secret ballot election held at the beginning of the meeting would win.
Shortly after 7 p.m., the board held three rounds of voting before electing a new member.
In the first two round, Gabriel and East got three votes apiece, Espy had one and Marquis zero. In the third round Gabriel picked up two votes, from Espy and East.
Sally Tachick, administrative secretary for the board, administered the Oath of Office, and Gabriel became an active member taking his seat immediately.
After the meeting, Gabriel said that when no one came forward to fill the position last month, he was encouraged to throw his name in.
"There's always been this though that someone else will do it, someone else will do it. Then, no one came forward to do it," he said. "That's when I felt like, 'Why should I be thinking, someone else will do it all the time?'"
Gabriel, who's lived in the area for 40 years and went to Kenai Central as a youth, said his experience as a contractor and working with budgets will be a valuable asset as a board member.
"I think those skill sets will serve me well here," he said.
Gabriel said he didn't have any specific goals, though he hoped to see the board make a stronger commitment to helping students without adequate support from home.
"I want to make sure they're receiving the same opportunities," he said.
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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