Mills calls it quits

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Just one day after the 2022 general election, Ronnie Mills resigned from the Weston County School District No. 1 board of trustees in a Nov. 9 letter addressed to Chairwoman Tina Chick. Mills served 22 years as a trustee, and had two years of his four-year term left to serve. He was not a candidate on the Nov. 8 ballot.  

“As a result of numerous discussions I’ve had with you, other board members, the administration and my family over the last several months, I’ve made the difficult decision to retire as a Board Trustee of Weston County School District No. 1, effective immediately,” Mills said in the letter. “For health reasons, I have decided to retire now with the hope that the board can fill the remaining two years of my term with someone who will carry on my legacy of service to the educational needs of our community.” 

The board accepted Mills’ resignation during its regular Nov. 9 meeting and then discussed how to replace Mills, who had retired after a long career as director of transportation for the district prior to beginning his board service. Mills also held the office of secretary on the school board.  

Trustee Dana Mann-Tavegia suggested that the board move its December Dec.  14 meeting up to Dec. 7 at 5 p.m., so that it could consider applications for the position before the 30-day replacement deadline.

Trustee John Riesland suggested using the just completed election to choose a replacement for Mills and fill the vacancy sooner.

“We just had an election yesterday,” Riesland said. He then suggested that the board appoint the fifth-highest vote-getter from the Nov. 8 election. 

“I think, at this point, Marcia (Lambert) was fifth in the election. … I don’t know (that) we need to go for applications,” he said, adding that the voters had already voiced their opinion.

Going into the election, voters were to choose four from the list of candidates for the four seats open. The top four vote-getters were Sean Crabtree, 1,121; Dana Gordon, 1,009; Joe Prell, 941; and Jason Jenkins, 684. Of the four, Gordon and Jenkins are incumbents who were re-elected. Lambert, also an incumbent, had 682 votes, putting her in fifth place. Chick noted that even if Mills had resigned before the election, his seat would not have been on the ballot. Trustees Billy Fitzwater and Jason Jenkins agreed with Mann-Tavegia, stating that the last time an appointment was made, the board requested applications before replacing former trustee Dean Johnson with Tom Wright. 

“We went through the interview process,” Jenkins said. 

Wright argued that the community just had a 90-day interview process for 11 individuals who had expressed interest in serving on the board. 

“People said who they wanted in that order. There was a two-vote difference between Jason (Jenkins) and Marcia (Lambert),” Wright said. 

He noted that the vote had taken place just 24 hours before the meeting, and that he believed appointing Lambert that night was the appropriate thing to do. He then moved to appoint Lambert for the two remaining years of Mills’ term, and Lambert told the board that she would be interested in filling the term. 

The motion failed, but Mann-Tavegia and Jenkins indicated that they were unhappy with the way the decision was made to fill Mills’ seat.

“I am aware that phone calls have been made between board members today a lot. I was informed of them. I was excluded from the phone calls,” Mann-Tavegia said. “I think that is inappropriate. I just think if you want to cause a rift in the board, this is the way to do it.”

It was ultimately decided that the board will interview candidates before their now rescheduled official meeting which begins at 7 p.m on Dec. 7. Interested parties are asked to submit letters of interest to the board by Dec.  2. 

To see the entire discussion, view the Nov. 9 meeting on the NLJ’s Youtube channel.

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