Thrilled with the choice, but not the process

It is unfortunate that four members of the School District 51 Board of Education were unable to agree last Tuesday evening on an applicant to replace the late Harry Butler on the school board and thereby, under Colorado law, left the selection of a replacement entirely to School Board President Greg Mikolai.

But Mikolai’s choice for replacing Butler — at least until November’s election — is a sound one. Grand Junction attorney John Williams has been deeply involved with this community for many years, including working with several organizations or programs that assist District 51.

Furthermore, despite the concerns raised by School Board member Jeff Leany — that Williams “will do whatever he can to push bonds and tax increases through” — Williams is not some far-left radical whose only concern is raising taxes and spending more money on schools, although he is deeply committed to education.

He is an attorney who has spent his career representing businesses, including serving as legal counsel for Gateway Canyons Resorts and Hendricks Investment Holdings. He also has experience in real estate law and government relations.

Additionally, he is a member of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, which works to bring new business and jobs to the area.

Moreover, Williams can do very little on his own to “push bonds and tax increases.” Even if he could convince two others on the board to join him in endorsing such measures, they would require approval of the voters in District 51 to be enacted.

We have no doubt that, as Leany stated, Williams is “more liberal in his philosophy” than Leany is. Whether he is “a lot more liberal” is largely in the eye of the beholder.

But it is too bad that deeply divisive partisan politics have so infected every aspect of our governmental bodies that even the supposedly nonpartisan school board is now distinctly demarcated along liberal and conservative lines. Applicants for the office are no longer judged, it seems, on their individual experience and skills, just their perceived ideological beliefs.

This is not to say Williams was the only qualified candidate to fill Butler’s seat on the board. Pat Kanda, a former member of the District 51 School Board, certainly has the experience and would have served well once again, we have no doubt. We’re less familiar with the other four applicants.

But the sitting four members of the school board — Mikolai, Leany, Ann Tisue and Leslie Kiesler — were unable to reach agreement on any of the six applicants and so dumped the decision entirely into Mikolai’s lap.

His choice is a good one. We have no doubt that John Williams will be a thoughtful and productive member of the District 51 Board of Education.


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