Summit Schools superintendent selected as next HD 56 rep
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Summit School District superintendent Millie Hamner was selected as the new House District 56 representative by a 15-member vacancy committee and in front of slightly more than a dozen public onlookers Sunday morning.
Hamner replaces Christine Scanlan, who won re-election for the seat in November, but was tapped by Governor-elect John Hickenlooper to serve on his leadership team. Scanlan, a Democrat from Summit County, will vacate the seat to serve as Hickenlooper’s director of legislative affairs and strategic initiatives.
Hamner was all smiles when the vote came in, saying it’s been a nerve-wracking time leading up to Sunday’s meeting. She added that she didn’t know what to expect with the vote, particularly with the vacancy committee’s consensus that the applicant pool was extremely highly qualified and all admirable candidates.
She was among eight candidates, four of whom hailed from Eagle County and three of which are residents of Summit and one from Lake County.
Her nomination was made by Scanlan and seconded by Dan Gibbs, who held the seat before moving on to the state Senate and to the Summit County Board of County Commissioners in the 2010 November election.
“I’m happy with this outcome,” Hamner said. She was championed by Scanlan and Gibbs as a 23-year resident of Eagle County before her 10 years in Summit County, which has equated to good connections in both places. Gibbs added that she has connections with parents and children in Lake County through the education network.
That’s in addition to her brief campaign statement about being dedicated to education and effective state budgeting. She added that transportation, tourism, forest health, immigration and creating jobs are other important issues for the position.
She said she plans to tap into existing resources as she learns the ropes, such as calling Scanlan or Gibbs.
Scanlan and Gibbs both worked hard on forest health, transportation and tourism, which are areas they hope they can help Hamner along in her new role.
“I learned everything from Dan and we’ll pass it on to Millie,” Scanlan said.
In addition to education, she and Gibbs hope Hamner will work with tourism as they both did.
“It will be a learning curve for me,” Hamner said about the position, though she said she has already developed the most basic skill: working across the aisle in education issues, which are bipartisan.
Eagle County resident Jill Hunsaker Ryan was one of three finalists for the position who said, “I wanted the best outcome for the district. We were equally vetted with everyone and that’s good enough for me.”
Lake County’s Ken Olsen was the other finalist in Sunday’s vote.
Hamner said conversation with the Summit School District school board has resulted in a tentative plan for her to step down as full-time superintendent and to place assistant superintendent Karen Strakbein as interim superintendent. Hamner said Strakbein is not one of the internal candidates in the search for the next superintendent, which is being conducted in response to her retirement notice given earlier this school year and effective in June.
Hamner plans to make both the school district and the political district her two priorities, devoting weekdays to the Denver capitol and weekends to working with district personnel.
When asked by Lake County vacancy committee member Carol Hill about how her salary would shake out if no longer committed to the school district, Hamner said it’s to be determined by board members.
“It would be significantly decreased or down to nothing while I’m in the Legislature,” and serving as a consultant to the district, Hamner added.
Hamner didn’t have an answer when asked what bills she’d introduce with a deadline of several days ago.
“I need to get grounding in what’s happening before I make any public comments,” she said.
The full vacancy committee was present at the meeting, with seven Summit County residents, five Eagle County residents (two of whom were candidates for the seat) and three Lake County residents. The two Eagle County vacancy commitee members-turned-candidates still cast votes.
“We did not want to deny Eagle County representation on the committee,” said Lucinda Burns, vice chair of the vacancy committee and co-chair of the Summit County Democrats. Burns ran the meeting in vacancy committee chair Liz Spetnagel’s stead, as Spetnagel was one of the candidates.
It took four rounds of voting for Hamner to emerge the victor. To determine finalists, candidates were required to have three or more supporters in the initial vote.
The second round of voting saw Hamner leading six to Olsen’s and Ryan’s four each, with one disqualified ballot. A similar showing came in the third vote, with seven to four each for the other two – even after vacancy committee members posed more questions of the candidates.
It wasn’t until candidates were allowed a few minutes to campaign amongst vacancy members that Hamner earned nine votes and was named the replacement representative.
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