KENNEBUNK – The Kennebunk Select Board appointed Gayle Asmussen Spofford to a five-month vacancy on the RSU 21 School Board on Jan. 26.

Spofford, who has previously served on the RSU 21 board and on the MSAD 71 board, as the district that served the area was formerly known, was to be sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan, 27.

She’s most recently been a member of the RSU 21 Finance Committee as a community stakeholder – the district’s term for volunteer community members. During her tenure as an MSAD 71 director, she served on the finance committee, one year as vice chair and one year as parliamentarian. As consolidation occurred, she served on the three-town committee set up to review the cost-sharing formula.

She replaces Josiah Currier, who was appointed Jan. 19, but stepped down a week later due to a personal commitment. Currier, 25, was chosen from a field of six candidates after withdrawals from the initial nine candidates, to fill the remainder of the term that had been vacated by Kendra Connor late last year. The term expires June 30.

“Growing up my family was involved as volunteers in town government and church in Reading, Massachusetts,” said Spofford in an email. “I started at the age of 12.” Later, as a student at the University of Southern Maine, Spofford became a notary so she could register age-qualified students to vote. As well as the school boards, her past volunteer gigs include serving on the school improvement committee in Wells, the Wells Capital Improvement Committee and the Kennebunk Taxpayer Association. Spofford was a volunteer for the United Way of York County and is a trustee of Evergreen Cemetery.

Spofford was chosen in a 6-1 vote, with select board member Shiloh Schulte dissenting, after nominations for candidates Kortney Nedeau, who he had nominated and David Wayne, who was nominated by board member Wayne Berry, both failed.

She will join the board as it gears up for budget review for the coming school year, in preparation for the RSU 21 budget meeting and subsequent June 8 validation referendum.

Ed Karytko, who nominated Spofford, said he had been looking for someone with experience and knowledge to communicate Kennebunk’s position to the school board. He had nominated her at the prior meeting, when Currier was ultimately chosen.

Board member Wayne Berry agreed, noting that the town was under-represented at the RSU 21 board meeting on Jan 25.

Several members of the select board said the process they were advised by legal counsel to use to appoint an RSU 21 board member was difficult – board member Frank Paul called it “horrible.”

The 6-1 vote for Spofford, “puts an end to this torturous process,” said chair Blake Baldwin.

“This was very painful,” said Karytko. “Every one of the candidates is perfectly qualified, unfortunately, we can pick only one. “

“I know feelings were hurt and I am very sorry for that,” said Baldwin, “In the end, we were compelled to make a decision.”

“You are all excellent candidates and I hope you volunteer again,” said board member William Ward.

Nedeau thanked the board for the opportunity. She noted last week, the board had chosen a young person for the role, but this week, chose someone who had previously served. She said she knew the select board had received many emails supporting her for the position.

“It does feel like you’re being shut down unnecessarily, when you were begging for new blood last week,” she said in part, adding, at 31, she wants to serve now rather than later. “I am a local, I want to salvage what we have left,” she said, noting others moving here will have different views than do those who were raised in the community. “I do feel slighted. I felt it was my one chance.”

“I look forward to seeing younger people,” said Baldwin. “You see the six grumpy men and Shiloh (here) because these are the only folks who stepped up.”

Peter Sentner was a candidate for the post, but stepped back at the prior meeting to support Nedeau.

“You have to wonder though,” said Sentner. “With all the bias training I  have been through, people tend to elect people who look like them.”

At the end of the session, during board member comments, Schulte noted the board’s hands were tied by a process dictated by state law. He said the board had a slate of candidates who were all qualified and any one of them would have done a good job.

“When we have an opportunity in front of us and a difficult choice, it is imperative we change the dynamic in front of us and find a voice that’s different … anything we can do to influence diversity of opinion and experiences and voices that can be heard,” said Schulte.

He said he hoped people would step up for the June elections.

“I hope we see stiff competition to give Kennebunk residents a choice,” Schulte said.

Baldwin said the board has kept diversity in mind. The name was changed from selectmen to select board “because we know leadership is not gender based,” he said.

He pointed out that the select board had appointed a woman to the Kennebunk Light and Power Board of Trustees, along with a 25-year-old to the school board.

“When that didn’t work out, we appointed a woman,” said Baldwin, referring to the evening’s vote for Spofford.

“So despite the look of this board, we have taken steps – not nearly enough – but we’re not sitting idly on our hands with respect to that issue,” said Baldwin. Noting the June 8 election, he urged people to step up to run for the select board, RSU 21 or other vacancies.

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