The Crook County School Board had expected voters to determine the future of two positions in the upcoming special district election.
That suddenly changed a week and a half ago when board member Walt Wagner decided to resign with two years remaining in his four-year term. He first contacted Board Chair Scott Cooper by phone regarding his decision and submitted a letter of resignation on Thursday, March 11. It concluded six years as a school board member.
"Since my time on the school board began, I've enjoyed every minute of my interaction with the board, the administration and staff, but the time has come when personal priorities must take preference," Wagner wrote. "I do plan to remain involved — when in-person meetings resume, I may participate in the audience."
The Crook County School District issued a news release last Tuesday afternoon, announcing the unexpected vacancy. In it, Wagner was acknowledged as an advocate for school safety and increased communication.
"The school board appreciates Walt's six years of service to the voters and taxpayers, students, parents, and staff of the district," Cooper said. "Serving on a school board is not for the faint of heart. It is far more than one meeting a month. It takes time away from family, from business and from personal pursuits. Walt has been diligent and serious about the work. He will now be able to refocus on other priorities, and he leaves with the confidence that the district is in excellent shape, and he was a part of creating that."
The timing of Wagner's resignation left the school board enough time to fill his vacancy during the upcoming 2021 special district election – but barely.
"That (resignation) set in motion an interesting scramble because the filing deadline is March 18," Cooper noted. "What we could have done is just delayed the notification of vacancy, which would have sent it to appointment, but we decided (last Monday) to follow the democratic process."
According to Crook County Clerk Cheryl Seely, a vacancy by resignation can be added to the ballot if the office holder resigns on or before the 62nd day prior to the election. In this case, that date was March 17.
However, because of the publishing schedule of Crook County's newspaper of record, the Central Oregonian, the soonest Seely can give public notice of the vacancy is Tuesday, March 23. So, acting on an option made available by state law, she extended the filing deadline for that position to 5 p.m. on March 24, — all other special district election filing deadlines were March 18.
Wagner served Zone #4 of Crook County School District, which includes Powell Butte south of Highway 126 and a small southwest portion of the city of Prineville. Anyone who files for the position must live in that zone.
Two other school positions will appear on the 2021 special district ballot. Position 2, held by Cooper, is up for election as is Position 5, an at-large office currently held by Gwen Carr.
The 2021 special district election will take place May 18.
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