School board candidates seek election

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SANDPOINT — Three of the Lake Pend Oreille School District trustees are stepping down, leaving those positions on the board up for grabs.

Board chairman Steve Youngdahl, who represents Zone 5, is leaving, as well as Zone 2 trustee Matt Mire and Zone 3 trustee Joan Fish.

Vying for the positions are Zone 2 candidates Gary Suppiger and Richard Miller; Zone 3 candidates Victoria Zeischegg and Lonnie Williams; and Zone 5 candidates Anita Perry and Cary Kelly.

Absentee ballots have already been sent out and must be returned to the Bonner County clerk by May 5. In-person voting at the Bonner County Elections office is open until May 12, and then voting at the polls will be held May 16. Those elected will be sworn in during the district's annual meeting in July.

Zone 2 candidates:

Gary Suppiger is the founder, owner and manager of Panhandle Forest Products. He holds a bachelor's degree in art and chemistry and a master's in forestry from Duke University. He and his wife, Sally, reside in Cocolalla and his three children attended public school in the district.

"They thrived in this district," Suppiger said in an email to the Daily Bee. "All three finished high school at the top of their class. They were involved in academic competition, athletics, student leadership, music, art, service clubs, and more. All three not only were accepted at some of this country's most prestigious and selective colleges but earned extremely generous scholarships to attend. My wife and I are extremely grateful to LPOSD and want to give back."

His volunteer work includes serving as a Sagle Elementary math coach for 12 years. He has also served on district committees for levies, budgets, curriculum and parent district coordinating.

Suppiger said he is an "enthusiastic supporter of public education and the district." His platform includes quality education, public involvement, transparency in planning and decision making, responsible spending and accountability.

Richard Miller, owner and operator of Dr. Splinter's Woodworks, lives in Sagle with his wife, Susan. Both he and his wife hold master's degrees in traditional Chinese medicine. He currently serves as a board member on the Injectors' Car Club and supports local causes, such as hospice, Toys for Tots, the food bank, senior center and cancer society.

Miller's daughter, Brighten, attended school in the district and graduated with honors. She was awarded a scholarship from the University of Idaho and is studying speech pathology.

Miller said he believes the district is doing a "relatively" good job in academics, but believes that it could use improvement in preparing area students to succeed in practical life applications.

"I have been a local specialty building contractor for over 20 years," Miller said. "Having worked with many contractors and businesses, a common theme emerges, lack of qualified motivated employee candidates for various areas of the trades. I am running to further promote and support a more flexible and responsive educational experience for those students who are not college bound but show aptitude and interest with tactile skills."

Zone 3 candidates:

Victoria Zeischegg owns and operates a health and wellness website,, along with her husband, Peter. She managed Zeischegg Chiropractic Neurology Clinic for 12 years. Zeichegg's children successfully completed 12 years in the public school system and went on to earn degrees from public universities.

Zeischegg said, as a parent, she felt it was her duty to her children and her community to participate in their education. She volunteered in her children's classrooms regularly and served on the Parent Teacher Organization board. She also participated in booster clubs for their athletic teams, band and choir, and in their high school years served on the Principal's Advisory Board.

Zeischegg is a former board member of Angels Over Sandpoint and is in her sixth year on the board of the Bonner County Republican Women, Inc. It is her fifth year as president of the BCRW. She also serves as the elected Baldy Precinct Republican Committeewoman and volunteers on the Local Emergency Management Planning Committee and is an associate member of Priest Lake Search and Rescue.

"Having been active in local organizations for many years in Bonner County, I know the importance of quality local public education," Zeischegg said in a statement. "There is a lot of discord in our community right now, and I am running for trustee, Zone Three, to help heal that division and bring our district together to create a sustainable future for LPOSD."

Lonnie Williams is the vice president of Sandpoint Title Insurance where he has worked since graduating from Gonzaga University in 2009. His family owns the company and he has lived in the Sandpoint area since he was 2 years old.

He and his wife Katie are both products of LPOSD and he believes that playing sports in the district helped shape the person he is today. After moving back to the area after college, where he also played soccer, he began coaching soccer for the high school and the Strikers.

"I believe that it is very important to give back when we can, to the community that has given so much to us over the years," Williams said in an email to the Daily Bee. "This is one of the main reasons that I am running for school board. I want to help continue the success that we have achieved as a school district by helping to ensure that we continue to offer as many high-quality classes, programs and activities for our students as we can."

He said the district is continually ranked at the top of the state for achievement, which he believes is due to the dedicated teachers and staff who work "tirelessly" to provide the best education to students. Williams said he wants students in the district to continue to have the best education. Also, as the community continues to grow, he said the district needs to ensure families thinking of relocated to the area that it can provide a quality education to their children.

Zone 5 candidates:

Anita Perry is retired from a career in the public sector that included 20 years of management experience in state and city government. Seven of those years she spent in the School of Education at California State University where she oversaw business operations, served on the faculty recruitment committee and was involved in budgeting, as well as the development and implementation of policies. For 13 years, she was the records manager at two different California police departments. She and her husband have lived in Sandpoint for the past 12 years.

Perry has volunteered locally in the Community Assistance League's Bizarre Bazaar and served on several grant committees. She has served as president of the Bonner County Republican Women and continues as a board member. Perry said her grassroots politics led her to an appointment on the Bonner County Property Rights Council, to a position as secretary on the board of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee, and to serving as precinct committeewoman.

"I believe that engaged citizens are essential to a well-functioning society, because it's at the grassroots level where the greatest impact on the community occurs," Perry said in a statement.

She values the trustee position as a critical link to the school — an "educated watchdog" who sees to it that the community's tax dollars are spent on the best education it can afford. Also, she said in the statement, a trustee shows commitment to the community by asking for and considering input from parents, teachers and other citizens before and during decision-making processes on school policies.

Cary Kelly recently stepped down as a Bonner County commissioner, where he served as chairman of the board for four years. Prior to that, he spent 18 years in the marine division of the Bonner County Sheriff's Office, resigning in 2012 to run for elected office. He also spent 28 years in the United States Marine Corps as a naval aviator and colonel. His education includes graduation from Stanford University, University of Stockholm in Sweden, Marine Command and  Staff College and Marymount University, where he received a master's degree in education. He recently completed a nonprofit leadership course at University of Idaho as well.

Kelly and his wife, Mona, moved to Bonner County 24 years ago and have two children, five grandchildren and a dog. All five grandchildren attended public school in Sandpoint.

"I'm running because I value education," Kelly said in a video on his website, "I think it's important not only for the students, but for the community as a whole. I think the district is headed in the right direction and I would like to continue on."

He said there are similarities between running a county and running a school district — they are both public agencies, both accountable to the public, they are about the same size in regards to the number of personnel, and are similar in the amount of the budgets and the bureaucracy involved. If elected, he said he would like the district to continue on its current path and to ensure the board is transparent and involves the public in everything it does, particularly when it come to the budget, levies or policies.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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