Voters in Kootenai County are gearing up to decide who will lead North Idaho College after a tumultuous few years.
Tuesday will mark the fourth time the North Idaho College Board of Trustees will see a reshuffle of its membership since the 2020 election. This time around, voters will determine who will lead the college as it grapples with its status as a certification at risk, declining enrollment and teacher turnover.
The contentious race for the three open seats on the college’s board of trustees includes two lists of candidates.
Ron Hartman, Diana Sheridan and Mike Wagoner are the three candidates endorsed by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, despite the nonpartisan nature of the election, and Tarie Zimmerman, Brad Corkill and Pete Broschet are the three candidates endorsed by the committee of political action. Friends of the NIC and the Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce. The two slates have yet to face off in a public forum or debate, as the Republican-endorsed slate opted out of a candidate forum last month.
Zimmerman, Corkill and Broschet far outpaced their opponents in fundraising. According to data released Thursday by the Idaho secretary of state, Corkill raised the most with nearly $17,000, followed by Broschet with more than $10,000 in contributions and Zimmerman with $8,700. Friends of NIC raised over $140,000, receiving their largest donation of at least $25,000 from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
Hartman, Sheridan and Wagoner raised around $9,000, $11,000 and $7,500 respectively.
Ron Hartman, a retired transplant recipient from Tucson, and Tarie Zimmerman, a financial advisor and mother of four, are vying for the Zone 1 seat on the board.
Zimmerman has resided in Kootenai County since 2012 and said she hopes to restore a sense of professionalism to the board. Although this is Zimmerman’s first foray into politics, she has served on the board of directors of her local homeowners association and the Coeur d’Alene Lakeshore Property Owners Association. She believes her financial background will add a new perspective to the board as it deals with the loss of donations and support from local partners following the accreditation warning.
Zimmerman said she was a long-time advocate for education and felt a deep connection to North Idaho College as someone whose own educational journey began at a community college. Zimmerman returned to higher education to become a financial adviser; she had stepped away from her career in aerospace engineering to raise her children. She sees the college’s potential loss of accreditation status as the most pressing issue facing the college, followed by the need to regain the trust of the community.
“I believe the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is watching our election very closely,” Zimmerman said. “They watched these taped directors meetings and they are waiting for the election to see what happens and who will be placed in this role. And if the wrong people are put in that role, they will act.
Zimmerman said accreditation issues have had a direct impact on college enrollment, which has been declining for years and saw a 6% drop this fall. She thinks responding to the accreditation warning and supporting the college’s new president, Nick Swayne, in grassroots efforts to restore community trust in the institution, is the best way to deal with the decline. registrations.
“I think the board needs to listen to community members, and I think they need to treat them with respect and listen to what they have to say,” Zimmerman said. “By having good board governance, and that means conducting yourself in a professional manner with integrity and transparency, it will build trust in the community and I think that will resonate with guidance counselors at the secondary and junior level. from high school.
Hartman, a retired longtime employee of Ford Motor Company as well as Caterpillar, moved to Kootenai County in 2020. Hartman was endorsed by the Kootenai County GOP and operates on a platform of “freedom academic”.
At a candidate event hosted by the Republican Women’s Federation of Kootenai County last month, Hartman said he was running to ensure Christian and American values are instilled in the college. He told the crowd that concerns about the potential loss of accreditation are overblown, despite evidence to the contrary. He believes the steady decline in enrollment over the years is because the college has lost touch with community beliefs and priorities.
Hartman also told the crowd of Republican women that college professors are “indoctrinating” students, citing a rumor that an English professor made students write a pro-abortion paper in class. Hartman provided no evidence for her claim, and it has since been debunked by the Coeur d’Alene press.
Hartman did not return many requests for comment for this article.
The race for the Zone 2 seat features a longtime local sucker with a background in education and an entrepreneur raised in Western Washington.
Brad Corkill, owner and operator of Whiteman Lumber in Cataldo, is one of the few director candidates with some political experience. Corkill served as chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee from 2006 to 2010 and served on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for eight years. He also has extensive experience serving on various education-related boards and committees, including the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, St. Maries School Board, and Kellogg School Board. He said he decided to show up to ensure that northern Idaho continues to have the important resource that is the NIC.
Corkill said he understands firsthand the importance of the college to local employers and business owners who rely on the college to produce qualified candidates for hire. One of Corkill’s most trusted employees was hired directly from the college millwright program and worked alongside Corkill at the plant for nearly 40 years.
“This millwright program was very important to me,” Corkill said. “Having this college here, with the nursing program, the dental hygiene program, and the manpower program, is very important to this community.”
He considers faculty turnover and the credentialing warning to be the most significant issues currently facing the college. Like Zimmerman, he thinks solving those problems and restoring community confidence in the college starts with making sure the right candidates are elected on Tuesday.
Sheridan, an entrepreneur with more than 38 years of business experience, said she decided to enter the race because the college is a resource for the community and needs new leadership. In an emailed statement, Sheridan said steadily declining enrollment, declining property values and tax oversights are the most concerning issues facing the college.
Regarding the accreditation disclaimer, Sheridan said in writing that the college is already making progress toward meeting the requirements of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and that she is confident that accreditation does not is not in danger.
Sheridan said the NIC needs to focus on tackling declining enrollment because she fears it will lead to a financial collapse for the college. She posits that building more student accommodation, focusing educational efforts on growing areas like health care, and repairing relationships with community members will help solve the problem.
“I would hate to see us lose this resource and its benefits to our community,” Sheridan said in an email. “The direction of this ship needs to be reset. A new direction, managed with cooperation and unified focus, will achieve different and better results.
Pete Broschet has held the Zone 5 seat since May, when he was appointed to the position by the Idaho State Board of Education following the resignation of former administrator Michael Barnes. . He is a lifelong resident of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area and serves as Director of Human Resources for Empire Airlines.
Broschet hopes to restore professionalism to the board and has decided to run to ensure the college remains viable after a tumultuous few years. Broschet has served on the college’s Aerospace Advisory Board for the past six years and has served on a number of advisory boards for similar programs at schools across the country, including Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
Broschet said the accreditation warning stemmed from the actions and conduct of former board members and did not reflect the institution itself.
“I would like people to know that they found no fault with the faculty, the staff, the college finances, or the college program,” Broschet said. “All of these were well assessed; it is college governance that has brought NIC to the state it is in today.
Restoring community trust in the college will be a long-term endeavor, Broschet said. He praised Swain for his efforts to reach local students directly and believes the board can help Swain rebuild the college’s reputation by working directly with local business owners and community leaders.
The target to overthrow Broschet is Mike Waggoner, who is perhaps best known for his work advocating for landlord property rights in the Coeur d’Alene area from 2003 to 2012. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he has worked for 45 years in “high level organizations”. roles where he had to set the direction of entire companies, manage the construction of new facilities and facilitate communication between sub-organizations” in the fields of aerospace and technology, according to a press release announcing his candidacy.
Like Hartman, Wagoner was criticized for making unsubstantiated claims of college “indoctrination”. On his campaign website, Wagoner writes that he is “disturbed” by the rise of “anti-American and anti-white agendas” nationally and within the college, but provides no evidence of the supposed trend. . His comments echo complaints about critical race theory and schools widely circulated among conspiracy theorists and the alt-right.
Wagoner did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.