The Billings School District 2 Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Rob Rogers as its newest member on Monday night, filling a seat that's been vacant since May.
Rogers, a former Billings Gazette reporter who covered SD2 for five years, fills a position that opened up when Lindy Graves resigned to take a job in South Dakota.
"I'm excited and I'm nervous," Rogers said. "I know it's a lot of work and a lot of time."
The board interviewed Rogers and Sara Neff, a retired school counselor and teacher who used to work for the school district, for about 30 minutes each, asking the same set of questions, before making the appointment.
Several trustees mentioned that they were impressed with both candidates.
"This is not going to be an easy decision," Trustee Janna Hafer said before the vote.
Rogers' current term as a trustee will run until May of 2015, when the seat will be up for election in a public vote.
During the interview, he told the trustees that he applied for the seat in part because he's the father of three girls who attend SD2 schools and wanted to continue what he views as positive gains made by the district over the past few years.
"We are the largest school district in the state and there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be the best school district in the state," he said.
Neff was a school counselor for 27 years and a teacher for seven. She said that she applied for the seat because she knows "what it's like to work day-to-day" in a public school and wanted to continue developing young people into productive citizens.
"I have the time, the energy and the passion," she said.
Questions during the interviews ranged from each candidate's thoughts on effective budgeting to the best ways to gather information that's important to the board and district, from their thoughts on change to how they handle conflict.
Rogers told the board his budgeting priorities would be students, teachers and buildings and that he brings a steady, calm presence to the seat, something he believes the public responds to well.
"I'm able to work with people," he said. "I'm able to work pretty comfortably in most situations without losing my cool."
Superintendent Terry Bouck said that he appreciated Rogers' work covering SD2 as a reporter, as well as his understanding of the district's inner workings.
"I think both candidates did an exceptional job," he said. "That being said, I am thrilled that Rob will be on the board."
A quorum of five trustees — Tanya Ludwig, Hafer, Allen Halter, Greta Besch Moen and Susan Layton — unanimously approved the appointment.