In a unanimous vote Thursday night, School District 2 trustees decided to hire Terry Bouck as the district's new superintendent.
"Terry is the complete package," said Trustee Greta Besch Moen. "I think that our district will soar with him."
At a special Thursday night meeting, the board quickly narrowed the field of five finalists to two -- Bouck, superintendent of the Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor, Wash., and Douglas Reisig, superintendent of Hellgate Elementary School District in Missoula.
Board discussion of the two candidates was passionate and civil. At times, trustees seemed genuinely torn between two men they felt were both right for the job.
Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe said they weren't the same men and both would come to the district with different strengths and attributes.
"What we need to decide is if we want an apple or if we want an orange," she said. "Because we have a very nice apple and a very nice orange."
Trustees ultimately voted to offer the job to Bouck. He won five votes in a straw poll of the trustees, who then unanimously voted for him after a formal motion was made.
The other three finalists for the job were:
-- Joseph Farnsworth, human resources director for the Queen Creek Unified School District outside Mesa, Ariz.
-- David Gray, assistant superintendent of Battle Ground Public Schools in Battle Ground, Wash.
-- Jim Nygaard, superintendent of Cordova Public Schools in Cordova, Alaska.
A group of students from Senior High attended the entire meeting Thursday. They had met with all five candidates last week and gave a report to the board reflecting their impressions of each candidate.
Reisig was their top pick and Bouck scored near the bottom.
"How the board viewed him and how we viewed him were polar opposites," said Senior Shelby Dangerfield.
The group was disappointed and frustrated that they board seemed to ignore their recommendations.
In debating on who to hire, trustees point to Reisig's connection to Billings -- he was born and raised here -- and the impressive worked he accomplished in the Hellgate School District, just outside Missoula.
Trustee Travis Kemp said people in the district have been asking for a Montana superintendent. Reisig would fit that bill, he said.
Much of the board agreed. In making a case for Bouck, Trustee Kathy Aragon pointed to his accomplishments in Washington -- Bouck dealt with a quickly shrinking budget, gave himself a 5 percent pay cut and created a 30-year facilities plan -- and to the glowing references from the people with whom he'd worked.
He leads by example, she said.
The five finalists were suggested to the board by the search firm McPherson & Jacobson, which the board hired earlier in the year for $17,000 to assist with the search.
The five candidates were interviewed by trustees last week.
McPherson & Jacobson representatives vetted all 18 applicants, performing background searches, criminal history searches and talked to three sources beyond what the candidates listed as their references.
Of the 18, the search firm officials picked the five, believing they best fit the criteria supplied by the board.
Also at the Thursday night meeting, trustees unanimously re-elected Teresa Stroebe as board chair. Allen Halter was elected as vice chair in a 5-4 vote.
And after a contentious debate on the role of board clerk and chief financial officer, the board voted 6-3 to promote board Clerk Leo Hudetz to district CFO. He'll handle both duties.