Candidates lead with experience, communication skills

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By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
With nine years service, District 4 school board candidate Gary Ellgen is the candidate with the most the most experience in the 2001 election class.
"It's really been a neat experience," Ellgen said. "It takes a few years to get your feet under you."
The experience almost came to an end this year when Ellgen was debating whether to run again.
"With the superintendent change, I felt like I could add my experience," he said. "This has been a special board to work with and I wanted to keep that cohesiveness."
Ellgen was originally appointed to his position when it opened up nine years ago.
"I had children in the system and I had grown up here," he said "I felt I should give something back."
Ellgen said the board faces a big decision in deciding what to do about the recently vacated superintendent position being temporarily filled by Pete Bergmann.
"I'm proud of the things the administration is doing and the approach Pete Bergmann is taking," he said. "It seems to be working well and we haven't missed a beat. The big decision will be what direction to take next."
Ellgen said the biggest part of the budget is hiring and managing personnel.
"I like to see us striving to get the best teachers and taking care of the good teachers we've got," he said. "We can sit around as board members and talk all we want but it is the teachers that make a difference."
Ellgen said the quality of instruction and staffing in the Moffat County School system is one of its strengths.
One weakness he has seen is in public relations and he said he would be happy if more people would call him with their concerns.
Often times, he said, people will take one individual problem and think it is that way with the entire system, when really it is just one individual problem.
Right now, Ellgen said he has no burning issues in regard to the school district.
Ellgen said it is interesting how the school board works through different problems when they do arise.
"We all have different ideas and it's neat how we've blended them together and continued to work together," he said. "This board just takes a vote and then moves on, approaching the next item with an open mind."
Ellgen is running this year because he thought his experience would benefit the district.
"I felt like we have a cohesive unit and I wanted us to continue working through the process the same way," he said. "I thought I could add a little experience that would be of help."
District 4 school board candidate Jeff Whilden would like to see parents, teachers and administrators work as one cohesive group.
Whilden, who has attended school board meetings regularly for five years, said he is concerned about the lack of communication.
"Over the five years I've been attending meetings, I've learned we had a less than friendly upper administration," he said. "I've seen people come to meetings and be told they're not on the agenda and can't speak. You can't be upset that people aren't engaged, then not let them talk."
But in the five years he's been attending the meetings, he's learned a lot, which would be an advantage if he were to be elected, he said.
"I'd like to tell anybody that runs to sit through two years of meetings first," he said. "If every candidate had that experience you wouldn't have to back up when new members begin."
Whilden said one positive he's seen sitting through the meetings is an experienced, qualified staff of forward thinking people.
"I've learned from watching how to be a team player rather than an individual thinker," he said. "I've seen you really need to pace yourself in order to be a team player."
Whilden said he chose to run for the school board because he has two children in the system, and he wants to be involved.
"I feel everyone owes it to the community to do something for the betterment of the community," he said. "Because I have children, the school board peaked my interest."
He also believes that people do not have a right to complain about a system if they're not willing to take part in the system.
"I don't like it when people sit on the corner and throw garbage," he said.
Whilden said he already has experience working with a "mini-school district" in helping his wife, Judi, run Sunrise Kids Childcare, which she owns.
He has also grown up in an educational environment.
"My mother taught school for 30 years," he said. "I understand there is a lot more than meets the eye to teaching."
Whilden said one of the main issues the board will face in the upcoming year is whether or not to hire a new superintendent, but in his opinion, the current three-person superintendent situation with Pete Bergmann at the head is fine.
"I would say let's stick with this plan for a few years," he said. "My initial evaluation is that this is just great."
One concern Whilden has is that many students are not graduating from Moffat County prepared for college.
"I'd like to see kids graduate high school, go to college and say 'this is easy,'" he said. "We need to serve students to where they can go into any college situation and be ready."
"I'm not familiar with every aspect of what needs to be done," he said.
"We have a good district, it just needs more input for fine tuning."
Overall, Whilden said voters in district 4 are in a win-win situation.
"Gary Ellgen has provided the community with eight years of good service," he said. "The district is lucky to have two committed candidates who will be devoted to the job."

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