Steve Peck, a health care executive and a former officer in the U.S. Navy, has been chosen to fill the District E Douglas County Board of Education seat vacated by Doug Benevento.
He was sworn in Nov. 7 at a ceremony at the school district building in Castle Rock.
Benevento vacated his director seat - which encompasses Lone Tree, Acres Green, Castle Pines and eastern Highlands Ranch - on Sept. 8, saying he had accomplished all he could during his seven years on the board.
Board President Meghann Silverthorn chose Peck, a resident of Highlands Ranch, after the board was unable to agree on a candidate. State law requires the board president to choose a replacement if the board has not decided on one after 60 days. That period ended Nov. 7.
Silverthorn said she feels the community is ready to move on from the matter.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to the business of kids and accomplishing what we want to accomplish," Silverthorn said. "I think there's plenty of business to be done, so I want to focus on that and move forward."
Silverthorn pointed to Peck's military service and youth as reasons he would be a strong addition to the seven-member board, saying he has a different skill set and provides a different perspective than anyone currently serving.
Peck, 33, was a military officer with six years of active-duty service in the Navy and two years in the Reserve. He works as a health care executive at UCHealth Anschutz. Peck said school safety, as well as helping to create new creative curriculum options, would be areas of focus.
During his interview with the board Oct. 4, Peck said, as a millennial, he would be the only member of the board who has graduated high school since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He also said he hoped to help the district and students tackle issues like the challenges of college selection and student debt.
Peck and his wife, Sarah, moved to Douglas County with their two children in 2014.
He said the district needs to help find ways to "bend the cost curve of college education and create compelling alternatives for those planning to jump right into the marketplace after high school."
"I'm very interested in developing a career-ready track for kids who choose to take that path," Peck said Nov. 7. "Whether that's the military or working for a local union of one variety another, jumping right into the technical field in IT or health care or anywhere in-between. That's something I'm passionate about."
He also said he would advocate for bringing more decision-making power to school principals and classroom teachers.
Peck will join the board for his first meeting Nov. 15.
The board nominated four candidates at its Oct. 18 meeting but was deadlocked on a choice after a series of gridlocked votes and discussion.
Silverthorn, Vice President Judith Reynolds and board member James Geddes supported Peck for the position.
David Ray, Wendy Vogel and Anne-Marie Lemieux - who each were elected in November 2015 on a platform of opposition to the district's policies over the past several years - questioned Peck's affiliation with the program Leadership Group of the Rockies, which they said is politically partisan and would be divisive to the community.
Geddes said he has received much feedback from the community in support of Peck.
Ray, Vogel and Lemieux each nominated a different candidate, but said they would support any of the other three.
"We have to move forward in the best interest of our students," Lemieux said Nov. 7. "That's all we can focus on. All the rest of this is just diversion and away from what we truly need to focus on, which is our funding needs, our programming needs for our students and our excessive teacher turnover."
Lemieux said having the new board member appointed rather than voted in put Peck in a "terrible position."
"I think it could have been done differently," Lemieux said. "It could have been a little more smooth, a little more transparent, with a voice from the public. That would have been better footing for him."
Peck - whose appointment will last through the end of Benevento's term, which was to expire in November 2017 - said he wasn't worried about how he will get along with the divided board.
"I'm going to fit in great," Peck said. "I can get along with people from all sorts of backgrounds. We can disagree without being disagreeable."