Fourteen people are seeking appointment to the Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees this year, with two vacant seats open. Meanwhile, just eight candidates actually ran in the school board election earlier this year when three seats were available.
Why do so few candidates file to run for office, but so many seek appointment whenever there is a vacancy in local government? Perhaps it is the path of least resistance.
This criticism has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of candidates running either for appointment or in the election. Amarillo has a number of highly qualified individuals who are seeking appointment, as well as a number of qualified individuals who sought election in May. People like John Betancourt should also be praised after running for the board in May unsuccessfully, while coming back now to seek appointment. Individuals like Betancourt obviously have a commitment to the role of the school board when coming back to offer their service again.
However, in the vast majority of cases, candidates appear to place their names in contention for appointment only to slip away at election time. Take a look at the 2016 appointment process to replace Brian Eades on the Amarillo City Council and you will notice the same scenario in which a large number of candidates sought appointment, but only five returned to the ballot less than a year later. The same scenario also took place in 2018 when the AISD board sought to replace James Allen, in which only one candidate - the appointee to the vacant seat - returned to the ballot.
I believe that having a large number of interested individuals volunteering for public service is a good thing, but providing voters with a large group of choices is an even better option. Perhaps with larger, more diverse fields, Amarillo could eventually raise turnout over fifteen percent in a local election.
When the appointments are made to this board, twelve people will not be selected to serve on the Board of Trustees. I would encourage those twelve people to consider running for the Board again in 2021 or perhaps to consider running for a different office in 2020. U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry and State Representatives John Smithee (R-Amarillo) and Four Price (R-Amarillo) will all be on the ballot in 2020, along with several county offices. If a person is passionate about public service, perhaps they could offer their service to voters in one of these positions.
Amarillo deserves good candidates, and I think we have a robust field seeking appointment this year. However, we also deserve large selections of candidates at election time, as well. Voters never suffer from having too many good choices.
-Thomas Warren III, Editor-in-Chief