Cal Poly engineering lecturer and instructor Marshall “Lee” McFarland of Cambria is the provisional appointee to a school board seat vacated by the April 13 resignation of former Coast Unified School District trustee Lesli Murdoch.
Despite McFarland’s impressive career and community-service experience, which includes work for the defense and space division of Westinghouse Electric and engineering work for 3M and Burroughs, the four trustees stressed at the June 2 special meeting how difficult the choice was.
The four other applicants were:
- A research scientist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA on the Mars Pathfinder and planetary-geology projects (Greg Wilson).
- Chief of museum interpretation at Hearst Castle (Ty Smith).
- Retired chief financial officer and negotiator for technology firms (Ted Siegler).
- Tiffany Silva, honorary mayor of Cayucos, who attended Cayucos schools and Coast Union High School (as have her daughters), and who has management experience at work and in nonprofits.
Having five such qualified applicants for one seat was an embarrassment of riches for an agency that has, several times in the past, had to forgo formal elections because nobody signed up to run for office.
Trustee Cindy Fratto said in her 10 years on the board, “I’ve never seen a slate so well qualified … so overwhelming.”
As trustee Sue Nash said rather plaintively, “Why don’t we (just) have a bigger board?”
Each trustee urged the four runners-up to reapply as soon as they can for another vacancy on the board, created when Judith Hillen resigned as of June 7 because she and her husband are moving to Oregon this month. The board has 90 days to put that application process in place and replace Hillen, according to Superintendent Vicki Schumacher.
The Murdoch-Hillen resignations mean that the 2016 election cycle will see four CUSD seats on the ballot, three for four-year terms and one for a two-year seat to fill out the balance of Murdoch’s term.
McFarland told the board and audience that he’d lived in the area for 17 years, and comes from a family of teachers. However, he also brings experience in industry and community service ranging from being a volunteer at the Piedras Blancas Light Station, jack-of-all-trades for the Cambria Center for the Arts Theater, and volunteer and mentor at Coast Union High School, among other community, sports and civic activities.
His math and science résumé impressed trustee Judith Hillen, she said. “We are in the business of education. We need to select someone in that discipline.”
Fratto moved that McFarland be the appointee, and Nash seconded the motion. The vote was 3-1: Board President Del Clegg had said he wanted the board to appoint Silva so there’d be a well-qualified Cayucos representative on the board.
McFarland’s appointment is provisional and won’t be final until a 30-day appeal period has passed.