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Former school cop named to district board

Wardell replaces Heny, will serve through December 2014

A former school resource officer is the new member of the Powell school board.

Jason Wardell was appointed to fill the vacant seat on the Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees on Thursday evening. He replaces Dee Heny, who resigned last month.

“Everyone thought he would be a good fit,” said Chairman Rob McCray of the board’s unanimous decision to appoint Wardell.

Wardell, 34, works for Marathon Oil. Previously, he worked for Powell Police Department from 2003 to 2007, spending two years as the school resource officer.

In that position, “I got to know a lot of the teachers and staff,” Wardell said. “I thought it was just a great organization with good people — something I wanted to be a part of.

“I saw an opportunity and thought this would be a good time.”

Wardell also decided he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. His dad, Monty Wardell, served on the Lovell school board, and was involved with education issues at the state and national level, serving as president of the Wyoming School Boards Association.

“I admired that and saw the value of a good school board member who put in the time and effort and the difference that can be made there,” Wardell said. Before applying for the vacant seat, “I picked my dad’s brain quite a bit.”

McCray said with Wardell’s family history on school boards, “he understands what the job entails.”

McCray added that the board “couldn’t really go wrong” with any of the three candidates. Jeff Easum and Dave Brown, who both ran for the school board last fall, also applied for the vacant position.

“All three were really good candidates,” McCray said.

The board conducted the candidate interviews and held its discussion behind closed doors during an executive session Thursday evening.

McCray said the board handled the replacement process like a job interview.

“Basically, it’s a personnel issue,” McCray said.

While Wyoming law allows executive sessions for the appointment of a public officer, Wyoming Press Association attorney Bruce Moats said the people are better served by an open interview process. Moats noted that all the current board members had to campaign publicly.

Wardell will complete Heny’s term through Dec. 1, 2014. He said he plans to run for a full four-year term on the board in the 2014 election.

“I’m hoping to take that knowledge that I’ll gain over the next year and a half and put it to use,” Wardell said.

One of his priorities will be safety, he said. Wardell works as a safety tech for Marathon Oil.

“I think about safety all the time,” he said. “Parents entrust the school district with their children every day, and keeping them safe is really important.”

Wardell also serves on the Powell Volunteer Fire Department.

Wardell said one of his strengths is communication.

“I’m approachable and easy-going. I encourage people if they have questions, comments or concerns to bring them to me and I can bring them before the board,” he said.

A graduate of Lovell High School, Wardell received his degree from Northwest College. He and his wife have lived in Powell for about 12 years. His three children attend Southside Elementary School.

He has coached a variety of youth sports in the community and is on the Heart Mountain United Soccer Board. Wardell also is a referee for high school football. Through sports, Wardell has met students in the district.

“I know a lot of the kids,” he said.

Wardell said he enjoys volunteering and serving the community. He will attend his first meeting as a school board member on Wednesday evening.

“We’re looking forward to moving forward and having a full board,” McCray said.

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