Steamboat school board member resigns

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Mayling Simpson is stepping down as a member of the Steamboat Springs School Board of Education.

“I’ve loved being on the school board,” Simpson said of her past year of service.

She made the decision to resign after her husband, Paul Hebert, agreed to stay on in his current role at Virginia Military Institute establishing an environmental studies program.

Steamboat School Board of Education member Mayling Simpson is stepping down from her position to join her husband, Paul Hebert, in Virginia.

In addition, Simpson was asked to teach a course on biological anthropology at the school.

Initially, she thought she would be gone for about four months and hoped to continue her service on the board remotely. There was discussion — and debate — among the board about the viability of participating in meetings electronically.

However, last week, when her husband’s position was extended indefinitely, she knew she would be moving to Virginia for a longer period of time. They’d already been apart for a year.

“A school board member needs to be in the community,” Simpson said.

Former board presidents Robin Crossan, Roger Good and Brian Kelly wrote a letter to the current board on Nov. 2 expressing concern about Simpson’s planned absences, writing that the rules were “never intended to allow a person to mix the statute and the electronic participation to game the system for extended absences.”

“Please have a discussion on what is in the best interest of the district and taxpayers considering that the district is contemplating a bond initiative next year,” they wrote.

But Simpson said as soon as her husband’s job status changed, she knew stepping down was the only option. She sent a letter to the board announcing her resignation, effective Nov. 19. She told the board on Monday her priority was to do whatever is best for the board, and she did not want to board to have any meetings without five members in attendance.

Simpson’s term would have expired in 2021. The board now has 60 days from Nov. 19 to find a replacement.

They first have to officially accept Simpson’s resignation, which they plan to do at a special meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The board discussed how they could begin the process to recruit, interview and appoint a new member as quickly as possible, particularly with the approaching holidays.

The appointee will serve until the next regular school board election in 2019.

Simpson and her husband moved to Steamboat in 1985, though she spent most of her 40-year career abroad, living in eight different countries working in public health and humanitarian assistance.

She has a doctorate in anthropology and also worked as a teacher, at the high school and college levels.

Simpson and Hebert began living in Steamboat full time in 2010. In retirement, Simpson saw the school board as an opportunity to serve the community and fulfill her civic duty.

She was also disheartened watching, in anticipation of the 2017 election, that there weren’t any candidates running for two open positions. So days before the deadline to enter the race, she called a few friends for advice, and with their encouragement, decided to run and ended up running unopposed.

Simpson said she found the past year very interesting, stimulating and rewarding.

“I recommend it highly,” she said. “You quickly get drawn into the issues. I learned so much. … It is such a good school district.”

Simpson praised Steamboat’s teachers, principals and administration and said the biggest issue facing the district is overcrowding.

“You really couldn’t ask for a better school district than this one,” she said.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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