TRAVERSE CITY — The newest member of Traverse City Public Schools' Board of Education is ready to start researching the ins and outs of the district, but first she needs to get some sleep.
Doris Ellery was selected to fill the school board's vacant seat during a marathon five-hour meeting Monday night.
Ellery, fellow finalist Todd Sanders and a handful of other candidates sat through the entire meeting and endured a publicly televised discussion of their qualifications that even board members described as "very uncomfortable."
Ellery, of Garfield Township, said she was "pleased" and "a little overwhelmed" after board members elected her to the empty seat in a 4-to-2 vote shortly after 11 p.m.
"I'm anxious to do my best to support my community," Ellery said.
Twelve candidates went before the board hoping to fill the vacancy Monday night. Each gave a short speech that answered board members questions before a group of finalists was selected.
Craig Wesley joined Ellery and Sanders as the finalists. Board members agreed all three finalists were qualified, and the conversation quickly developed into a debate about the candidates' backgrounds.
Ellery was born and raised in Traverse City, while Wesley and Sanders are recent transplants. Sanders moved to the area with his family last spring after he retired from the Marine Corps. Wesley moved to Traverse City with his family after spending much of his career either in Silicon Valley or traveling.
Ellery also lives on the district's west side. Wesley and Sanders reside in Peninsula Township.
School board Vice President Julie Puckett said the board needed to consider the will of its constituents — and tread carefully — when it considered choosing one of the recent transplants who lives in Peninsula Township.
"If we look disconnected from our community one more time, we are setting ourselves up for failure again down the road," Puckett said.
Others board members challenged that notion. Gary Appel said he didn't see "high risk" in whomever was appointed and said the public would judge the selection based on his or her effectiveness as a board member.
Board members were split evenly between Ellery and Sanders at about 11 p.m. Board Treasurer Erik Falconer cast the deciding vote for Ellery after a short round of public comments. Falconer joined Puckett, board President Kelly Hall and board member Scott Hardy in support of Ellery.