Paris appoints Christie Wessels to vacant MSAD 17 seat

Jan. 17—PARIS — The Select Board appointed Christie Wessels at a special meeting Tuesday to fill the vacancy on the Maine School Administrative District 17 board created by the recall last week of former director Sarah Otterson.

Wessels, who received unanimous backing from the five selectmen, was one of three people seeking to fill the vacancy through next June's election. The other two were former MSAD 17 director Scott Buffington and newcomer Ron Ramsey.

Otterson was recalled in a townwide vote last week by a 333-243 margin. The recall effort began when nearly 700 residents signed a petition in November offered by resident Armand Norton to recall Otterson after she voted to support the first reading of the Gender Identity of Students policy being considered by the school board of directors. The controversial issue has divided parents in the eight-town district.

A similar petition also sought the recall of director Julia Lester of Paris, but she resigned last month rather than face the recall vote. Troy Ripley was appointed to replace her.

At the meeting in which Ripley was appointed last month, Wessels, who has three school-aged children, let the selectmen know she was also interested in the position.

Stating that he believed the MSAD 17 board needed "new blood," Selectmen Peter Kilgore nominated Wessels. When the two other candidates failed to get nominated, the board voted 5-0 for Wessels.

The board was pleased three candidates expressed interest in the position.

"I hope the interest we're seeing tonight will continue into the election in June," board Chairman Christopher Summers said.

Wessels was sworn in following the select board meeting and was expected to attend the MSAD 17 board meeting later Tuesday night.

Buffington, who left the MSAD 17 board last June, told selectmen that his experience would allow him to hit the ground running for the next five months. He added that he had no interest in running for the seat in June to serve another three-year term.

Ramsay said he has lived in Paris for 11 years, had one child in the school system and wanted to get involved.