Panel interviews KMC executive
BOISE – Kootenai Medical Center Vice President Don Soltman was well-received in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, where he handled questions on an array of topics during a confirmation hearing on his nomination to the state Board of Education.
“He comes with my highest regard,” committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, told the panel he chairs.
Soltman said Idaho can’t yet afford to start its own medical school, he backed this week’s new university student fee increases as “appropriate,” and he spoke out in favor of Gov. Butch Otter’s move to refocus the state board on higher education and leave K-12 issues to the state Department of Education and elected state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna.
Asked what he thought the state board could do to improve K-12 education, Soltman, a former longtime school board member in the Lakeland School District, said, “Refocusing the state board to higher ed … is probably one of the best things we could do, and we’re moving in that direction.”
Soltman holds a bachelor’s degree in life sciences from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a master’s degree from Baylor University. His daughter earned a law degree at the University of Idaho’s College of Law.
After the hearing, Soltman said he thought he’d been treated “very fairly.” Though there was talk of conservative Republicans opposing Soltman’s nomination because he’d been a “Republican for Minnick” in the last election, backing conservative Democrat Walt Minnick for Congress, the issue never came up.
“When I interviewed with the governor, he made it very clear that this was not a political appointment – he was going to put the best people he could on the board,” Soltman said.
Soltman said he was contacted by previous North Idaho board member Sue Thilo to consider serving on the board.
“She was very supportive, actually to the extent that she talked to the president of the board and encouraged him to support me also,” Soltman said. “I’ve got a steep learning curve – a lot to take in.”