School board appoints Swinburnson, Galbraith


Ryan Swinburnson and Steve Galbraith were appointed to the Blaine school board during a March 15 special meeting. The two newest members of the five-person board will be sworn in at the next board meeting on Monday, March 25.

The school board was forced to search for new directors after former members Ryan Ford and Donald Leu both resigned from their positions within hours of each other before the board’s February 26 meeting, both citing personal and health-related matters.

Swinburnson was appointed to represent District 4, vacated by Ford, and Galbraith will hold Leu’s former District 5 seat. The newly appointed members will serve until the next local election in November 2025, when they can run for reelection.

Six candidates ran for the two open positions, with November’s general election candidate Derrick Bovenkamp applying for the District 4 position, and Susan Lottimer, Paul Berg and former District 5 board member Charles Gibson applying for the District 5 position.

Galbraith attended Blaine public schools from kindergarten through high school, received his pharmacology degree from Washington State University and worked at a Blaine pharmacy.

He served on Blaine City Council from 1989 to 1990, and served six years on the city planning commission prior to council. He currently serves as council president for Grace Lutheran Church.

“The school board needs to work cohesively,” Galbraith said. “It doesn’t mean they have to be in lockstep with each other, but they have to be a cohesive unit at the end of the day. […] We need to be able to have those robust discussions about the path forward for our school district.”

Swinburnson attended Blaine public schools from the first grade through high school, earned a law degree from Willamette University, and now runs a law practice based in Bellingham.

While Swinburnson said in his letter he hasn’t held an elected position before, he has worked alongside several public boards as legal counsel in Morrow and Benton counties in Oregon.

The commitment required of board members facing an impending $2.5 million budget deficit – along with hours of training for new members – was on the forefront of both members’ minds during the interview process.

“I think I knew when I applied that I was jumping into the fray, into the fire a little bit,” Swinburnson said.

“That wasn’t a deterrent because I’ve been on enough committees, city council is a perfect example,” Galbraith said. “It’s a lot of time that [the public] doesn’t see. It’s all the prep before that, all the investigation, making sure that I have the information I need to be a part of a productive discussion.”

Galbraith and Swinburnson are joining the board as members with deep community ties, a history of attending Blaine public schools and an appreciation for the work done every day by school district teachers and staff.

“They’re excellent people. They could have done just about anything they wanted to do and they chose to put their time and professional effort into Blaine,” Swinburnson said. “I want to make sure that the desire to have your kids experience Blaine and be a part of the Blaine school district continues.” 


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