Castlen rejects first 2 candidates for vacant DCPL board position

February 22, 2024 | 12:15 am

Updated February 22, 2024 | 12:15 am

Charlie Castlen - Daviess County Judge-Executive | Photo provided

Daviess County Judge-Executive Charlie Castlen has rejected the first pair of candidates that were recommended to fill an unexpired term on the Daviess County Public Library Board. Two more names must be submitted, and if those are rejected Caslten has the ability to appoint someone of his choosing to the seat.

Harry Pedigo, executive director for both the Daniel Pitino Shelter and St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter, stepped down from his DCPL board position near the end of 2023. 

In January, the library board and Director Erin Waller reviewed the lone four applications that were submitted to DCPL to fill the vacancy. 

The board chose to send the applications of Carrie Wilkerson and Sister Judith Nell Riney to the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA), which largely oversees the process of appointing board members. 

Wilkerson has served as the library media specialist and building assessment coordinator at Daviess County High School since 2016. She has a Rank I in literacy and a master’s degree in both library media education and student affairs in higher education. Her resume includes a long list of experience in a library and awards for her work.

Riney has served as director of library services at Brescia College/University since 1987 and was staff librarian there from 1980-87. She was also the librarian at Trinity High School in Whitesville from 1978-79. Riney has served more than 50 years as an Ursuline Sister.

KDLA provided both of those names to Castlen for potential appointment but he rejected both, as is permitted by state law. In a phone interview with Owensboro Times, he declined to comment on his reasoning and instead said he’d let his response to KDLA “speak for itself.”

The letter Castlen sent to KDLA reads: 

I have received your letter dated January 24, 2024, with the names of two individuals nominated for the Daviess County Public Library Board of Trustees position vacated by Harry Pedigo. I have decided not to fill the position with Carrie Wilkerson or Judith Riney. 

In accordance with KRS 173.730(2)(a)2., I am requesting the Department for Librarians and 

Archives to submit two additional recommendations to me within thirty days. 

The law does not require Castlen to provide any reasoning for his decision. 

The statute involving library board appointments was amended in 2022 and went into effect on January 1, 2023. 

The most notable change is a judge-executive now having the power to appoint a library board member if they reject two rounds of recommended candidates. 

Both Waller and Castlen declined to provide their opinion regarding the process where a judge-executive can essentially pick the entire board without choosing any recommended candidates. 

But, Castlen noted that nearly every other board appointment made by both the city and county governments is made without having to go through any sort of recommendation process. That includes boards for entities such as the airport, planning and zoning, and utility boards. He added that oftentimes there are no applicants for some of those board positions, so he has to reach out to find someone to fill the seat.

Castlen said the library and the soil and water conservation district were actually the outliers by requiring a judge-executive to choose from candidates selected by the board. With the statute for the library having changed in 2023, the library is now more in line with the other quasi-governmental board appointments.

This is the first time the new regulations for library board appointments has come into play in Daviess County, and there has been some mild confusion as local officials navigate the technicalities. 

For example, the appointment of a board member has a slight but important difference depending on whether the term is expired or unexpired. 

For an expired term, a library board submits two names to KDLA, according to Waller. KDLA then passes those names on to a judge-executive. If those are rejected, the process starts over with the library giving two more names to KDLA, which passes them on to the judge-executive. If the second set of applicants is also rejected, then the judge-executive can appoint someone regardless of whether that person applied.

For an unexpired term, KDLA “is a lot more involved,” Waller said, and the library board is hardly involved at all. Interested candidates can apply directly to KDLA, with Waller saying the state librarian uses “some kind of rubric” to vet the applicants before choosing to submit names to the judge-executive. The state librarian does not have to obtain any recommendations from the library board. The judge-executive then has the same power to reject two sets of candidates provided by KDLA before appointing someone else.

Waller and Castlen both said they weren’t initially aware that the library essentially has no input candidates looking to fill unexpired terms. That’s in part why Wilkerson and Riney were selected by KDLA, as they were the only two to officially apply.

The library board spent a short time discussing the matter during their meeting Wednesday. Waller noted that Castlen rejected the names without providing a reason, and detailed the next steps.

Waller said now that the application process has restarted, there are already new candidates for the seat. However, she said there’s little reason for the library board to even review candidates since the board does not make the recommendation.

More information about the application process and a form to apply can be found on the KDLA website.

KDLA has 30 days to provide Castlen with two more potential candidates. 

The only qualification candidates must meet is being a Daviess County resident. However, there are a few criteria that could disqualify them, such as being an elected official or working for a company that does business with the library. 

A portion of the application reads: 

The library board should reflect the community it serves by appointing active and committed residents, regardless of their various characteristics such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, etc. This diversity brings different perspectives, ideas, and expertise to the board, improving decision-making and considering the needs of all community members. Inclusion is also vital, creating an environment where everyone is valued and given equal opportunities to contribute. By embracing diversity and inclusion, the library board shows its commitment to equal opportunity and ensures relevant and accessible services for everyone.

County Commissioner Janie Marksberry, who serves as Fiscal Court’s liaison to DCPL, largely had no comment after the library’s board meeting Wednesday. 

“It’s just the judge-executive’s decision. It’s a new law. That’s just the way it’s written,” she said. “… I understand that some people are confused. We’re all a little bit confused learning the new laws and everything that goes along with this.”

She added: “I don’t see that it’s such a big deal. I don’t know why they’re making it such a big deal.”

Asked specifically if she felt like the candidates were qualified, Marksberry said: “I’m not going to comment on that. I don’t know them. I don’t know anything about them. I know they’re librarians, I did read that. But there’s already a librarian here. You’d think maybe they might want someone from another realm of life to give some input.”

In an interview prior to the board meeting, Waller said the board likes considering candidates who have some experience in a library setting but appreciates those with an outside perspective, such as Pedigo.

“Harry was a social worker and even though that’s not library experience, we valued his expertise because we deal with a lot of issues that are kind of the same that he deals with,” she said. “Having him there to sort of answer those questions was really beneficial.”

Each DCPL board member serves a 4-year term, and they are largely staggered. Board members may not serve more than 2 consecutive full terms, though they can first fill an unexpired term before serving the 2 full terms. Waller said she believes Pedigo had a little more than a year left on his term.

February 22, 2024 | 12:15 am

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