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Pingree joins state school board

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The so-called "father of light rail" in Utah has been appointed to the State Board of Education, filling the spot vacated by former chairwoman Jill Kennedy.

John C. Pingree was appointed to the board Friday by Gov. Mike Leavitt. He will serve the remainder of Kennedy's term, which expires in 2004. The appointment is subject to Senate approval.

"John has a unique blend of public policy experience and financial expertise," Leavitt said in a prepared statement. "His background will be instrumental to the board as they guide public education in Utah."

Board vice chairwoman Janet Cannon was thrilled with the news.

"I know he has an interest and commitment to education, and I think that's very exciting," she said. "I'll be thrilled to welcome him on the board."

Pingree is the former general manager of the Utah Transit Authority. Under his 20-year tenure, UTA was twice named the No. 1 transit system in North America and awarded the National Safety Award by the American Public Transit Association. The TRAX maintenance facility in Midvale was named after him.

Pingree has been involved in several professional and community organizations, including the Board of Governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way, and the Autism Society of Utah. He also was the vice chairman of the National Public Transit Training Institute at Rutgers University.

He recently returned from Mexico City, where he served as a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Pingree could not be reached for comment by press time Friday.