JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The rollercoaster that has been Peter Herschend’s appointment to the State Board of Education continued as he faced questions from a Senate committee.
The Senate Committee on Gubernatorial Appointments worked through the vetting process of nearly 20 of Gov. Mike Parson’s interim appointments to various boards and commission.
For 18 of the appointees, it was smooth sailing, the committee unanimously voting to send the appointment to the Senate floor. But it was a bumpy ride for Herschend.
Parson originally appointed him to the State Board of Education in June 2018. But withdrew Herschend’s name during the September 2018 extra session when it became clear that Sen. Jamilah Nasheed would work to oppose the appointment. Parson reappointed Herschend to the same board roughly one week later.
During Herschend’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, it quickly became clear Nasheed was still opposed to his appointment. She specifically took issue with Herschend being a character witness for a person convicted of being in possession of child pornography.
“Even after he was convicted of child pornography — of having approximately 400,000 videos of children and 2,000 pictures of children — even after the convictions, you decided to go before the courts and ask for a lenient sentence. Do you think that was poor judgment or not?” Nasheed asked Herschend.
“I do not think that was poor judgment,” Herschend replied, “because, restating my position, I was a character witness for the man that I knew.”
Nasheed continued along that line of questioning for several minutes. She pressed Herschend on if he would testify on behalf of an superintendent or teacher in a similar position.
Herschend said that what his friend of 25 years did was “obviously wrong.” He reiterated that when acting as a character witness, he spoke of the man he knew and not to his offense.
“What you are saying is that it is okay…to support someone who prays on the most vulnerable,” Nasheed said. “And you want to sit on the very board that oversees children?”
Herschend has previously served three terms on the State Board of Education, including four two-year terms as president. In 2011, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce honored Herschend with its Education Supporter of the Year award.
Residing in Branson, Missouri, Herschend is co-founder and co-owner of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, formerly Silver Dollar City, Inc. He served as executive vice president of the organization for 20 years and then as vice chairman of the board until his retirement in 2006.
The senate committee voted to send his appointment to the Senate floor in a 7-3 vote. Sens. Nasheed, Brian Williams, and Jeanie Riddle voted in opposition.
All other appointments were sent to the full Senate unanimously. Those given 9-0 approval include:
John Christopher Russell, Republican, as Commissioner of the Greene County Eastern District Commission.
Cynthia Herrmann Baker, as a member of the Committee for Professional Counselors.
Colby H. Grove, as a member of the State Board of Pharmacy.
Michael B. Robertson, Republican, as Commissioner of the Christian County Eastern District Commission.
Christopher A. Sanford, as a member of the Missouri Board of Occupational Therapy.
John “Jay” Wasson, Republican, as a member of the Tourism Commission.
Fred P. Pestello, as a member of the Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District.
Cheryl D.S. Walker, Democrat, as a member of the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Sherman “Bill” Birkes, Jr., Republican, as a member of Missouri Ethics Commission.
Mark J. Elliff, Republican, as a member of the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
Brandon Boulware, Democrat, as a member of the Missouri Gaming Commission.
John Stamm, Independent, as a member of the Missouri Community Service Commission.
Sharon Turner Buie, Democrat, as a member of the Kansas City Board of Election Commissioners.
Rick D. McDowell, Republican, as a member of the Missouri Housing Development Commission.
Joseph M. Smith, Republican, as a member of the St. Charles County Convention and Sports Facilities Authority.
James P. Limbaugh, Republican, as a member of the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents.
Carl Wayne Blades, Republican, as Commissioner of the Stone County Northern District Commission.
David A. Cole, Republican, as a member of the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.