The San Ramon Valley school board has picked former board member Ken Mintz to fill its vacant seat.

The unanimous 4-0 vote Wednesday came after a long discussion in which the board was split between the final two candidates.

"It's a little overwhelming," Mintz said afterward. "I'm very honored to be in this position and looking forward to it."

Board members Bill Clarkson and Greg Marvel supported Mintz, 52, a public affairs area manager for AT&T who was on the board from 1992 to 1996. A 25-year San Ramon resident with two children who went through district schools, he has also been involved with a variety of civic organizations.

Mintz will serve the remaining two years on the seat left by longtime board member Joan Buchanan, an Alamo resident who was elected to the state's Assembly District 15 in November.

The need for a board member with experience, in light of the expected budget cuts the district will soon have to consider, was cited often during the board's discussion of candidates.

"I can't change my vote at this point because of how I feel about relevant experience," Marvel said.

Board members also cited Mintz's connections to local business — which could help the district garner support from outside the schools for a coming parcel tax measure.

Board members Paul Gardner and Rachel Hurd supported candidate Denise Jennison, a Danville resident and current president of the San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs.

They cited her connections and work she does with parents; the value of having a representative from the northern part of the district and having a second woman on the board.

After more than an hour of discussion between the two candidates, Gardner made a motion to approve Mintz's appointment.

"What you are telling me is one of us has to compromise because you won't," Gardner said. All board members agreed they wanted to avoid an election, which would come with added costs.

In all, the board spent seven hours on the issue, interviewing eight of the 15 applicants who applied for the position.

The eight were interviewed for about half an hour each. They were asked questions about their priorities for budget cuts, their opinions of campus autonomy in spending, what happens if donations at one site allow one campus to afford services such as smaller class sizes and what their campaign message would be if they were running for the seat in an election.

Afterward the board, by secret vote, submitted names of those they thought should get further consideration. Five got at least one recommendation. The board then narrowed it to three before the final two.

Reach Eric Louie at elouie@bayareanewsgroup.com or 925-847-2123.