Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has picked an Arnold engineering executive to fill a vacant seat on the Anne Arundel school board, passing over a teacher who was the top choice of the citizens group charged with nominating board candidates.

Enrique Melendez, 47, will represent Maryland's 30th legislative district, covering Annapolis and southern parts of the county. The governor chose him over Pam Bukowski, a part-time Latin teacher at Annapolis High School. Melendez replaces Michael J. McNelly on the eight-member board.

Bukowski was the first choice of a lightly attended 250-person nominating convention that met in May to vote on the two candidates. The civic group typically presents the governor with two names; the governor may appoint either person or someone else of his choosing.

"I knew I was the underdog," Melendez said yesterday. "Was I surprised? Yeah, and I'm ecstatic. I think I'll make a difference."

Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell declined to comment on the appointment, saying the official announcement had not gone out.

Although Bukowski received 48 votes to Melendez's 30, some observers -- Melendez included -- predicted that the governor would favor a candidate with business credentials and that Bukowski might be seen as too close to the teachers union. In his speech to the convention two months ago, Melendez asked, "Who do you really believe the governor of Maryland will choose when he sees the list?"

Historically, the governor has usually nominated the top pick of the convention. But among the current board members, one, Tricia Johnson, was a second choice; another, Konrad M. Wayson, wasn't on the official candidate list. Johnson was appointed by Ehrlich, Wayson by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).

This inconsistency has led to perennial efforts to change the way school board members are selected in Anne Arundel. The most recent effort, led by two state delegates, garnered broad support but died in committee.

Bukowski declined to comment. She was also passed over by the governor last year for a school board vacancy. She was the convention's second choice in 2004, and Ehrlich went with the group's first choice, attorney Michael G. Leahy.

"It would have been nice if they went along with the convention and picked the top vote-getter," said Mark Fontaine, the nominating group's chairman.