After an emotional resignation, an involved application process and interviews with finalists, the Westerville Board of Education selected its newest member Friday, June 6.
The board appointed Richard Bird, head of information security at Mettler-Toledo International Inc., to fill the vacated seat of longtime board member Cindy Crowe.
Crowe stepped down from the board May 5 because of the progression of her amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Bird will finish Crowe's intended term through Dec. 31, 2015. He would have to win a election in the fall 2015 to stay on the board beyond that time.
"After reviewing 11 applications and interviewing three finalists, we believe that Mr. Bird will bring a professional skill set and personal background to complement those already found on our board," President Nancy Nestor-Baker said in a press release. "We look forward to welcoming him and continuing the critical work we have before us."
Bird, 47, received word on that he was selected June 6 and was scheduled to be sworn in at the board's regular meeting Monday, June 9.
Although he was supposed to leave Saturday morning for a family vacation to Mexico, he and his wife, Valerie, agreed that he could change his flight and join the family on Tuesday after Monday's meeting, he said.
"I wanted to make sure there was no question to my commitment," Bird said.
Bird has a bachelor's degree in political science from Ohio State University and completed advanced studies in project management at George Washington University. He is a veteran U.S. Army Airborne paratrooper, a member of the Rotary Club of Westerville Sunrise and American Legion Young-Budd Post 171.
Bird is a father of four and two of his children will be students at Westerville Central High School. He said he took an interest in the vacant school board seat so he could serve the local community.
The other two finalist applicants were Al Hammond and Luke Davis. Both ran unsuccessfully for election to the school board in the past. Bird had not run, but interviewed for a vacant spot when former board member Michael Collins was elected to the state Board of Education.
"My strong interest in the board is in two parts," Bird said.
"First, it is a nonpartisan role which is much more aligned to who I am," he said. "Second, is the Board of Education is directly involved with issues that mean a lot to the local community.
"To be a part of that is much more interesting to me than other elected offices."
But Bird is not unfamiliar with local elected offices. He ran as the solo Democrat candidate for District 2 for the Ohio House of Representatives in 2010 and for Delaware County Commissioner in 2011, but was unsuccessful in both of his campaigns.
He said he had different reasons for running for both positions, but the underlying similarity was his frustration with current methods and his desire to make a change.
"I ran because I saw specific issues that I felt were community issues that weren't being addressed," Bird said.
Bird said he believes his board experience with the Columbus Museum of Art and the American Red Cross of Central Ohio will be beneficial in his new post.
"Boards are focused on strategy and focused on working with the leadership of the organizations," he said.
"Those leaders are responsible for implementation and day-to-day running. My board service has really helped me understand that," he said.
"It has also helped me understand that a board member's primary responsibility is not to come in and turn everything upside down, but to be there to create the strategic framework."
As a board member, Bird said he thinks his background in information risk and data security will help the board with technology decisions. He also wants to help make curriculum decisions to better prepare students for jobs that may not exist yet.
"I work in a career that didn't exist when I graduated from high school," Bird said.
"If our curriculum is orientated toward available jobs today, we are already behind. We need to be focused on the jobs that we don't know, that will be available 20 years from now."
Bird was sworn into office June 9 at the district's Early Learning Center. Even though his job is just beginning, he said he has longterm plans and intends to run for re-election next year.
But first, he must finish Crowe's term and wants to continue her work and efforts.
"My goal first and foremost is to serve in a way that honors Cindy," Bird said. "I've known her for a long time, not as a friend, but she was a part of my activities working on school levies. I just admire her greatly."