Lori Lofton wasn't looking to leave the Westerville City School District, but a job opening in her home community motivated her to take a chance and apply, she said.

New Albany-Plain Local School District leaders have declared Lofton, a New Albany resident, as the top choice to replace the retiring Marilyn Troyer as assistant superintendent, according to a Feb. 21 email from the district.

The school board voted unanimously Feb. 26 to approve the hiring of Lofton, the executive director of human resources for the Westerville district.

Troyer, who has worked at New Albany-Plain Local since January 2012, will retire July 31 and will take vacation to end her career, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.

Lofton's contract would begin Aug. 1, with additional days available beginning June 5 to facilitate the transition with Troyer, he said.

Her salary offer is $128,500 per year, Gallaway said. Her benefits package has not been determined, he said.

Thirty-four applicants were screened for the assistant superintendent position and the district interviewed nine candidates, Gallaway said.

Along with Lofton, the other finalist was Jill Abraham, director of elementary education for the Dublin City School District, he said.

Lofton has worked in Westerville since 2014. Prior to that, she worked with the Ohio Department of Education, beginning a career there in 2006 and leaving in 2014 with the position of senior executive director for the ODE's Center for the Teaching Profession.

Before that, Lofton served as director of the Career Ladder program at Peoria Unified School District No. 11 and regional program coordinator at the University of California, Merced. She also has worked as a high school English teacher.

She learned about the position at New Albany-Plain Local when Troyer told her she was retiring, Lofton said.

She decided to apply for the job, she said, because she is familiar with the community, recognizes the district's "positive momentum" and previously had worked with Superintendent Michael Sawyers at the ODE.

"I know the community; I know the school system," she said.

She said she is looking forward to working at a smaller district and getting back into the academic world while continuing to focus on human resources.

Lofton is "student-centered" and passionate about public education, Sawyers said. She has a track record of generating results that benefit students, he said.

"Her background, knowledge and experience at the local higher education and state levels adds strength to our leadership team," Sawyers said.