GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central School Board welcomed its newest member Wednesday.
Willie McKinney, 51, will officially join the board Jan. 1. He replaces outgoing board member Kent Fisk, who is vacating the position early in order to sit on the Hancock County Council. Fisk was elected to the council in November. He still had two years left in his term on the school board.
In a brief special meeting Thursday, the board approved McKinney, an accountant, to replace Fisk. McKinney will serve the remainder of Fisk’s term, through 2014.
The board also accepted Fisk’s resignation letter at the special meeting Thursday.
McKinney received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Eastern Illinois University and has worked at Kemper CPA in Greenfield since 1983.
McKinney could not attend the special meeting but said in an interview later Wednesday that he looks forward to serving the school system from which his son graduated. His daughter also attends G-C.
McKinney said he decided to seek the office after Fisk, a friend who lives nearby, asked if he would be interested in running.
“I just want to help,” he said. “I just feel like if there’s something I can do with my experience and expertise that I can help the board make decisions that are worthwhile going forward, then so be it.”
The board had previously met in executive session to pare a list of five candidates for Fisk’s replacement down to three; McKinney, Steve Menser, an electrician; and Brooke Palmer, a teacher-turned-insurance agent.
Board President Retta Livengood said she was impressed by the number of candidates who expressed interest.
“I was honored that they chose to do that, because we don’t usually have that many people that are interested in serving in this position,” she said.
After the top three were selected, Livengood and fellow board member Dan Leary privately interviewed the finalists.
Livengood said she and Leary opted to conduct the interviews because they are the only remaining board members who will serve with Fisk’s replacement. Board members Dan Riley and Dr. Michael Summers also finish their terms this month. Neither ran for re-election.
Livengood said the decision was a tough one because of the candidates’ unique skill sets. Palmer is a former educator and youth coach whose perspective would have been useful to the board; and Menser, an electrician, would have been able to guide the board as to how to best provide vocational opportunities for students, which has been a focus for the corporation, she said.
“We were kind of pleased that it was that difficult,” Livengood said. “Each could have brought something different.
“I think any of the three could have served wonderfully.”
Ultimately, the pair decided to recommend McKinney at the public meeting Wednesday.
Leary pointed to McKinney’s financial expertise as an asset to the board.
“The learning curve for finances and school budgeting’s going to be easy for him, I believe,” he said. “I see very positive things in looking forward … for the school system.”
Leary said he encouraged all the candidates to run for school board once Fisk’s term is up.
Livengood said she hopes the interest in Fisk’s position now indicates the potential for a fuller ballot than usual when the next election rolls around.
“That makes me very encouraged for the future of school-board service,” she said. “I’m hopeful that that momentum continues.”
McKinney said he has no specific plans for his time on the board but is willing to offer ideas and support.
“I always like to come through with an open mind,” he said. “You can’t learn if you’re talking all the time. I just like to listen, kind of get a feel for things.”
McKinney will be joined in January by incoming members Ray Kerkhof and Kathy Dowling.