West Pasco resident Darrell Toombs Jr. will be the newest member of the Pasco School Board.
Board members agreed to appoint Toombs, a father of three children and general manager of the Yoke's Fresh Market in West Richland, Tuesday evening during a special public meeting.
He will be sworn in during the board's regular meeting next week and will have to stand for re-election in November to retain his seat.
Board members lauded Toombs' commitment to the community and young people in a press release announcing the decision. Toombs said he was excited and honored with his selection.
"I've always been happy with the way the board has performed and am looking forward to being part of it," he told the Herald.
Board members were looking to fill the vacant seat since mid-February, when former board member Jeffrey Dong announced his resignation.
Dong, a retired Pasco High School teacher, hadn't attended meetings since late September 2011 because of medical issues.
He last participated by phone in a board meeting in March during a work session, according to district officials. Dong's term would have run until 2015.
Eight people applied for the position, ranging from a retiree who has grandchildren in the district to an official with the Columbia Basin College Foundation who previously sat on a Nevada school board.
All of the candidates were interviewed by the board and Superintendent Saundra Hill during Tuesday's meeting. They fielded questions about their ability to commit time to the board, how they'd seek community support for issues such as bonds and levies, and what their thoughts were on state and federal involvement in local education issues.
"They were all strong candidates," Hill told the Herald between interviews.
Toombs said he'd thought about standing for election to the school board for years, as he already is involved heavily in the schools thanks to his children at Chiawana High School, McLoughlin Middle School and Ruth Livingston Elementary School.
"I see this as an opportunity to further that assistance," he told the board.
Toombs said it is important that any board member have an understanding of the entire district. His vision for education is preparing youths to be the work force of tomorrow while also teaching needed skills, such as financial literacy.
He described his priorities as seeing all Pasco students graduate from high school and making sure students get the attention they need to succeed.
"Every student learns on a different level," he said.
While the budget for his store is only a few pages, Toombs said he would take particular care in reviewing the district's budget and seek answers for any of his questions.
He said the district has done good work in improving and maintaining schools, but that communication with the community about the district's accomplishments and needs always could be improved, along with listening to teachers.
Toombs also said that he doesn't like the level of control state and federal lawmakers exert on education.
"Anything we can do to keep that control local is important," he said.
Toombs is involved in other community activities, including the West Richland Chamber of Commerce and Junior Achievement.
Board member Bill Leggett asked Toombs if his work and commitments in West Richland would be a concern if he was appointed.
Toombs said his employer is supportive of his being on the board and he also is willing to step up to make the commitment.
"The decision was difficult, but ultimately it was Mr. Toombs' commitment to our schools through years of volunteering and support in the best interests of Pasco children that helped us make the decision," said board President Sherry Lancon.