SNOHOMISH — Leah Hughes-Anderson was a stay-at-home mom in overalls chauffeuring her kids to and fro in the family Suburban when she got that fateful call more than 13 years ago.
Bill Mester, the Snohomish School District Superintendent, wanted to talk.
Hughes-Anderson could not imagine why.
People had noticed how much time she volunteered at her children’s schools, including being an elementary school PTA president. Someone suggested her as a possible candidate for a school board vacancy.
“He just asked me if I would run,” Hughes-Anderson said. “I had no idea what he was talking about. Most people have no idea what we do.”
Mester, who retired earlier this year, could be convincing.
Hughes-Anderson filed the paperwork. She would face four elections, running unopposed each time. She said she figures the lack of competition had less to do with her contributions than the community’s satisfaction with how the school district was being run.
Her tenure on the board began when her youngest child was in kindergarten. She recently announced her resignation, which will be effective Dec. 31, a few months after he graduated from high school. Representing the school board, she got to hand him his diploma at graduation.
Hughes-Anderson, office manager for the North County Outlook, resigned from the board with three years remaining on her term.
“I would say that my life is changing,” she said. “We are becoming empty-nesters and we are becoming new grandparents. It has a lot more to do with energy than anything else. I only have so much and now there are other places I want to put that energy.”
School board President Jay Hagen, in his 20th year on the school board, was in the superintendent’s office when Mester made the call to Hughes-Anderson. He remembers she said little during her first few years on the board as she absorbed information, but she was always prepared.
“I’m going to miss her a lot, I’ll tell you,” Hagen said. “She was very well-versed on everything. Her heart was always in the right place.”
As a board member, Hughes-Anderson said she tried to look at the big picture of the whole district and not an individual school. She said she also had a special interest in the underdog, the student who struggles and perseveres.
She liked getting calls from parents.
“I always wanted our community to know we are just people, that I’m not a big scary person,” she said. “We are just people. We fill a role. The things we have to deal with can be difficult decisions we have to make, decisions that affect 10,000 kids, not just one.”
She served the district during a flurry of new construction and renovation projects. Voters approved bond measures in 2004 and 2008 that totaled more than $400 million in capital improvements. Those included building Glacier Peak High School, renovating Snohomish High School, providing a new home for AIM alternative high school, replacing Valley View Middle as well as Machias and Riverview elementary schools, renovating and expanding Centennial Middle School, and building Little Cedars Elementary and the district’s aquatics center.
Hughes-Anderson, whose parents were junior high school teachers, said the construction work was important, but “if you don’t have a good staff, it’s really meaningless.”
“I just really think we have a great staff and a good relationship,” she said. “That’s what I always valued the most.”
The school board accepted her resignation at the Dec. 7 meeting, and Hughes-Anderson’s last day will be Dec. 31. Through an application process, the board will appoint a replacement to serve through the next regularly scheduled board election in November 2017. For more information, contact the Snohomish School District at 360-563-7280.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.