Lloyd Runnett was appointed to the Mineral District seat on the Louisa County School Board, a position he will hold at least until the election in November.
The board’s six members voted at their March 22 meeting to have Runnett fill the void left when Sherman Shifflett, who had been the Mineral representative since 2005, died on Feb. 14.
Runnett has served for several years as Louisa County Resource Council’s executive director, and is active as a volunteer with Mineral Volunteer Fire Department and the Louisa Santa Council.
Runnett also served as the athletic trainer for Louisa County High School’s athletics program during the 2020-2021 seasons when the school division had an unexpected absence at the position. A statement released by the school board noted that he has also helped plan various school-community events such as the annual Hometown Homecoming Parade in Mineral.
“Mr. Runnett’s record of community service here in Louisa County speaks for itself,” school board Chairman Greg Strickland said. “He has dedicated countless hours of time to make sure that this community is a better place. That’s exactly the type of passion that Mr. Shifflett had.”
“My grandmother was an educator; she believed education was the great equalizer,” Runnett said after he was appointed. “There were many teachers that invested in me. I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve in honor of them, particularly my good friend, mentor and coach Sherman Shifflett. He left some enormous shoes to fill, and I’m going to do my absolute best to serve the citizens in the Mineral District.”
Five other residents of the district applied for the open seat, responding to a petition for candidates the school board placed in this newspaper on Feb. 24. One candidate later withdrew their name from consideration.
The remaining candidates were David Rogers, Dr. Kimberly Fitchett-Bazemore, Jerry Reynolds and Shane Dittman. Strickland thanked them for their interest prior to the vote.
The identity of the candidates was not made public prior to the meeting. Once the March 10 application deadline passed, board members had the opportunity to contact the candidates to learn more about them.
Some school boards in Virginia have organized a public process when they have an opening, inviting the community to attend a meeting to hear from candidates before a decision is made. But Strickland said he and his colleagues thought that process would discourage some people from applying. He recalled that in 2014, the last time a board member died in office, two-thirds of the candidates said they wouldn’t have applied if the process had been more open.
“I’ve reached out to the other board members to review the candidates and to encourage them to contact them if they want to,” Strickland said on Monday. “I told them to do their homework ahead of time and to have a rationale for choosing someone.”
Rogers, who works in the insurance business, is not a Louisa County native but has lived here for 12 years. He said he attended the first school board meeting in March to introduce himself to the members. He said Strickland was the only member who contacted him later to discuss the position.
An African American, Rogers said he thinks the board could benefit from some racial diversity. It would help the board focus on areas that he said are being neglected, such as successfully recruiting more teachers of color.
“In the school board’s mission statement it talks about diversity; it talks about being a model for the future,” he said. “There is no racial diversity on this board right now. I would like to be a voice for those that don’t have a voice.”
About 25 residents attended the meeting, many of them affiliated with the Louisa NAACP chapter, to show their support for naming a Black person to the open seat. The board did not permit public comment during the meeting.
The school board members wanted to find someone who would share Shifflett’s vision for the schools, Strickland said.
Shifflett was involved in Louisa County Public Schools for more than three decades as a coach, teacher and administrator, not including his time on the board. He worked tirelessly, Strickland observed, for students of all backgrounds and to address the concerns of teachers and staff.
While the school board has played its part, it will be the voters who will decide on the Mineral District representative for the four-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2023. Later this spring, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve new boundaries for the seven voting districts. The deadline is Aug. 19 to submit paperwork to the county registrar’s office for a candidacy in the November election.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect deadline for candidates to file paperwork for the November election.