Citing family issues, current Sitka School Board president Jennifer McNichol will step down when her term expires this October. McNichol doesn’t rule out returning to local politics in the future. (KCAW photo)

The school board race has held the biggest surprise  of this year’s municipal election so far: Board president Jennifer McNichol will not run again for her seat this fall.

She announced her decision to the board at its meeting on August 7.

“I’m not choosing not to run because of any dissatisfaction from working with all of you, and working with my fellow board members,” McNichol said. “It’s really been a pleasure. It’s just that the rest of my life needs a little more attention than I’ve been able to give it, so that’s why. Not even the budget stuff is driving me away.” (audience laughs)

McNichol is expecting to spend more time involved in the care of her aging parents.

McNichol was appointed to the board for a one-year term four years ago, then won a full three-year term. She has been board president for the last two years. A pediatrician at SEARHC, McNichol quickly assumed the mantle of former board member Tom Conley — also a physician — who played a large role in the board’s legislative advocacy.

In a follow-up interview with KCAW, McNichol says the role suited her.

“I think a lot of us enjoy tackling challenges,” she said. “That’s not an uncommon personality type — I guess that’s maybe where I fall. But it also is super-stressful at times, and remembering that and recalling the effect that it has on you can change your mind.”

McNichol hasn’t ruled out serving in elected office again in the future. “When I hear about problems that I have ideas to address,” she said, “I think perhaps I’ll get involved in some capacity.”