Tom Williams (l.) takes questions from school board member Melonie Boord (r.) who is seated next to interim superintendent Steve Bradshaw. Members Tristan Guevin and Todd Gebler both appeared via Zoom. Williams was the only applicant for the vacant term, which expires in October. The Sitka Assembly is considering a ballot question that — if passed — would allow city staff to serve on the school board. Sponsors hope it would create a larger pool of candidates for school board seats. (KCAW/Woolsey)

Sitka’s School Board is back at full strength.

After conducting a brief interview, the board Wednesday night (7-19-23) appointed Tom Williams to the seat vacated by Blossom Teal-Olsen last month.

Williams was the lone applicant to submit a letter of interest for the term, which expires in October following the municipal election.

A resident of Sitka for a little over a year, Williams nevertheless brought some strong credentials to the table, with a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, and service as the first city administrator of Gustavus. He also spent 20 years in the Coast Guard, including a tour aboard the cutter Woodrush in Sitka in the 1980s.

Three of the four remaining school board members interviewed Williams, but did not press him on any controversial education issues. They clearly were looking for someone willing to help the district stay on course.

This question was posed by board member Tristan Guevin.

Guevin – “What do you think it takes to create a team that can work towards a common objective? And what would you bring to that team?”

Williams – “So good communication probably will be on the top of my list. Humility, a sense of humor, trustworthiness, and a little bit of risk taking. What would I bring to the team? I think a little bit of all of that. I feel like I’m a pretty good communicator, work well with others. I’m willing to compromise if that’s in the best interest of the group.”

Acting board president Todd Gebler informally polled board members about a possible executive session, but all agreed to remain in open session, and unanimously appointed Williams to the seat. Board member Dani Snyder was absent and excused.

Williams was aware that the appointment was temporary, and he was hoping to get his feet wet before deciding to run for a full term. He might not get that chance, however, as the filing period for municipal office closes on August 4, and there are no scheduled meetings prior to that date.

Williams says he’ll enter the race in any event.

 “I totally expect to run,” he said. “I’m excited to participate. And I think that there’s a lot to be done. I’m hoping that the community will agree that in the couple of meetings that we have, we have made some progress, and I have confidence in the folks that are here and me included.”

In addition to his credentials, Williams also has connections to the district. His son Jared Williams is the district maintenance director; his daughter-in-law Amanda Williams teaches Science at Blatchley. A granddaughter will enter second grade at Keet Gooshi Heen this fall.

Williams is one of two appointees currently holding a seat on the Sitka School Board. Dani Snyder was appointed in April. This October, voters will select two candidates to serve three-year terms on the Sitka School Board, and one candidate to serve a two-year term.