Sitka School Board candidate Tom Williams. (KCAW/Woolsey)

Tom Williams is the only candidate to have filed for one of three open seats on the Sitka School Board in the October municipal election.

Williams was appointed to the board in July to fill a seat vacated by president Blossom Teal-Olsen, whose term was due to expire this fall.

A resident of Sitka for a little over a year, Williams nevertheless has a strong connection to the community and the district. He served aboard the Coast Guard buoy tender Woodrush in the 1980s, and a son graduated from Sitka High during that period.

In addition to serving 20 years in the Coast Guard, Williams earned a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, and worked as the first city administrator of Gustavus. His son is the head of the school district’s maintenance department, and his daughter-in-law is teaches Science at Blatchley Middle School.

Williams dropped by KCAW to talk with Robert Woolsey about his interest in running for a full term on the Sitka School Board.

Note: Tom Williams is a candidate for Sitka School Board in the October Municipal Election. At present, he is the only candidate whose name will appear on the printed ballot for one of three open seats on the board. Write-in candidates for school board can register with the municipal clerk no later than September 28.

KCAW – Why did you decide to run for school board?

Williams –  Well, I’ve received a lot of input from some folks in my neighborhood. And, and of course, my family. As I’ve mentioned to you, my daughter-in-law is a teacher over at Blatchley, my son works for the school district. I’ve had a son graduate from Sitka High back in ‘87. And a granddaughter who graduated in ‘22. It was interesting to hear what they saw today versus what they’ve seen previously, and attitudes at the school and in the community about the district. And so I was listening to some of the different school board topics that were being talked about. I said, ‘You know, I’ve got experience in a lot of this kind of thing, I can probably lend a hand.’ And so when they were looking for a temp, I thought, ‘Well, this might be a good way to check it out and see if it was something that I would be interested in doing.’ I’m retired, I have some time on my hands, I want to get more into the community. And this looks like a good way to do it.

KCAW – Tom, do you have any previous experience in elected office? And if not, what experience do you have that you think is applicable to being a school board member?

Williams – So I haven’t held elected office, primarily because of the jobs that I’ve held have all been in support of public office. So as city administrator, obviously, I had the council that I was supporting. 

KCAW – And that was in Gustavus?

Williams –  That was in Gustavus. As a department head, I worked with commissions, councils, the assemblies, and working with them I was able to see a lot of the inner workings of how the bodies deliberated, interacted. They would come get information from staff and (we) would help formulate their positions, opinions, action plans. So I got to see it from that perspective. And I thought that is one of those attributes that I will be bringing to the board, because I can understand that cooperative relationship between stakeholders and the bodies itself. So that’s the experience that I have as far as public service goes,

KCAW – Assuming you get in, and right now I’d say the chances are pretty good that you’ll get one of these three open seats on the Sitka School Board, what will be your priorities – your approach – as you begin what likely could be a full three-year term on the board?

Williams – So right now I’m pretty open-minded, I don’t have any pet projects or agendas. My objectives are to just assist. I know that we have some issues that need immediate attention, like the budget. We’re looking at updating our goals, our strategic plan. I also think that we could do a better job of working on the public relations side, communicating actively with folks through different venues, speaking at the assembly, attending functions, getting time with folks like you and informing the public of what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it. We do that to a certain extent. But I think we could do a better job of that type of communication and involvement. I’m looking forward to being on as many committees and attending as many presentations as possible, that I can bring back to the board to share information that I’ve received from that. As an example, I was over at Pacific High when they were doing a presentation on their greenhouse project. And the superintendent and assistant superintendent were both there. And I thought that was a real informative presentation. I thought it was a tremendous project that they were doing over there. And I think that’s something that the school board can point to and say, ‘Here’s a real good project for students who want to get their hands dirty and, and learn some real world skills.’ And I think that’s something that we can promulgate, share that information, and share that with the public so that’s another avenue they can receive that information from.