Hirzel's attitude turns skeptics to supporters
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 12 January 2013 08:49
MILLBURY - Shortly after Eric Hirzel joined the Lake Board of Education in the midst of a financial crisis eight years ago, he was approached by resident Scott Swartz.
|Former Lake School district board member Eric Hirzel is seen inside Lake High School in Millbury, Ohio on January 11, 2013. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Swartz, not mincing words, told Hirzel that his appointment was a mistake.
"He said he was going to prove me wrong," said Swartz, who now serves alongside Hirzel as a board member. "And he did."
Hirzel, with his positive outlook, sunny hellos - to just about everyone - and blunt statements, was probably not the "usual" board of education member.
But he converted just about everyone with his tenacity, business experience and willingness to serve on key committees, such as finance, hiring and building a new high school after the tornado.
Hirzel, citing professional and personal reasons, resigned from the board of education at Wednesday's meeting, effective immediately. Hirzel, who is 50 years old and plant and crop logistics coordinator for Hirzel Canning Co. and Farms, said he has moved out of the Lake School District and is living in the Oak Harbor area.
His greatest accomplishment, Hirzel said after the meeting, was being part of hiring Superintendent Jim Witt and Treasurer Jeff Carpenter.
Witt recounted the story of his hiring on Wednesday. Six years ago, Witt, who was Northview High School athletic director and a former Lake principal, got a call from Hirzel during a baseball game.
For three innings, Hirzel tried to convince Witt to interview for the superintendent's position. Witt declined.
The next day, on the way to another game, Witt's phone rang again. It was Hirzel. This time, Witt decided to apply.
"You've been a terrific board member but you'll always be one of my best friends," Witt said to Hirzel.
Carpenter was a "non-traditional" hire when he came in a few months before Witt. He had a real estate, management and accounting background and no prior experience with schools.
Hirzel said he's grown as a person and a leader since he's been on the board. "And you don't do that without good people around you."
Personally, the best board memories were being able to present all three of his children their diplomas during commencement, Hirzel said.
"The payday is graduation day when you're a board member," he said. "It's hard to beat handing all three of your kids their diplomas."
Board member John Ervin thanked Hirzel for sharing his wealth of information and history with the new board members and for his "wise counsel."
"Eric always made the right decision based on the kids," said board member Brad Delventhal.
From the audience, former board member Margene Akenberger described Hirzel as honest and loyal. Hirzel last ran for re-election in 2009 and garnered the most votes - 30 percent - of the four candidates on the ballot for three seats.
After the meeting, board president Tim Krugh said the board has 30 days to appoint a new member, and planned to discuss the process in executive session on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the board announced it is accepting applications to serve on the board. The appointed member will serve the remaining term until November elections.
Information can be found on the Web site www.lakeschools.org/boe.
The deadline to turn applications into the board office is Jan. 30. The board will meet on Jan. 31 to review them.
Treasurer Jeff Carpenter said the board wants to have the vacancy filled by the Feb. 20 meeting.
If the board can't agree on a new member or splits two-two on a vote - as it did on Hirzel in 2007 - the Wood County probate judge decides.
Also at the meeting, the board:
• Accepted teacher Candace Keil's retirement resignation. She has 35 years of service.
• Accepted food service worker Christine Brown's retirement resignation. She has 18 years of service.
• Re-elected Krugh as board president for 2013. Swartz will be vice president.