The Thomas County Board of Education held its first meeting of the new calendar year Tuesday night. After the invocation, outgoing chair Mark NeSmith declared the positions of chair and vice chair vacant and asked for nominations.
Board member Ken Harper made a motion that Leah Smith be elected chair and that Dan Stewart be elected vice chair. Chris Hayes seconded Harper’s motion. NeSmith called for any additional nominations. There were no additional nominations, so Smith and Stewart were elected to their respective roles with no dissenting votes.
Smith has been a member of the board since 2018, and this is her first time serving as chair. Smith is a registered nurse at the Thomasville Eye Center. She and her husband, Ben, have two children in the school system.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue representing Thomas County’s students, parents, and taxpayers with my re-election,” Smith said. “As the chair, I’m excited for all of the wonderful things this year holds for our school system. Working alongside Dr. Williams, vice chair Dan Stewart, the other board members, and our staff to channel your voices, I look forward to witnessing Thomas County’s successes.”
Stewart retired as building maintenance supervisor at the Southwestern State campus where he worked for 30 years. Stewart now works for Chris Taylor Plumbing, and he is a family partner in a cattle/farming operation. He and his wife, Sheri, reside on a family farm outside of Ochlocknee.
Stewart said, “I am humbled and honored to serve as vice chair alongside an incredibly cohesive group of board members. I feel my position as vice chair is dignified by the fact that we have the best school system that I could ask for. I look forward to working closely with Mrs. Smith, the rest of the board members, and Dr. Lisa Williams for a successful year.”
New Thomas County Board of Education members Ed Hopper and Joy West were sworn in and attended the January meeting. Hopper was elected in the fall to serve District 7 and replace Kay Streets who retired from the board in December. Hopper is a product of Thomas County Schools, and is self-employed. He is married to Lauren Hopper who teaches at Garrison-Pilcher Elementary School.
“As a graduate of Thomas County Schools, I am thrilled to be serving on the board for my alma mater,” Hopper said. “With so many new initiatives and projects in the works, I am greatly looking forward to being a part of making Thomas County Schools a better place to learn and grow for the students. With children at Cross Creek, TCMS, TCCHS and a spouse at Garrison, I have a personal relationship with each level of education in our system. Therefore, I felt obligated to respond to the educational needs of my family and hopefully leave a positive impact on the entire system.”
Also elected to the board in the fall, West will serve District 1 and replaces Nancy Hiers who retired in December. West retired from Thomas County Schools after 34 years. She and her husband, Chuck, live in Boston and have three adult children. Two of her daughters are teachers with Thomas County Schools, and her grandson attends Garrison-Pilcher.
“I am so excited to be allowed to serve Thomas County as a part of the Board of Education,” West said. “I was motivated to run for the District 1 school board opening because I have a grandson in second grade who will be in our system for many more years. I feel this is a great way to support him and all of our students. I love our county and am very proud of it!”