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Orono School Board member Dick Lewis was honored for his 23 years of service at a reception Dec. 5 where his fellow board members gifted him with the Orono Activities Center first lifetime membership. Lewis was first elected to the board in May 1996. (Submitted photo)

After 23 years as a member of the Orono School Board, Treasurer Dick Lewis will finish up his duties and pass along his position at the end of 2019.

“It’s hard to put that amount of time into a single description. It’s been a lot of fun. At times it’s been very challenging. It’s been very rewarding. It’s fun to do something that keeps you in contact with the students of that age and what’s going on and be able to see the changes that come about over time. I’ve enjoyed it very much,” Lewis said.

Lewis first began his journey to become part of the school board when he first ran for election in the mid 90’s. At that time there was controversy about building a new middle school. Residents stood on both ends of the issue. Lewis remembers there were people who said one is not needed and the other who wanted something very grand for the school district.

“I had coached for years in the community, coaching soccer...they started staying, why don’t you run? I ran with the idea to try to get a decent resolution to the whole issue and frankly, just to give back to the community,” he said.

Even though Lewis said much of his memories on the board relate to facilities, the experience of working on the new middle school, informing the residents, finding a proposal that reduced costs in order to make it happen is just one experience on the board Lewis said he’ll keep with him.

Throughout his years, Lewis said not much has changed in the way the school board makes decisions. Much of his work and the work of his fellow board members is done outside the public’s eye before a decision is voted on. This includes doing research, talking with experts and spending time in committees; however, getting all the details to the public is one area that has changed over time.

“The public has become less engaged with getting into detail,” he said.

When Lewis first became a board member, he remembers people paying more attention to the details of everything whereas today he has seen less and less people interested in all the details that go along with the different subjects.

“With social media and everything...our news has become shortened and more snipits so people hear two or three snipits about something and think they know the whole issue,” he stated while adding there is a lot of continuity to the way school business is done. Board members will continue to be involved at the school levels to not only get their information out there but to learn from the staff and students as well.

Lewis doesn’t see too much change in the future with regards to the way decisions are made, but he is sure as new members are elected, new ideas will come as well. Recently elected member Ali Howe will begin her first term as an Orono School Board member at the start of the new year. She was elected with 29.05 percent of the votes. Michael Bash and Laura Wallander will return to the board for another term.

“The biggest thing I would say is that I would thank all the people that have been involved over the years,” Lewis said while also mentioning recognition Orono Schools have received, such as being ranked one of eight Minnesota High school ranked as a top STEM school, is the result of a lot of hard work from many staff and students.

“Since the success we’ve had you have to say thanks for all of the hard work and say thank you to the voters for trusting me...to represent them. For the most part, you do vote for somebody on the school board and then you go off and do your own thing and hope their four year term they’ll remember who they’re supposed to be representing,” he said.

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