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It took a few votes, but the Bedford County School Board finally elected its new chairman, District 2 board member Dave Vaden.
Vaden got the nod over District 5 board member Julie Bennington.
The first two votes ended in 4-4 ties with District 3 board member Brad Whorley, and newly elected District 6 board member Kelly Harmony and District 7 board member Kevin Willis supporting Vaden. District 4 board member Gary Hostutler, city board member Mickey VanDerwerker and newly elected District 1 board member Richard Downey supported Bennington, who served this past year as vice chairman. After a couple of recesses between votes, VanDerwerker abstained from the subsequent vote, which broke the 4-4 tie and allowed Vaden to be elected.
“I'm very excited to be the chairman,” Vaden said.
“I look forward to the challenge. … I think it’s going to be an exciting year.”
Vaden said he’s looking forward to working with the rest of the board as they seek to serve the children of Bedford County.
“We will be able to come together for what’s best for Bedford County—and that’s the children,” he said.
But he knows there will be challenges. Those include working on the 2012-2013 budget, which could have as much as a $4.8 million shortfall from this current year’s budget.
“It’s going to require us to be creative and cooperative,” Vaden said of the need to cut expenses and be as efficient as possible in spending. He believes the board will be able to work together towards that end.
“Obviously everybody’s not going to get what they want,” he said.
Vaden, who helped lead a challenge during this past year’s budget discussion to not have several schools closed, doesn’t believe serving as chairman will change the way he approaches his work on the board.
“I am an engineer by trade. I ask a lot of questions,” he said. “And I am one of two (board members) who own their own company, so I know how to do a budget.”
He said board members will have to be able to compromise to bring the appropriate budget forward to present to the County Board of Supervisors.
“I think I get along very well with all of the board of supervisors,” he said. Vaden added that having District 2 supervisor Chuck Neudorfer, his counterpart, as this year’s chairman of that board should also help.
“It (provides) a unique opportunity to forge ahead collectively and hopefully get a budget approved through them that we can all live,” he said.
Had the board not been able to elect a chairman Thursday, the rest of the meeting’s agenda would have been put on hold for a week until a chairman was elected. But with that issue taken care of, the board was able to tackle the rest of its work Thursday. That included:
• Electing Whorley as vice chairman, on a 5-3 vote;
• Delaying work on an outside wall panel project at Staunton River Middle School. The original scope of the project was expanded to include the framing under the paneling after further investigation revealed rotting on the wood frame and the gutter system attached. The original project was expected to cost below $100,000. The additional work added to the bid caused the actual price to come in significantly higher than originally expected with Melvin T. Morgan Roofing’s bid of $239,119 being the only one submitted. The board’s maintenance committee will review the project and other projects to determine if the project should be submitted for new bids, should the board determine there are enough funds in the budget for the project. A vote to approve the bid failed on a 5-2 vote against it.