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Earl’s appointment to Howell school board is great news for community – The Livingston | #Education | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Howell got an early Christmas gift Friday when its board of education appointed Brent Earl, who lost his seat in the November election, to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Marcus Wilcox.

No slight to the other candidates who applied to fill the seat at all — a couple of whom I know and admire — but it’s good to see Earl, around whom there’s never been a speck of drama or culture warrior-ing, back serving on the board to which he’s brought so much.

Brent Earl

Earl was first elected to the Howell Public Schools Board of Education as a write-in candidate in 2014; six months later, the board hired Superintendent Erin MacGregor, a decision that ranks up there with the best the HPS board has ever made, one that has steadied and strengthened the district.

In fact, the board over the last several terms has been rock solid. When staring into the COVID abyss, the district and MacGregor performed heroically, providing both in-person and virtual classes, as well as consistent, productive, factual communication with the community. Earl cites the district’s response to COVID as one of things of which he is most proud, and I have to agree.

While each member brings to the board their own particular skills and views, they certainly don’t agree on every single issue; but they’ve kept things humming in a way that’s made me confident in both the board’s stability, its flexibility in meeting crises, and its vision for the future. I’ve not always felt that way in my 30-plus years living in the district.

Earl’s loss in the November election came as a surprise to me, even in the face of the relentless campaign waged by the local Republican Party in its first foray into non-partisan elections. By all accounts, the local GOP spent a ton of money on Livingston County’s school board races — who can forget the continual onslaught of election pieces jamming our mailboxes? — and there was no Livignston County candidate the party was more all-in on than Jason Bedford, who ended up the top vote-getter in Howell.

What’s interesting is that the school board races handed the local GOP its only gains in what turned out to be the Big Blue Wave in Michigan’s midterms, and what looks to be a “pinking” of Livingston County.

Bedford and his running mate, Meg Marhofer, took the top two spots in the school board race, in fact. Earl came in fourth for the three seats up for election; the resignation of Wilcox created an opening, and the board reappointed him on Friday.

On two levels, the appointment was the right thing to do.

First, unlike with the Howell City Council recently, which filled an open seat by appointing the candidate who came in seventh of eight candidates in the primary for three seats (which meant the candidate didn’t even appear on the November ballot), the school board turned to the next-in-line general-election vote-getter.

Second, Earl has always conducted himself as a non-partisan, and he’s always made himself available to residents and us pesky media folks alike.

“I passed on all request for endorsements,” Earl wrote in his questionnaire for The Livingston Post. “This is a non-partisan position, and I did not want any perception otherwise.”

I can’t say that for the GOP-endorsed Bedford and Marhofer, neither of whom engaged publicly with voters: both decided to forego the traditional questionnaires and candidate forums, choosing instead to campaign only in the local GOP bubble. (But who am I to question their strategy of silence since it worked? But I’ve been around these parts a long time, and I don’t think refusing to engage with the general electorate is going to be a recipe for success for long.)

My hope is that Bedford and Marhofer will grow into the awesome responsibility that is being a school board member, where they are tasked not with fighting Republican culture wars, but with providing the best education and working environment for thousands of people — from students to faculty to support staff — in Livingston County’s largest district.

It’s a big and important job — as well as a huge fiscal responsibility to local taxpayers — and I am glad that as well as the rest of the board, they can now also turn to Brent Earl for inspiration.

Earl’s history in Howell is interesting. He is a Howell native with roots reaching far back into the school district’s history. His parents both graduated in the Howell High School Class of 1956; all four of his grandparents were graduates of the classes of 1922 or 1923. His kids are all products of the Howell Public Schools District, where his wife teaches sixth grade.

When The Livingston Post asked him in its election questionnaire to list his previous board experiences and/or community involvement, Earl said this: “I have invested a lot of time and effort to make this community better. The list is long of the organizations I am part of, but just know my heart is dedicated to continue making this community the best.”

Earl — long one of Howell’s favorite sons — could’ve gone on and on about himself, listing every organization and volunteer opportunity he’s participated in; he could’ve shared that he was Howell’s Citizen of the Year in 2013; he could’ve told us about the thousands and thousands of dollars he’s raised for charities, and the thousands of pounds of beef he’s raised that he’s donated to local nonprofits.

Instead, he wanted voters to know simply that he is dedicated to this community and that his heart is in the right place.

This is why Earl’s appointment is good news, indeed.

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