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Two incumbent School Board members were replaced June 12 as the Hanover Board of Supervisors appointed new members to open seats in the South Anna and Cold Harbor districts.
The first new member, Norman Sulser, was appointed to the Cold Harbor District seat. While her peers supported Sulser’s candidacy, Chickahominy supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek chose to abstain. She explained that citizens expressed concerns about the situation, specifically with Cold Harbor Supervisor Elton Wade Sr. telling media that he promised Sulser, his former campaign manager, the appointment.
“Sadly in this situation the issue of qualifications has been lost in the broader community’s discussion, and I fear as a result, many citizens are questioning the viability of the appointed School Board process as well as other decisions,” Kelly-Wiecek said.
Her decision to abstain was not necessarily easy, she said. Kelly-Wiecek said she weighed the options of saying “yes” or “no.” If she had voted with her peers, then it “might signal concern or worse, complicit compliance, over using appointments as political payback,” she said. If she had voted “no” then that “would call into question Mr. Sulser’s qualifications and his good name and reputation in this community,” Kelly-Wiecek said.
Neither decision seemed right, she said. However, Kelly-Wiecek pointed out that Sulser is qualified and has shown his dedication over the years to both the school system and county.
On June 12, Wade addressed this issue before the vote. He said that he felt he should appoint Sulser this term. Wade reassured the board and audience that he would not do anything to hurt the county and said he believes his words were taken out of context.
“I try to be honest in all my decisions and do what’s right for the county,” Wade said.
Sulser served on the School Board for eight years from 1985-1993. Sulser’s also spent the past 12 years subbing at Lee-Davis High School where he said he’s gotten familiar with the classroom, teachers and students.
“This term I will have that experience, so I’ll be able to see things from the parents, students and teachers’ perspective,” Sulser said. “It’s always good to walk in someone else’s shoes.”
In making the appointment, Wade said that he had planned to appoint Sulser years ago, but was unable to because Sulser was redistricted out of the Cold Harbor district.
“He said he would’ve appointed me 20 years ago, if he could’ve,” Sulser said about Wade.
Sulser has been very active in the community. He has taught Sunday School for over 30 years and has been a Reserve Deputy Sheriff for 12 years.
“I try to give back to the community,” Sulser said.
Though Sulser said he encountered many challenges during his first time on the board, he is looking forward to joining the School Board again.
“It’s an honor to be put up there again,” he said.
When Sulser begins his term, one of his goals is “to make sure every child has the same educational opportunities.”
Sulser will replace 20-year board member Robert Wood, who said he is not thrilled to be leaving.
“I feel I’ve learned a lot and tried to work hard to make our school system better than it was when I first started [serving on the board],” he said.
Though Wood wishes he could continue his work, he’s confident in Sulser.
“Mr. Sulser was on the School Board before me. I feel he’ll step in and do a good job for us,” Wood said.
During the second appointment, South Anna Supervisor Wayne Hazzard said his decision was not easy. Hazzard said he developed and put together a questionnaire for all candidates to answer.
After the process was over, Hazzard chose Sue Dibble to represent the South Anna District. Her candidacy received unanimous support.
Dibble, the co-owner of a contracting company, said she plans to “incorporate business principles during her time on the board.”
However, Dibble’s no stranger to the Hanover Public School system. She has been a PTA member for six years and is consistently involved with students.
“I understand the pulse of school,” Dibble said.
Once she begins her term, Dibble said she wants to “maintain the excellent education quality and maybe make some improvements.” Although she did not have any specific improvements in mind just yet.
Like Wood, the incumbent South Anna board member, Ann Gladstone, is not happy to be leaving her post.
“I wanted to be there for four more years,” Gladstone said. “I didn’t feel like I had finished everything I had started.”
When asked why she thought the Board of Supervisors wanted to appoint someone to take her place, Gladstone said, “It was a political decision.”
Gladstone explained that the make-up of the Board of Supervisors is changing. She said herself and the rest of the School Board are public servants and not politicians.
Gladstone and Wood will continue their work on the board until June 30. The new members will be sworn in at the School Board’s regular July meeting.