While Brainerd School Board members were unanimously voting to hire Assistant Superintendent Steve Razidlo as the district's next superintendent Thursday, Razidlo himself was nervously waiting downstairs in his first-floor office at Washington Educational Services Building to learn their final decision.
Moments after the special board meeting ended, board member Kent Montgomery broke the news to a smiling Razidlo, who was congratulated by his co-workers as the news spread fast through the building and the district.
Razidlo, 46, was one of two superintendent finalists vying to replace Superintendent Jerry Walseth, who retires July 1. The other finalist was Waconia Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard, who was in Willmar Thursday for a second round of finalist interviews for the superintendent position there.
Board members were asked to reveal which candidate they preferred. One by one, each board member said they planned to cast a vote for Razidlo, whom they described as honest and intelligent, an active listener who is full of energy and integrity.
Brainerd Assistant Superintendent Steve Razidlo smiled in his office at Washington Educational Services Building Thursday after he was told he was selected as Brainerd's next superintendent.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
"I initially felt strongly we needed to go outside, that we needed a fresh pair of eyes and to let some of the emotion die down," board member Ruth Gmeinder said about hiring an external candidate. "It had nothing to do with the internal candidate. But after going through this process, I have done a 180 and I truly support Steve Razidlo because as I look at what has been done and what he's done at the high school, he's made some really tough decisions. I think sometimes you aren't always the most popular person when you've had to make some very difficult decisions."
Gmeinder said there is a segment of the community that has taken issue with Razidlo and she said she is willing to go and meet with them and support Razidlo. She said Razidlo is intelligent and the job requires someone with a high energy level, which Razidlo also has.
Board member Lew Hudson said Razidlo has a proven record and stood above the other candidates.
Board member Ruth Nelson said Kjergaard was a great candidate but she also supported Razidlo for the position. Nelson said that regardless of who the board hired as superintendent, some people will always think the district is mismanaged.
"Dr. Kjergaard really impressed me because he has a lot of experience, really good people skills, so I thought he was a very good candidate to consider," said board member Bob Nystrom. "But as I look at Mr. Razidlo here's a man who has been here, who knows our system, who is full of honesty and integrity which is very important to me. He has a tremendous amount of energy and passion for our system. He has my strong support to be our next superintendent. The people in this community need to realize he's human and he needs our support. We need to surround him."
Montgomery said either of the two finalists would have done a good job in the position but he also supported hiring Razidlo. Board chair Reed Campbell echoed his comments.
Nystrom said he has received many e-mails from community members since Saturday's candidate interviews and at least nine out of 10 were in support of hiring Razidlo. He said the few others he received mostly favored hiring an outside candidate. Nystrom then made a motion to hire Razidlo, which was seconded by Hudson.
"What a great decision this board made," Walseth said.
As the meeting adjourned, one audience member walked up and stood before the board, clapping in approval.
"I'm overwhelmed by the opportunity and by the responsibility to take a leadership position for such a great school district," said Razidlo. "I'm thankful to the board and I look forward to the work."
Razidlo said it has been a stressful week for him but not as stressful when compared to what colleagues in the district have experienced in recent months with the $5.5 million in budget reductions. He said he looks forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
The board then met in closed session to discuss the new superintendent's contract and another personnel issue. No action was taken.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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