Admitting Monday there is a clear division on the Harford County Board of Education, its members narrowly elected Joseph Voskuhl and Laura Runyeon as president and vice president for the next two years.
The new student member of the board, Matt Resnik, was also sworn in.
"There is clearly a difference of opinion on this board," member Robert Frisch said after the 5-4 votes for both positions. "Some think it's a bad thing. I think it's quite the opposite, it's an outstanding thing. It drives debate, it drives discussion and it makes people validate or re-evaluate their position."
This election was the first time most board members can remember two people have run for the board leadership positions.
Al Williamson and Rachel Gauthier were also nominated for president and vice president, respectively.
"The choice is very clear, very simple. If you want to continue the board in the direction it's going, and not address some serious issues, then vote for Joe Voskuhl," Williamson said before the vote. "If you want to see a board leader, with positive things going out to the public, board members more involved with the community, listening to the community, then vote for me."
Voskuhl said if he were elected president, he would lead the board in a collegial manner, relying on other board members to bring issues, including the budget, before them.
"I will put them in charge of those issues, research them and bring them back to the board so decisions can be made in an open, thoughtful manner," Voskuhl said.
Voting for Voskuhl and Runyeon were Joseph Hau, Tom Fitzpatrick, Nancy Reynolds and Voskuhl and Runyeon; voting for Williamson and Gauthier were Jansen Robinson, Frisch, Williamson and Gauthier.
Frisch, who nominated Williamson, called the election a fine example of democracy and said that while the members have their differences, there are more things they agree on. He pledged to work closely with Voskuhl and "work hard to find common ground so we can do what's best for our school system."
Members took turns campaigning for their candidates before each vote.
"One of my main concerns when it comes to leadership is how you bring a group of leaders together," Robinson said. "I just see Mr. Williamson, with his vast experience in large organizations, would be an asset to the school system and the community we serve."
Runyeon touted Voskuhl's years of experience with the Harford school system, as a teacher and administrator and as a school board member.
Important in serving as board president is the interaction with school staff.
"Mr. Voskuhl realizes their job and recognizes the line between what they have to do and what we have to do," Runyeon said.
Voskuhl knows the Harford school system backward and forward, Fitzpatrick said.
"He has a good relationship with all our staff. He is also trusted by all our staff," Fitzpatrick said. "In an organization this size, trust is an important consideration. Spending a lifetime in an organization prepares you to be a champion of the organization."
Skills of compromise, mediation, diplomacy and a willingness to be the face of an organization are needed as board president.
"Those qualities are best in Joe Voskuhl, but they're also admirable in his opponent," Hau, who nominated Voskuhl, said.
Drawing on her four years as board president, Reynolds said relationships among the school system staff as well as elected officials at all levels "are vital to our success." As is knowledge of the budget and school policies.
"Mr. Voskuhl has had success as an administrator and board member and has close relationships within and outside the county," Reynolds said.
Similar comments were made about Runyeon and Gauthier.
Aside from filling in during the president's absence, the vice president needs to be able and knowledgeable to help with the many issues and concerns that need to be fixed, Frisch said in nominating Gauthier.
"Rachel Gauthier is the most qualified individual to serve in that capacity," he said, calling her a peacemaker "who prides herself on bringing people together."
As a parent with children in Harford schools, Gauthier "is invested here, she understands what goes on in the classroom because she deals with it every day. We need someone who understands the ground level of the school system, not just the administration of the school system."
Runyeon has made it her mission to understand the needs and wants of the school system, Hau said.
"She's committed to the success of this board," he said. "And she exhibits the qualities of putting her own agenda second to the needs of the board first."
Reynolds said Runyeon has "always been there," and thrown herself into the work of the board to keep it moving.
"She is very, very engaged in the things we do, comes to every meeting prepared and asks the best questions of any of us," Reynolds said.
Voskuhl said Runyeon would be able to bring the board together.
"We will work to compromise for the best solution for the students," he said.
C. Milton Wright senior Matt Resnik was sworn in Monday as the student representative on the board of education and assumed his seat on the dais.
Resnik, who turns 18 in August, was elected by members of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils, which brings together student leaders from every Harford County school and aims to build relationships and provide a network for learning and growing, according to the school system's website.
"I want to thank the voters for electing me. It's an honor to be able to serve and I'm looking forward to a very productive career," Resnik said.
He quoted President John F. Kennedy: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
"You all up here did not choose to be because of how easy it was going to be," he said. "You have done a great job overcoming challenges."
After the meeting, Resnik said he wanted to be on the board to bring attention to the problem of teachers leaving the school system.
He said he's had some "really great teachers, really special teachers" in his life and wants to being attention to their "mass exodus."
"It's disheartening to see so many teachers leaving Harford County, because it deprives so many students of opportunities," he said.
In his last year at CMW hopes to start a business national honor society and a Young Republicans Club at his school, as well as give students more opportunities.