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Former hippie about to join school board


Rick Daub is about to enter the world of grown-ups.

It's not that the 32-year-old isn't one. It's just he's about to become one of them -- The Establishment -- as a member of the Harford County school board.

After weeks of waiting, Mr. Daub got the official word last Monday that Gov. William Donald Schaefer has appointed him to fill the Havre de Grace seat vacated by Percy V. Williams, 80, who is retiring.

Mr. Daub hopes to follow in the elder statesman's footsteps.

"I admire the caring, understanding and wisdom showed by Dr. Williams through the years," Mr. Daub says.

"He has one of the biggest hearts for children in Harford County. If I can do that, I will feel like I've done something."

Four years ago, fresh from Los Angeles and new to the county, Mr. Daub couldn't imagine he'd be in this position.

His hair was long and pulled into a ponytail, he had a full beard and he wore an earring. He was working a blue-collar job as an electrician at Bethlehem Steel.

Not the usual school board profile.

"I didn't fit the image," says the newest, youngest board member. "I don't have a paper trail. They all went to college and have white-collar jobs."

His school involvement started three years ago when his son, bTC Richard, entered kindergarten at Havre de Grace Elementary.

Soon he was organizing a loosely formed group of parents and teachers into a formal PTA with bylaws and rules.

Then, the aging condition of the 40-year-old school led him to more involvement.

"I feel the Route 40 schools are slighted from the Bel Air schools, especially the east side of Route 40," he says. "We tend to be shortchanged."

Mr. Daub soon found himself addressing the board about improvement needs for Havre de Grace Elementary.

"I thought that all they could see was a long-haired hippie with an earring," he laughs.

There was a repercussion. So after the meeting, he went home, cut his hair and shaved.

"I felt I had to do it if I wanted to be heard," he says. "The needs of the children are such that I need to be heard."

He kept the earring. "It's so much a part of me," he says. "It isn't a social or political statement."

Board member George D. Lisby said he's been listening to Mr. Daub since the beginning. "His looks didn't bother me," Mr. Lisby says. "He sounded so much like what I've been saying."

After Mr. Daub made appeals to the County Council and went to Annapolis, Havre de Grace Elementary received approval for renovation and modernization money.

"We did it," says Mr. Daub. He also credits several others for their help, including Pat White, a concerned parent who organized HOPE (Havre de Grace Organization of Parents for Education).

As a HOPE representative, Mr. Daub worked closely with Mrs. White, who speaks highly of his commitment.

"When he's dedicated to something, he dedicates himself completely," she says.

"He has no political agenda. He's not a business person doing it for an economic reason. It's not a steppingstone to politics.

"He's doing it purely out of care for the equal opportunity for all children."

Mr. Daub, a former PTA president of Havre de Grace Elementary, says he has one agenda he'll take to his seat on the seven-member board: "I want to do the best for the children. I'm open to ideas. I want people to bend my ear."

Friends ask him how he will find the time.

"You make time," says Mr. Daub, who does shift work at Bethlehem Steel. "You adjust things."

He says he knows he'll always find time to spend with his son, now 8, and wife, Connie, who is attending Harford Community College.

His free spirit led him to stay in California after serving at George Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. The family decided to move east four years later and ended up at their "eclectic" Havre de Grace apartment.

"We left [California] because we didn't want our son to go through the Los Angeles school system," says Mr. Daub, who grew up in Lawn, Pa., which he describes as "a blink-of-a-town."

Mr. Daub says he and his wife plan to stay in Havre de Grace at least five years, so he can serve his school board term, and they would like to buy a house.

"You know, the American dream," he says. For Mr. Daub, that dream includes the future of Harford children.

"When looking at a child, I'm looking at a doctor, CEO, banker, mother, father, a coffee-shop owner. . . . I want to light that spark and keep it alive, or it can die," he says.

His philosophy is to involve county residents in the education of their children.

"To save the schools, we need a sense of community," Mr. Daub says. "We need to go to the community and say, 'These are your children. It's your choice.' "

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