John D. Myers Jr. is going back to the family farm -- for now


In an article in the Jan. 15 Carroll County edition of The Sun, John D. Myers, a former county school board member, related an incident in which a longtime friend once said that Mr. Myers would "rot in hell" after a school board vote. The story may have implied that Melvin Arbaugh, a Westminster architect who was mentioned in the next paragraph, was the person who made the statemen. He was not.

The Sun regrets the error.

The bright yellow letters on a green banner hanging on the wall in the county school board meeting room are words right out of the mouth of outgoing member and president John D. Myers Jr.

"We're here for the children."

It was just one of the phrases he often used in his dozen years -- two terms -- on the five-member panel. He said it even more often than he said, "I may be just an old country boy, but. . ." usually followed with a phrase about how the schools deserve more money.

When some residents lambasted the board for paying its superintendent a salary of more than $100,000, Mr. Myers staunchly defended the amount.

"Generally, I sit on a tractor seat," he said at the time. "But it's not at all unusual for CEOs to earn this kind of salary in these economic times."

And then there were other words, less suitable for hanging, such as those to former County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge when she was pushing for a performance audit of the schools.

"Julia, I get so damn tired of hearing you trash this school system," Mr. Myers said.

After criticisms from residents, who he believes want the public schools to behave more like Christian schools, Mr. Myers told them there were plenty of empty buildings in the county, and that they might want to "start your own schools."

Although Mr. Myers, 49, has left the school board, he doesn't rule out a return to the scene, most likely as a candidate for county commissioner. The next election is four years away, but he's got plenty to do in the meantime, tending more than 3,000 acres of orchard and farmland.

He's not interested in the political games of the State House, he said. And though he chose not to run again for school board this fall, he stepped in after the September primary election to manage the unsuccessful write-in campaign of C. Thomas Hickman, former Carroll state's attorney.

"I think you can do the most for Carroll County as a commissioner," Mr. Myers said.

Mr. Myers said he has the perfect thickness of skin for politics; not afraid of a fight and willing to bury the hatchet afterward. He doesn't take political jabs personally, he said, not even the time a longtime friend condemned him for a vote to allow the health department to use a particular video in the schools. Three years later, he had forgotten it until a reporter reminded him. Although Mr. Myers was in the minority and the video was canned, the man went up to him afterward.

"He said, 'John, I'm never voting for you again, and you're going to rot in hell,' " Mr. Myers said.

It was longtime friend Mel Arbaugh, a Westminster architect, who led the fight against the video, which he said thwarted the schools' abstinence policy by calling condoms safe in preventing AIDS.

Though Mr. Myers was as zealous in his support of the video as Mr. Arbaugh was in his crusade to kill it, they remained friends throughout, Mr. Myers said.

Mr. Myers may have appeared one of the more liberal members of the school board, but he calls himself a conservative.

"I'd like to think I'm progressive," he said. The reason he was in favor of the AIDS video, he said, is that it could have saved a life.

If he has been willing to spend money on education, he said, it is because he believes it is a good investment.

His style on the board was to support education, but never to pretend to have had much of it himself. Although his three sisters went to college, he chose not to, going right into farming.

"I was bored in school, to tell you the truth. I always knew what I wanted to do," he said.

And he did it. In 1972, after a decade of farming on leased land, he bought his father's farm north of Westminster, along Old Bachman's Valley Road.

The farm and the house, where Mr. Myers still lives with his youngest daughter, Tracie, have been in the family for more than 100 years. His paternal great-grandmother was a Baugher, but it was the Myers family that first started raising apples and other fruit from Carroll County soil. His grandfather built the stone house where Mr. Myers lives.

"I was born in this room," Mr. Myers tells a visitor in the small living room.

Outside and up the driveway, the grain storage bins rise over the rest of the blue out buildings, towering over the groves of apple, peach and nectarine trees, and fields waiting to be planted with corn, soybeans and snap peas.

He has another couple of hundred acres of buckwheat near Rochester, N.Y., near a spot where he often goes fishing.

He said, "I've always thought land was a good investment." -- just like education.

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