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Austintown celebrates Ohio’s longest-serving board member

AUSTINTOWN — With 52 years under his belt, Austintown Local Schools Board of Education member Dr. David Ritchie is the longest-serving board member in Ohio history.

“It’s been a long time,” Ritchie said. “A lot of changes, a lot of different board members, a lot of different superintendents — 10 of them.”

Ritchie, 82, said he ran for the board because people requested that he do so. In a four-horse race with two incumbents, then-30-year-old Ritchie won a seat. Thirteen elections later, Ritchie will be leaving office after taking 23 percent of the vote to newcomer Kim Smrek’s 27 percent in the November election.

Serving in six decades, Ritchie said participation and communication were key parts to being on the board.

“I think, being a board member, you’re going to get out of it what you put into it,” Ritchie said. “You have to apply yourself and you have to get involved.”

At the December board meeting, board members presented Ritchie with a clock for all his time spent on the board.

“He was around for obviously the current Fitch High School, but he was part of many cutting-edge things done inside the district. We have the whole centralized campus, he was instrumental in that,” said current board President Don Sherwood. “He has been a mentor for so many people in the district.”

Sherwood said Ritchie was a founding member of the Austintown Touchdown Club — the “best booster club in Mahoning County.”

“He’s been an incredible public servant to Austintown,” Sherwood said.

Among the roughly 100 people who attended the board meeting, several past superintendents and board members came to send off Ritchie.

Ritchie received an outpouring of thanks with resolutions and appreciation from the office of Tim Ryan, the Ohio Lieutenant Governor’s Office, County Commissioner Dave Ditzler, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan and Larry Householder, and Austintown Township Trustee Jim Davis.

A member of Kiwanis and president of the Mahoning County Library Board, Ritchie said he plans to remain active in the community.

“I will participate as long as I’m able,” he said.

Of his time on the board, Ritchie said the experience was rewarding and he appreciated the years of support from the school administration and staff, and the community.

“I hope I made an improvement somewhere along the way, even if it was just helping a couple of students out,” Ritchie said.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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