Lisenby to fill vacant seat

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2005

Joe Lisenby has been an advocate of public education all his life. It was engrained in him as a young boy growing up in Ozark by his father, Joe W. Lisenby, who taught his young son that public education was the best education you can have.

Now Lisenby, who was the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Greenville for seven years, gets a chance to give back what he got from public education. He was elected by the majority of his now fellow board of education members Friday night to serve the remainder of Frank Thigpen's term in District Three. Thigpen resigned from the board earlier this month due to personal reasons.

"I am honored and I am humbled and a whole lot frightened by the responsibility I was just sworn in to," said Lisenby, addressing those gathered at the board meeting. "I have a very deep and long standing passion for children; I will always be for the children."

Lisenby, who was sworn in by Judge Ed McFerrin immediately after his election, went on to talk about what his plans are to get prepared for the role he will play in Butler County education.

"I hope to be up to speed on most matters that are of concern to this board," he said. "That means I have to do a lot of homework."

After the meeting Lisenby, 67, said he was overwhelmed by the challenge he has been given, but that he is up to the task.

"It really hasn't sunk in," he said, sitting in the chair he will now occupy behind the board podium. "I have yet to comprehend the enormity and I mean that in a positive sense. I know the need as well as the challenge."

He said with this school district, as well as those across the state, the main challenge is to maximize the use of available funds, which he said are never adequate, to provide the best possible education to the children and families the district serves.

Lisenby has two grandchildren in the Butler County School system and his daughter, Nancy Benson, teaches first grade at W.O. Parmer Elementary.

The only dissenting vote to Lisenby's appointment came from Joanne Peak, who said she felt that the only other candidate for the seat, Miriam Nixon, had a better background in education. Nixon made an unsuccessful bid for the District Three seat against Thigpen in the most recent board election, receiving 43 percent of the vote.

"I don't have anything against (Lisenby)," Peak said. "I personally felt that Ms. Nixon would have been the better candidate because of the knowledge and experience she's had in education, but I feel Mr. Lisenby will be able to come up to speed very quickly."

Nixon said during a Tuesday board work session that she had devoted her life to education, serving on the local and state level and that she held three degrees and six certifications.

Lisenby's long-time friend, Frank Hickman, said public education would have been the winner with either Lisenby or Nixon but that Lisenby's election was a good one.

"I think the school board has made a wonderful decision," he said. "Joe Lisenby has a solid educational background being a graduate of Duke, Emory and Huntington Universities and has provided years of leadership to the Methodist church. He has a great appreciation of education and the power education has to make positive changes in people's lives."