Andrew MacDonald

BERRYVILLE — Andrew MacDonald was appointed by the Clarke County School Board on Monday to fill its recently-vacated Russell District seat.

MacDonald, 60, of Earhart Lane, was selected in a unanimous vote following a motion by board Vice Chairwoman Katie Kerr-Hobert.

He will begin serving on the board in November. He succeeds former member Zara Ryan, who resigned to spend more time with her family.

The vote was taken following a 40-minute closed session during which the board discussed applicants for the seat. Board members didn't immediately discuss why they selected MacDonald.

After the meeting, however, Chairwoman Monica Singh-Smith said they were impressed with MacDonald's professional experience and motivation for applying.

"Education is everything" in life, MacDonald told The Winchester Star. "It's all about our kids, what's best for our children."

"No politics" should be involved, he said.

A Clarke County resident for two years, MacDonald is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, having spent 26 years in the military. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar and earned his law degreee from the American University Washington College of Law with a focus on regulatory, aviation, space and communications law. He also has a master's degree in United States national security and strategy from the U.S. Naval War College, plus a master's degree in business management and a bachelor's degree in resource management, both from Troy University.

MacDonald enlisted in the Army in 1982. Four years later, he was commissioned in the Infantry. In 1996, he was injured during a training exercise and transitioned into the Army Acquisition Corps, where he served as a senior manager of programs with budgets in the billions of dollars, his resume shows. His final active duty assignment was serving as chief of staff of one of the Army's premiere research and development facilities.

After retiring from the military, MacDonald worked in the defense industry and obtained his law degree. His most recent career experience was as an attorney representing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in federal immigration court.

"I have worked at senior levels in the Department of Defense, the defense industry and the federal government, none of which would have been possible without education," he wrote in his application for the board seat. "I understand and recognize the value of education and want to help ... students of Clarke County receive the gold standard for education success, not just in the commonwealth but nationwide."

MacDonald has seven children, ranging in age from 8-35. Two currently attend Clarke County Public Schools.

Having children in the division is "incredibly important" for being a School Board member, Singh-Smith said. "You have a better understanding of the needs of students."

In his application, MacDonald wrote that one reason he and his wife moved to Clarke County was because they recognized the quality of its schools.

"The education of our children is the greatest responsibility of our society and is also the greatest gift we can give to both them and to ourselves," he wrote. "Poorly educated children result in a dysfunctional society."

Other applicants for the seat were Leigh Carley, Kenneth Coney, Camilla Dechent, Kimberlee Stiles and Courtney Wiita.

Ryan held the seat since 2018, when the board appointed her to succeed Tom Parker, who resigned upon moving out of the district. Voters then elected Ryan to the seat the following year.

Her unexpired four-year term runs through the end of 2023.

MacDonald will fill the seat until a November 2022 special election. Whoever is elected then will serve the remainder of the term.

"I'm excited" about being able to serve until the special election, MacDonald said, adding that he probably will run for the seat.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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