Tumwater’s Community Roundtable chairman passes torch after 22 years

Volunteer Dan O’Neill worked under 4 school superintendents

lpemberton@theolympian.comMay 26, 2014 

The Tumwater School District holds monthly Community Roundtable meetings, and the last one of the school year is always reserved for volunteer recognition.

It’s never an easy event, roundtable chairman Dan O’Neill said.

“Oftentimes volunteers don’t want to be publicly thanked,” he said. “It’s a very awkward position to be in.”

O’Neill said he was surprised — and a little embarrassed — to end up in the spotlight alongside other volunteers during last Wednesday’s meeting.

He’s stepping down after leading Community Roundtable for 22 years, and district officials honored him with a certificate and a gift.

The monthly meeting brings district officials and community members together to discuss topics such as school safety, standardized testing, legislative priorities, and bond and levy campaigns.

O’Neill was invited to lead the roundtable by former superintendent Norm Wisner. He’s kept it going through four superintendents.

“He is well respected throughout our community and well known,” superintendent Mike Kirby said. “When Dan talks, people listen.”

Originally, the meeting, which includes a light lunch, was part of the district’s strategic plan, and its goal was to help curb rumors, O’Neill said.

“I think it became more of an information exchange from the school district to the community and from the community to the school district,” he said. “… I really think it takes an entire community to educate a child.”

O’Neill and his wife, Carla, own The Barn Nursery and Great Western Supply, and their three children graduated from the Tumwater School District.

He said he’s stepping down from the Roundtable so that he can spend more of his free time with his soon-to-be nine grandchildren.

O’Neill is passing the Roundtable torch to volunteer Christy Upton, who has two children, ages 9 and 17, in the district.

“I’ll keep it the same,” Upton said. “Dan isn’t going anywhere. He’ll be training me to make sure it’s a good transition.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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