It happened more than once during Lucia Mar Unified School District board member Georgie O’Connor’s tenure on the board: an election would approach, and O’Connor would say she wasn’t running for another term.
“She’s been telling me she’s not going to run again for 36 years,” said Jim Miller, who worked for the district for three decades.
But after 49 years and a dozen elections, O’Connor celebrated her final board meeting Tuesday night surrounded by more than 100 friends, family members and current and former school district employees and board members.
O’Connor, 88, holds the record for the longest continually serving school board member in California, according to district officials.
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She was first elected to the Arroyo Grande Elementary School District board in 1961, four years before it merged with other South County districts to create Lucia Mar.
She was elected in 2006 to her 12th consecutive term.
When asked what inspired her to continue serving, O’Connor said, “The love and care of kids.”It was a sentiment echoed by many of the numerous speakers who honored O’Connor’s service to South County children.
Some of the attendees, including current board member Erik Howell, received their high school diplomas from O’Connor.
While Howell and O’Connor are often on opposite sides of issues before the school board, Howell said, “Her philosophy has always been ‘We’re all here for the children, I want to do what’s best for the children.’
“And, ultimately, she’s right.”
A line of well-wishers who formed to greet O’Connor before the celebration received a hug and a sharp quip.
“Listen, you squirt,” O’Connor said to Arroyo Grande High School teacher Kevin Statom, “Don’t you dare walk by me without hugging me.”
In a 2000 interview with The Tribune, O’Connor said the district’s greatest accomplishment was getting voters to pass a $24 million school bond in 1997 after years of unsuccessful attempts.
The money helped finance Nipomo High School and alleviated crowding at Arroyo Grande High.
Larry Wiemers, a former teacher and coordinator of the district’s vocational preparation, also credited O’Connor for her efforts in the mid-1980s to ensure every district in the county received a fair share of money for regional occupation programs.
A dozen speakers each presented O’Connor with a red rose while sharing stories about her compassion and dedication to the district. They also told a few other tales that bordered on a comedy roast.
O’Connor received proclamations for her service from Congresswoman Lois Capps, the county Board of Supervisors, the city of Pismo Beach, the San Luis Coastal Unified School District and the California School Boards Association.
Arroyo Grande High’s a Cappella Choir also performed a few songs tailored to the occasion.
“Forty-nine years is a long time to serve,” they sang. “She started to serve before my parents were born.
“So we say ‘thanks’ for all the joy you’ve given.”
Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.