Pelham council appoints O’Neil to school board Place 1

PELHAM – The Pelham City Council appointed Robert “Bob” O’Neil to Place 1 on the Pelham Board of Education at a meeting on Monday, April 15.

O’Neil, a retired Naval Officer and pastor, said his desire for his two sons, ages 12 and 16, to receive the best education possible inspired him to become more involved in the community. For the past nine months, he has served as a board member for the Pelham City Schools Foundation.

“I love my children and I want them to have the best opportunity at a great education, and I want to be a part of making that happen – not only for my children but for every child,” O’Neil said. “I want to see every student graduate and be prepared for the next phase of life whether it’s college, the workforce or the military.”

The Place 1 position was previously held by Paul Howell, a founding member of the school board. Howell reapplied for the position and interviews were held for the two men during a City Council work session on April 1.

The Place 1 term expires in June 2024. O’Neil was appointed to the position by a vote of 4-1. Councilman Ron Scott cast the opposing vote.

“I know both individuals and I know full-well that each would be an attribute to the board,” Scott said. “Paul has done an outstanding job in his tenure on the board and he also proved that he had great depth of knowledge concerning the school board.”

Councilwoman Beth McMillan said both men were impressive during their interviews, but her support was for O’Neil, who has applied for a seat on the board in the past.

“I did support Bob O’Neil the last time he interviewed for that position and I think he would do an outstanding job this time as well,” she said. “I do think it sends a message if somebody outstanding does try several times and does not get an opportunity… people might not think that we are willing to look beyond.”

Councilman Maurice Mercer said making a decision between the two men was tough, but after “personal conversations, much prayer and thought,” he decided to support O’Neil. Although she decided to vote for O’Neil, Councilwoman Mildred Lanier said it does not “discount the service that has been done and rendered” by Howell.

Mayor Gary Waters said he was disappointed that Howell, who he described as exemplary and a great role model to students, was not reappointed to the board.