It will be up to the Hamilton County Commission to appoint a replacement for longtime school board member Everett Fairchild, who will step down March 15.
Fairchild, 82, said Wednesday that after nearly 20 years on the city and county school boards, his health is forcing him to leave office.
"I just feel like health issues have reached the point that I can't afford the attention and energy to the job that it deserves," Fairchild said. "I just feel like it's time."
County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the commission likely will appoint a replacement within three months. The appointee will hold the seat until the term expires in August 2014.
Fairchild, who represents the Hixson and Middle Valley areas in District 3, said he's been in touch with commissioners about who might replace him, but he didn't want to name any names until the commission announces the decision. His District 3 counterpart on the commission lauded Fairchild's career.
"He's had a good long time of service, and I hate to see him go," said Commissioner Mitch McClure.
Fairchild sent a letter to Board of Education Chairman Mike Evatt and several county commissioners announcing his resignation.
A longtime educator and former principal of Hixson Junior High School, Fairchild was elected to the Chattanooga school board in 1993 and has served as its chairman.
After the city and county systems merged, he was appointed in 1996 to fill a vacant seat on the county board, then was elected four times, most recently in 2010. Fairchild was elected chairman in September 2010, but stepped down from the leadership post in May because of his health.
"Everett Fairchild has been an icon in this school system and on this school board for many years," said Evatt.
Evatt said he was 17 when he first encountered Fairchild. He was cleaning the junior high school when the principal reprimanded him for not doing the job correctly.
"He's a very fair but firm individual," Evatt said.
Schools Superintendent Rick Smith said he's gotten to know Fairchild "very well and [I] certainly do value him."
"He's been a good public school servant, and he will be missed," Smith said.
Fairchild always came to school meetings well prepared and voted in the best interests of children, Smith said. Fairchild's education career brought a unique perspective to the board, the superintendent said.
"He brings a practical knowledge to the board. And I think we were very fortunate to have him on the board for as long as we have," he said.
Fairchild said his involvement in the school board is a natural extension of his life's work in education.
"That's about all I've ever done," he said.
He cited the importance of public education as his motivation for being involved.
"It's the one way that we can help ourselves and our children reach full potential," he said. "I just felt like I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to be doing."