Sam Ballard, a member of the Chattooga County School Board, died over the weekend due to complications with cancer. He was 72.
Ballard was first elected to the school board in 2018.
Ballard was one of three new school board members that year to be elected and one of the first things he and three other members did that year was to vote on returning to a five-day-a-week school schedule, a controversial vote at the time.
Chattooga County Schools had taken Mondays off since 2010 and extended the length of the other four days.
Administrators at the time argued the schedule saved the district money. It didn't have to pay bus drivers or cafeteria workers as much, and electricity bills were lower.
The three newest members of the board — Republicans Ballard, Brad Hayes and Julia Houston — said they needed to once again fill the classrooms on Mondays.
They cited the district's test scores, some of the lowest in northwest Georgia at the time. The district also had an 81% free or reduced lunch rate at the time.
Eddy Willingham, chairman of the local Republican Party, said in a statement Ballard was a stalwart member of the community.
"I remember him always having time for a kind word or helpful advice," Willingham said. "He will be missed. On behalf of the Chattooga County Republican Party Executive Committee, I extend our sincerest condolences and prayers for comfort to his family."
School Board member John Agnew said although the two disagreed on occasion, he will miss Ballard as a colleague on the board and as "a good Christian friend."
"I may not always have agreed with him on the Board, but I respected his point of view," Agnew said. "I felt like he always had the best interests of the students with any decision he made. In our community, it is men like Sam Ballard who have given us the moral compass to strive forward in spite of challenges like the pandemic we are now experiencing. He will truly be missed by all."
School Board member Brad Hayes said he enjoyed his time working with Ballard and called him a loyal friend.
"My prayers are with his precious wife, Becky and their family," Hayes said. "Sam will be missed, but he'd want all of us to keep working to make this world a better place for our youth."
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.