With soon-to-be board members Courtney Porter and Susan Macfarlane occupying their new seats at the table for Tuesday night’s Lodi Unified School District Board of Education meeting, Gary Knackstedt — then the board’s vice president — asked George Neely to join him at the podium where he thanked Neely for serving as board president for 2018.

“You set a high standard for the board to follow and I doubt there’s anybody else on the board who’s done more research on every single item than you,” Knackstedt said.

Knackstedt applauded Neely for helping resolve contract negotiations with employee groups, overseeing the decision to relocate students from Joe Serna Jr. Charter School in Lodi to Houston Middle School in Acampo, and addressing potential health risks posed by smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County.

“I believe you will continue to be as active as you’ve ever been because you love it, because you’re good at it and because it’s important work,” Knackstedt said as her presented Neely with a gavel to commemorate his year as board president.

“It’s been a fantastic year,” Neely said with a smile. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a whole lot of fun.”

Neely expressed his gratitude to members of various employee groups and the district’s administrators as he took his seat, before board member Ron Freitas offered his congratulations.

“Your passion knows no bounds, nor does your work ethic,” Freitas said. “Congratulations on a great job.”

Superintendent Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer then invited Macfarlane, Neely, Porter and board member Ron Heberle to the front of the room where Judge Lauren Thomasson of the San Joaquin County Superior Court administered their oath of office.

“It’s always a pleasure,” Thomasson said, before administering the oath for her third year in a row.

Porter, a Tokay High School teacher and water polo coach, will represent Area 4 — which includes Henderson, Independence, Lakewood Elementary, Millswood Middle, Podesta Ranch Elementary and Woodbridge Elementary schools — after former Area 4 board member Dr. Daryl Talken chose not to run for re-election.

“It’s an honor to be in this position,” Porter said. “I hope to fill the shoes of Dr. Talken, and I look forward to serving the people of Lodi Unified School District Area 4.”

Macfarlane, a self-employed insurance adjuster and former Science Olympiad coach, defeated former board member Bonnie Cassel in the Nov. 6 general election and will now represent Area 1, which includes Ansel Adams Elementary, Davis Elementary, Houston Middle, Live Oak Elementary, Lockeford Elementary, Morada Middle, Turner Academy at Tokay Colony and Victor Elementary schools.

“I’m excited to start working,” Macfarlane said.

In his last act as board president, Neely nominated Knackstedt — then-vice president — to replace him as president in 2019.

“Over the last eight years, this board has had a different president every year and that’s not by accident. Nobody owns this board,” Neely said. “This is a board of seven members, and we should act like it.”

After the board unanimously elected Knackstedt as board president, Heberle nominated board member Joe Nava as vice president.

Nava was also unanimously elected, as was Freitas after Nava nominated him to serve as clerk of the board.

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