By Joel Phelps
Following a razor-thin runoff election, Matt Johnson will take a seat on the Arkadelphia Board of Education as its Zone 1 representative.
Johnson ousted incumbent Casey Motl by 5 votes Tuesday. Unofficial results announced at the Clark County Courthouse showed that Johnson secured a total of 164 votes to Motl’s 159.
Motl was presiding over a school board meeting at the time the results were announced. Following an emotional conclusion to that meeting, as it would also be outgoing Superintendent Karla Neathery’s final appearance, Motl told The Arkadelphian that his loss was a hard one to swallow, but that he had no choice but to “soldier on.”
Motl was in his ninth year as a school board member, and had been president since 2019. He thanked the voters in Zone 1 who cast a ballot during both the primary election and the runoff. There were even voters who turned out to the polls who do not have children in the school district. “It’s always encouraging to see the public engage in the well-being of their local school district,” Motl said.
Motl congratulated Johnson on his victory. “I will say he would do well to listen to his colleagues, to learn from their example,” Motl said. “Being a school board member is a heavy responsibility, and it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s one that requires a lot of education because there are particular elements to being in school board service that are unlike anything else in our lives. I wish him well, and I have every confidence that the district is in capable hands going forward.”
Johnson, meanwhile, was watching the sunset at DeGray Lake once the polls closed, he said, fretting over the reality of the results. “I didn’t want to know,” he admitted. But with the results in his favor, Johnson changed his tune. “I’m excited with the amount of people that trust me to represent them in Zone 1. It’s pretty awesome to have this come out two times, especially in a runoff, and to support me along the way. It’s pretty humbling.”
Johnson thanked Motl for his service to the school board. “I think he was a dedicated board member,” Johnson said. “He fought for the best interest of the school district, and I thank him for his nine years on the board.”
While Johnson has no immediate plans for his work as a policymaker on the school board, he said he looks forward to working with the other board members. “It’s a great group on there right now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to starting a new board at the next meeting.”
At the next school board meeting Johnson will be one of two new faces at the table, as Nikki Thomas will have begun her reign as superintendent. “I look forward to working with her,” Johnson said. “The board found she was the best option, and I immediately welcomed Nikki home when she got hired.”
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