Urbana City Schools’ newest board member says he wants to do what is best for the students in the district.
Darrell Thomas, 50, said he hopes he can also bring a balance to the school board.
“It’s an honor to serve on the board and a humbling experience to serve on the board,” he said. “I have a passion for the kids in the community. I think it’s important that my focus be on serving the community and the families in the community, but the kids – I think that needs to be the focus.”
Thomas, an 18-year employee of Honda, has been in a number of managerial positions over the years. A graduate of Stebbins High School in Riverside, he spent a year at Winona State University and played football before moving to other things. He worked at a restaurant in Dayton and moved up the ladder with the company, eventually managing a restaurant in Michigan and then helping prepare and open other restaurants for the company.
Thomas changed fields after his daughter was born – the long hours were impacting his desire to be a parent – and started working for First American Title in Michigan. In that field, he did title searches and tax searches. He came to Urbana when his father became ill, and he stayed with him until he passed away. He then started working for Midland Title in Centerville – the same company that owned First American Title – until switching gears again and selling cars. Then he joined Honda.
Thomas said Honda was a natural extension of his interests in high school. During school, Thomas took part in vocational education that offered work experience in manufacturing technology. He was a “manufacturing technician” and took part in schematic design for Dayton Power & Light and AFC Tool and Die.
At Honda, Thomas has worked in a variety of positions, from programming robots for the facility to managing different aspects of operations. He is currently a manufacturing technician in the Performance Manufacturing Center plant, which will build the new Acura NSX. He is also an environmental co-leader over the entire plant, which handles and ships out hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Thomas said he is Department of Transportation certified and RECRA certified, meaning he knows the global rules of properly shipping waste.
Thomas’ wife is a third grade paraprofessional at Urbana South Elementary. Their daughter is a senior at Ohio Hi-Point and son is an eighth grader at Urbana Junior High.
Serving on the board
“It’s important for me to get up to speed with the board and bring that voice that maybe helps bring a balance to the board, for some of the issues it is still facing,” he said.
Thomas said there is a need for new schools and he looks forward to seeing them built, though he knows he has a lot to learn about the process and any past difficulties between the district and the city of Urbana.
“It’s been a little bit of a tug of war, from what I’ve heard,” he said, adding he has been attempting to get more information on what has passed so far in the process. “I don’t really have enough information to have much of an opinion. I just know that (school construction) needs to get done.
“It was a long process and it’s been definitely needed for a long time. It’s well overdue,” he added.
Thomas is filling former board vice president Warren Stevens’ vacant seat on the board. Stevens was killed in a traffic crash in September.
Thomas said Stevens was a friend and that he knew him first through their church, the River of Life Christian Center in Urbana. He said it will be difficult to replace Stevens, a central figure in the Urbana community for decades.
“I don’t think there will be another Warren Stevens,” he said. “Warren had a heart for everyone. He truly believed in serving his community and giving all he had. I want to carry on his legacy. That’s important to me, to honor Warren’s legacy and who he was as a person.”
Thomas’ main focus is doing the best for the students, he said.
“Ultimately, really serving on the board is not about me. It’s about the kids,” he said. “It’s about providing the kids with the best opportunities they can have for success. I want to see the kids in this community succeed. I want to see them have opportunities to be greater than they think they are.”