People tell Paul Meyer he's cheap, but he says he's thrifty.
Meyer thinks the Millard school superintendent should drive a Ford Focus.
And schoolkids should be taught more about the U.S. Constitution.
And schools shouldn't give out condoms or other birth control — or take kids on trips to mosques, not that it's ever been an issue here.
For more than a decade, Paul Meyer, 71, son of a Lutheran preacher, has spoken out on Millard Public Schools issues, stepping to the public lectern and accusing officials of overspending and leaning too far to the political left.
Now, the 38-year Millard resident, who embraces the label of tax watchdog, is set to join the Millard board.
Meyer apparently defeated incumbent Todd Clarke in the race for third place and a seat on the board in Nebraska's third-largest school district.
With all votes counted, final results show Meyer winning by 52 votes.
The margin is well within the law to trigger an automatic recount, which would take place the first week of December. But recounts rarely change an outcome.
Meyer is one of those stalwart government-watchers who tolerate the tedium of attending government meetings in order to speak their minds, often to a roomful of mostly empty chairs. Nearly every local board or council has one — a gadfly, so-called for their persistent, sometimes annoying criticism.
Meyer's apparent victory came on his fourth try for school board. He ran unsuccessfully in 2002 and 2004. Meyer applied for appointment to an open board seat in 2010. The board chose Clarke, president of CLS Investments, an asset management company. Clarke served on the Millard Public Schools Foundation from 2004 to 2010, including a term as president.
Meyer said after the election that he's “too old to be P.C.”
He's not bothered that he could end up on the short end of some votes.
“They can outvote me 5-1, but the parents out there will know how I stand and how the rest of the board stands,” he said.
Meyer's relentless criticisms generally have been met with courtesy from board members.
But there have been tense moments. At a district-sponsored bond forum last year, Superintendent Keith Lutz and Meyer had a testy exchange.
Meyer said he wanted to speak against the bond issue, but Lutz wouldn't let him talk, saying he didn't want the event to become political.
Meyer's opposition to Millard's failed $140.8 million bond issue may have elevated his visibility this election.
During the campaign, he told voters he would be a voice for them, not a “yes-man” for the administration, Meyer said.
“Nobody that I talked to liked that bond issue,” he said. “Maybe it was just enough there who remembered how I fought the bond issue, remembered my name, that put me over the top.”
Although voters had the choice of voting for three of the five candidates, he told his friends to vote for one, to boost his chances.
“You don't have to vote for all three,” he said.
He said he had support from friends and neighbors. He said members of the tax watchdog group, Taxpayers for Freedom, to which he belongs, probably helped boost his total.
Meyer said he wants schools to teach “more of the basic fundamentals,” such as learning about the U.S. Constitution in social studies classes.
“They aren't getting why we are a great nation,” he said. “So, I do get vocal when I believe the schools have gone way too liberal, even in Millard. I told them I don't want to see Millard start teaching Islam, having the kids dress up and take an Islamic name and visit a mosque. They don't visit Christian churches or even a Jewish synagogue.”
Two years ago, officials in a Massachusetts school district apologized after middle school students took a field trip to a mosque, where some participated in prayer.
Meyer said he is opposed to Millard's stance on school absences, part of a state crackdown on truancy, which he said infringes on parental rights.
“As far as I'm concerned, God gave kids to parents, he did not give them to any form of government,” he said.
Board member Mike Kennedy said he would welcome Meyer on the board.
“The board already has five other watchdogs that are constantly checking spending,” Kennedy said. “We welcome another set of eyes in the process.”
Kennedy said Meyer's perspective might change once he understands the constraints the board faces on budget and spending issues.
He said it's a credit to Meyer that he's attended so many board meetings.
“But he'll see firsthand on the inside how we put together things, how things are addressed and how well run the management is at Millard Public Schools with Dr. Lutz at the helm,” he said.
Clarke, who was endorsed by the Millard teachers union, said he can't offer any insight as to why Meyer apparently edged him out.
“I have no idea,” he said.
The results came as “somewhat of a surprise,” he said.
“I was up all night trying to figure out what happened,” Clarke said.
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