The St. Paul School Board had an unexpected vacancy to fill with the abrupt resignation of Al Oertwig in April. After screening 17 applicants for the seat, the board has chosen John Thoemke to complete Oertwig’s term.
Thoemke, who is retired after 40 years as a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union, will serve a term that began the first of this month and will end Jan. 8.
When asked what he brings to the seven-member board, Thoemke replied, “A blue-collar mentality, a desire to see that students are given the very best education that we can provide and to hopefully put them on a career path that is meaningful for them.”
Though Thoemke has no formal experience in education, he maintains that his 17 years of working to coordinate curricula between the St. Paul public school system and St. Paul College, as well as other administrative experience, will be a plus.
Additionally, “I’ve been involved in a lot of local endeavors that impact education,” he said. “Virtually everything we get into, whether it’s jobs or transportation or housing, has an education element. And I keep coming back to education as the way to solve some of those other problems.”
Serving on the school board is a part-time endeavor, but during his short tenure, Thoemke said he hopes to help the school district focus on its long-term plans, such as the Strategic Plan for Continued Excellence. Also important to Thoemke is helping the St. Paul public schools continue to close the achievement gap.
When Thoemke’s term ends in January, he does not plan to seek another term. “I will not run for election. I’ve agreed not to seek office. This was an opportunity to at least help in some small way for a limited period of time, and I decided to give it a try.”
He did say that he might change his mind about running in the future: “Two years from now, I might decide to run; that’s a different story.”