Yesterday, the people of Belgrade gathered for a going-away party for the man who has led the school district for the past 9 years, Herb Benz.
Benz announced his retirement last year and will leave his post as superintendent of schools in June. And as disagreeable as it may be to invoke the cliche, his successor has some pretty big shoes to fill.
Benz hasn't been everybody's favorite person. Some have groused about his approachability; others about the amount of time he hasn't spent flitting about the community in public relations mode. We at the newspaper have had our share of clashes with the district's top administrator over the years and haven't always seen eye-to-eye with his decisions, policies or management style.
But his impending retirement is an opportunity to reflect on his near-decade of leadership. He led the district through a couple of major building projects, some contentious union contract negotiations, more than a few ugly personnel crises, an unpleasant student discipline issue or two and several difficult budget years. Like him or not, he has always acted in the best interests of the kids.
From our perspective, Benz's tenure brought far more successes than it did failures, and the indelible mark he leaves on our school system is a positive one. We will miss him, and can't ask for much more than that.