Alexandria’s Jeff Patience eyed a spot on the school board for a few years. When his neighbor decided to step down, he stepped up.
Bob Cunniff resigned from his board position in March to move closer to family. Knowing Patience had an interest in running for school board in the past, the district reached out to him to fill the vacancy until the next election this November. For Patience, the decision was easy.
“I considered running for school board six or seven years ago as a possible opportunity for me,” Patience said. “I never took any action on it because I didn’t have the time. I was coaching hockey, and my kids were younger. At that time, I knew the future was going to be crazy busy for us. I did talk with a couple of board members and former board members to see what the position was about, and it was interesting to me.”
Patience was particularly close with one board member.
“Bob and I were former neighbors,” Patience said. “I got to know him as a neighbor and also through the school district. He was the color (commentator) sports in the area. He’s just a real involved community member. When he stepped aside, the school board reached out and asked if I was interested. I checked with work, my fiance and my kids to make sure I had the green light.”
As a senior vice president at Bell Bank in Alexandria, Patience hopes his knowledge of finances can be an asset for the school board going forward.
“It seems like money is always one of the hot seats for school boards,” Patience said. “Maybe I can lend my experiences to help that process.”
Alexandria’s school board is filled with experienced leaders, but Patience aims to provide a new perspective to old and new problems.
“This board is extremely tenured,” Patience said. “I get an opportunity to sit next to those people who have been at it a long time and will give me their history of it. I think fresh voices are always a good thing. Bob was a fairly new member too. He was in the community for a very long time, but his position was fresh, and I hope to continue that.
“I’ve been in this community since 2002,” Patience said. “There’s a lot of things the board has done that I agree with, and there’s always room for improvement. Sometimes when you’re in the fight, you don’t know how to make it better. If I can provide something new that helps us move things along, that’d be awesome.”
Patience has been involved with a long list of community groups over the last 19 years. He served on the Budget Advisory Finance Council, Academies of Alexandria Freshman Advisory Committee, DECA volunteering and partnered on a summer externship program for one of the school’s business teachers. He currently serves on the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission Board of Directors, the AAEDC executive board, Alexandria Dollars for Scholars and Sertoma. He also coached youth hockey in Alexandria and is a former member of the Jaycees and Jingle Bells Foundation.
“You meet somebody, and the next thing you know is they’re asking you to join the Jaycees or Sertoma,” Patience said. “It kind of blossomed from minor beginnings and kept going. I had so much support from my family and employer. It was an opportunity to give back where I felt I’d been given so much.”
Patience plans to run for election in November and would like to serve on the school board for two terms. He sees it as another chance to pay it forward to the district that was so good to his two kids, Ethan and Elise.
“The reason I pursued this opportunity is because I want to give back to the schools that treated my kids so greatly,” Patience said. “I intend to put my whole heart into it. If the voting gods allow it to happen where I can get two terms out of this, that would be fantastic.”