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The wrestler has paid his dues

Johnson City Press • Aug 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Public education needs relentless champions, and it’s hard to describe Dick Manahan as anything less.

As Staff Writer Brandon Paykamian reported in Friday’s edition, Dick will leave his role as a 17-year member of the Johnson City Board of Education in a few months, as he has chosen not to seek re-election in the November election.

Dick has spent his entire professional life and much of his personal life grappling to raise educational levels, most of it here in Johnson City.

His fighting spirit goes all the way back to his origins as a high school wrestler in Bloomington in the 1950s and his subsequent service in the U.S. Army.

Dick began his career in higher education in 1968, working in the financial offices at his alma mater, Illinois State University. After working his way up through the ranks in Illinois, he was named vice president for business affairs at Radford University in Virginia in 1976.

Five years later, Manahan arrived here at East Tennessee State University, where he has spent the past 37 years in various teaching and leadership roles, including a long tenure in stewardship over the university’s finances and the ETSU Foundation, the institution's charitable support arm. He continues to hold a faculty appointment in ETSU’s Clemmer College of Education.

In 1999, Dick joined Johnson City’s school board, where he reveled in the art of debate. His passionate personality sometimes wrinkled feathers among board members in those early years, but there was never any doubt that Dick was in the thick of it for teachers and pupils.

Those passions are never more evident than in his tenacious drive to keep Johnson City competitive for the best teachers in the profession. He has led the school board’s charge for salary increases throughout his service.

That same spirit is what makes him the board’s loudest voice against the way Johnson City Schools have been treated in Washington County’s school construction project funding scheme. He believes the county has shortchanged the city’s students and taxpayers, and he’s never been shy about his position.

This isn’t the first time Dick has decided against a re-election bid. He left the board in 2007 but couldn’t stay away for long, regaining his seat two years later. He coyly says this, too, could be just a break, as he might “reconsider” running again some day. That’s the Dick Manahan we’ve come to know.

Even after he leaves the board, we suspect Dick will continue wrestling with county officials, state leaders and anyone else who he thinks is giving students and teachers the short end of the stick.

ETSU and Johnson City students and parents owe Dick Manahan much gratitude for the countless hours he has devoted to education both as a professional and as community servant.

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