The Gila Community College board (GCC) has patiently waited nine months for a new board member to replace Tom Loeffler, but the wait for the newest member to the family was well worth it.
John Zilisch’s resumé reports he has lived in Payson for 13 years. He has a bachelor’s and master’s in education from the University of Wisconsin. Zilisch also worked in Chile as a Peace Corps volunteer.
His career spanned 35 years working for Caterpillar in Illinois in positions as diverse as field engineer to director and facility manager of Caterpillar Training Schools.
As the director of the major component remanufacturing program, he had an operating budget of more than $20 million.
As he moved through his various jobs with Caterpillar, he continued to maintain and manage budgets.
“In each case, I was solely responsible for budget preparation, approval and control,” said Zilisch in his application to Gila County Superintendent of Schools Linda O’Dell.
In a press release, O’Dell said she picked Zilisch out of seven eligible candidates.
O’Dell expressed her confidence in Zilisch’s “ability to work with the other board members as they collaborate to address the many challenges faced by Gila Community College,” she wrote.
She has placed her confidence well. Since moving to Payson, Zilisch has not simply sat in his rocker sipping lemonade on the porch.
His resumé includes seven years as the president of the charity organization Payson Helping Payson, a member of the board of directors of the Gila County Community Action Program, three years of service on the governing board of his church. In addition, as an organizer for the Rim Country Classic Auto Club’s Beeline Cruise-In Car Show, his group brought in $40,000 for local Payson charities.
He admits he did not wish to add more onto his retirement plate, but his commitment to educational excellence compelled him to apply.
“I really didn’t want to apply for this position. Being retired, I had many, far more interesting pursuits to occupy my time. However, throughout my academic and professional career, I have had a passion for the pursuit of excellence in both education and training. Therefore, as a duty to this community, I can assure you that I will give my best to see that our students have every opportunity to grow in wisdom and skill … enriching their lives,” he said in a statement to O’Dell.
In an interview with the Roundup, Zilisch said when not volunteering, he either zips about in his 1968 convertible Shelby or goes RVing with the local Wheels Away group.
We’ve gone to places on the Rim, to National Parks, and along the Oregon/Washington state coastline,” he said.
GCC Governing Board President Sam Moorhead is happy with the appointment. The board members have wondered about a replacement for Loeffler, who resigned in July, for months.
“I’m very pleased that he has been appointed,” said Moorhead, “I am looking forward to further conversations with him and working with him to provide educational opportunities in Gila County.”
Moorhead will get the chance to talk with Zilisch in person, since the new board member plans on participating in his first meeting in Globe. The divisions between north and south have long bedeviled the board.
In addition, Zilisch brings a personal connection with the Rim Country Education Alliance (SLE) to the table. Zilisch and Steve Drury, president of the SLE board, are personal friends.
Although Zilisch does not have plans in the hopper for the two organizations, he and Drury meet every Wednesday for breakfast to swap books in an informal exchange. Zilisch and Drury also attend the same church. He said the two will have plenty of chances to check in on the progress of the two organizations.
Zilisch’s appointment will end on Dec. 31, 2014, but he could run in November to stay on the board until December of 2016, said O’Dell’s office.
For more information on the election timeline and requirements for community college and school district governing boards, see Gila County Schools website: www.gilacountyschools.org.