Thomas Speed bid adieu to the State Board of Education Thursday, ending nearly a decade representing the northwestern part of the state on a panel that promises to become much more contentious in the upcoming months.
Speed, an attorney from Boone, was named to the board in May 2003 by former Gov. Michael Easley. His term expired in March 2011, but Republican lawmakers failed to approve Gov. Bev Purdue’s nominations for his seat and two others, including the one held by Chairman Bill Harrison. So the trio has continued to serve.
“They had appointments that were not approved by the legislature,” Speed said. “That’s the reason I’m a so-called holdover. But the seat will remain vacant until there’s an appointment, and that’s likely to be sometime this spring.”
Speed said he was leaving the board because an increased workload was making it difficult for him to fulfill his duties on the board. “It’s hard for me to get away from court to be here,” he said. “I decided if I couldn’t be here as I should, then I should step down.”
His words were brief. He said his nine years and eight months on the board had been “educational” and “a great experience.” His actions, however, seemed to speak volumes. At the end of the meeting, he lingered for a while after everyone else had left. Then he slowly walked out the door.