‘I love this community’: United Way leader wins unanimous approval for Hamilton school board seat

The new face on the governing board of Hamilton Schools isn’t a new face to the community.

Longtime Butler County United Way President and CEO Margaret Baker was unanimously voted Thursday evening to fill the Hamilton Board of Education’s open seat, vacated by the recent passing of member Tom Alf.

A prominent resident, former city civil service commission and local bank vice president, Baker has lived in the Butler County city for more than four decades.

Baker was among six who applied for the open school board seat. Board terms are usually four years, but Baker would have to be elected in November 2021 to keep this seat after her appointment.

She is the first female Hamilton school board member since Anna Harvey completed her four-year term in 2014.

Newly elected board newcomer Shaquila Mathews, who was unopposed on the November ballot along with Alf as the only two candidates, is scheduled to be sworn in at the board’s Jan. 9 meeting.

It’s the first time the 61-year-old Baker has held a publicly elected office, and she said her deep roots and “passion” for Hamilton drove her to interview for the board appointment.

“I had been thinking about the school board for quite a while … I’ve had a banking background for 30 years and then for the last six years I’ve been with the United Way and we are very passionate about education,” said Baker, who was raised in Oxford and graduated from Talawanda Schools and later from Miami University.

“I love this community and I’m honored they (board members) gave me the opportunity and I’m really excited about what we can do,” she said.

She was senior vice president for commercial lending for 17 years at First Financial Bank in Hamilton.

Hamilton school board member Scott Kruger said he was pleased to see her join the board.

“I’m so happy she decided to apply for the position,” said Kruger.

Rob Weigel, president of the school board, said Baker, whose nickname is “Mag,” brought her extensive experience as a board candidate, making the member’s unanimous vote to seat her an easy one.

“Mag absolutely stood out to us as the best fit throughout this process. She brings a wealth of knowledge and relationships from her many years in the private sector and more recently in the nonprofit world. The board values the unique perspective she brings to the table,” said Weigel.

“The Hamilton community and our board of education lost a lifelong educator and tireless advocate for public education with the unexpected death of Mr. Tom Alf last November. Although it was with a heavy heart the Hamilton Board of Education is very excited to approve Mag Baker’s nomination” to fill Alf’s seat, he said.

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