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The Lake County Board appointed Michael Karner Tuesday as successor to Roycealee Wood, the longtime Lake County regional superintendent of schools who retired earlier this month to focus on her health after contracting COVID-19.

Karner, the principal of the Regional Safe School of Lake County in Zion, was selected by Board President Sandy Hart and unanimously confirmed by County Board members to fill the elected post at a special Tuesday morning Zoom meeting.

Karner said he was honored by the appointment.

“I will always put students first and I promise that I’ll make sure to work with the superintendents of Lake County school boards to make sure they are supported and that their needs are met,” Karner said at the meeting.

Hart, who relied on input from high-ranking school leaders when selecting Karner from a group of applicants, said normally the board would wait until its regular meeting to confirm Wood’s replacement, but several superintendents urged her to act quickly because the signature of the county superintendent of schools is needed on many documents associated with construction.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Karner said he had already signed the construction documents.

Karner, who is also a coach for the Antioch Community High School varsity football team, said he will continue on as principal of the Regional Safe School for a week or two while his replacement is sorted out. He said he is undecided on whether he will walk away from his role with Antioch High football, which finished an undefeated campaign on Friday.

As soon as he is able, Karner said he plans to work as regional superintendent of schools full time and intends to run for a full term in the 2022 election.

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Wood was the only Republican serving in a countywide elected office. Hart, a Democrat, had to select a Republican to finish the rest of Wood’s term.

Hart said at the meeting to qualify as a Republican the replacement needed to have voted as a Republican in the most recent primary election and that Karner met that qualification.

Mark Shaw, the chairman of the Lake County Republicans, said he was surprised that he was not consulted by Hart during the process to find Wood’s replacement.

Shaw said he was on the selection committee to pick the replacement for Craig Taylor, a Republican county board member, when Taylor resigned in March. Taylor’s replacement needed to be a Republican as well.

Wood, 80, was first elected superintendent in 2002 and was serving her fifth term when she resigned. After “blue wave” elections in 2018 and 2020, Wood was the lone Republican serving in a countywide seat. She was unopposed when she last won reelection in 2018.

Karner said Wood did a lot of good for Lake County students and families in her time in the office, and he looks forward to stepping into the role.

This content was originally published here.