Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Board Proves More Than a Little Fun She's a Stickler for Budget Reform

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Board Proves More Than a Little Fun She's a Stickler for Budget Reform

Article excerpt

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- When Judy Ham decided to run for the St.

Johns County School Board, she said the experience "might be

fun."

Now, a little more than a year later, the 51-year-old Ponte

Vedra Beach resident is the board's chairwoman. She has become a

stickler for reforms in the district's finance office and

acknowledges she has gained a reputation as being stern.

"You have to be," she said. "And that's one thing I guess I can

be, and I think that's one thing my training has helped me be. I

don't back off."

An Arkansas native and graduate of North Texas State University

with a master's degree in management, Ham just finished her

rookie year as an elected official. But she is a veteran of the

business world, having spent 17 years with the Atlantic

Richfield Co. as -- among other things -- a financial manager

for the oil company's portion of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

And, she has put that business acumen to work with the School

Board.

During her first year in office, Ham asked for an outside review

of the district's budgeting process and finance office. It was

part of a campaign promise to make the complicated and confusing

budget fathomable, she said.

As a result, the board intends to carry out study

recommendations that include the creation of a new finance

manager's position and accounting changes that will better

address the future needs of the district.

Newly-appointed Vice Chairwoman Judy Krug nominated Ham for the

chair in November. Krug said Ham's interest in district finances

and firm businesslike approach dove-tailed with the need to

enact those changes.

"We do need some help there, and we need someone with some

expertise to kind of help us," Krug said. "She's very forthright

and I like that. She comes right out and says what she thinks.

She never says it in an unkind way, but she also doesn't

sugarcoat it."

Ham decided to run for the board when Pam Mullarkey, who

represented the northeastern part of the county, decided not to

seek re-election.

It was at a time when Ham said she was pondering whether she

wanted to go back to work. She left Atlantic Richfield when she

and husband, Bill, had their daughter, Callie.

Because Callie, now 10, was in Rawlings Elementary School, Ham

became involved in the school's parent, teacher, student

organization and served as its president.

At the time, she said she became disturbed when a conflict

between a teacher and a student was not quickly resolved. A

simple transfer out of the class for the student remained

stalled, Ham said, because the bureaucracy resisted.

"They felt like if they ever made a change then that would open

the door to have to make a change for everybody," she said. …

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