At the Hazelwood School District's (HSD) Meet the Candidates forum held in February as an effort to get district voters some time with the board of education candidates, veteran board member Mark Behlmann was his normal self.
Always one to speak with residents and to crack jokes with fellow board members, he sat down between an incumbent he considers his sister, and a new face aiming to replace someone, ready to show why he needs to remain on the board of education.
"I've been a fixture in this community my entire life, I was born and raised here," Behlmann said. "My heritage here. My family was grown here. My ancestors were the founding ancestors of the Hazelwood School District."
Behlmann is one of three candidates running for two seats on the Hazelwood School District's Board of Education in the April 3 election. The others are Desiree Whitlock and Keith Boykin Sr. Behlmann and Whitlock are incumbents.
Why Board of Education?
Behlmann said the job of board member is a serious duty that isn't always easy.
"I care about this district," he said. "There are seven people that volunteer their time.
"It's a minimum of once a week, but it goes way beyond that."
The board of education positions is a volunteer that lacks a salary, which is why Behlmann posed the question of why someone would care about it? Answering his own question with one word: passion.
"There's 365 days in the year, and 364 days of the year I hate this job," he said. "But there's one day of the year, and that's the one day we have Hazelwood East, Central and West at graduation."
Behlmann said throughout the year board members make tough decisions about personnel, budgets, curriculum and a lot of other things that make you hate your work. Although said graduation is the most rewarding aspect of being a board member.
"We have something like 2,000 kids walk across the stage and I get to shake their hands," he said. "That one day, that one day is what makes it all worth it."
A Bit of a Reward
Behlmann has been on the board of education for 15 years and said 2009 was a special year for him.
"I can remember in '09 that was my twelfth year being on the board," he said. "And what was monumental about that was that kids that started in kindergarten (during Behlmann's first year as a board member) were graduating that year, and that was extra special to me."
When it comes to a very important issue in the Hazelwood School District, open enrollment, Behlmann has always been vocal about his views. At the recent candidate forum Behlmann didn't take a stance for or against the measure.
"I think ultimately what's going to end up happening is that the Hazelwood School District is going to have to absorb these children," Behlmann said. "And we'll take them. We love them."
Behlmann also said that money isn't an issue but is a concern.
"Right now we don't have a guarantee that we are going to get paid to put these kids through school," he said.
A journeyman carpenter, he is a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School who operated a custom home building business for 22 years until retiring in 2010. He is the builder and developer of the North County subdivision Parc Argonne Est.
He has served as director and president of the Greater North County Chamber of Commerce, president of the Florissant Parks Foundation, president of the Friends of Pallottine, and director on the Pallottine Renewal Center Board. He is also a member of the North County Incorporated Regional Development Association, Old Jamestown Association, Old Town Partners, St. Louis Home Builders Association and the Spanish Lake Democratic Club.
He received the highest level of certification offered by the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA). He also served as director for MSBA and was the Region 7 Governmental Relations Chair.
Behlmann is a widower with one daughter, Kari, and two granddaughters.