Geist, 51, said the need for more time for family and changes in his employment are the reasons he won’t be running for a second term.
While he is still passionate about improving education in Cherokee, Geist said he decided not to run for re-election because his other commitments have left him with less time to devote to his job on the school board.
“The interesting thing about this political office is the sense of opportunity,” Geist said Thursday. “I think, if you take it seriously, there’s a certain burden you feel knowing that what you do is about trying to help the future for our children and position them for success in life. And it’s something that, I think, tends to consume your thoughts, regardless of whether or not a meeting is going on or an activity is taking place.”
Hickory Flat community member John Harmon had already announced his candidacy for the Post 3 seat in the May 20 primary elections.
Geist said his children are reaching ages that will demand more time from him as a parent. Geist and his wife Jen have 9-year-old twins, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old, and they are “all in activities.”
“My son’s playing baseball and football every year, we have my daughters in gymnastics, both of them, and they’re all also working on their studies,” Geist said. “And of course they’re at that age now when they need a little more help from dad than they may need in a few more years.”
Geist said he now works full time for a consulting firm, and time demands are making it difficult for him to participate in all the events and activities he’d like to be a part of.
“It’s a little bit more of a fast pace and high-pressure job than my other one was,” he said.
Geist said he has no plans to run for another office at the time, but said he may consider coming back to politics in the future.
“I don’t think there’s any political office that would be less demanding on my time than this one is,” Geist said. “Right now I’m just finding it a challenge to do everything I would like to do in my position on the school board. If I can’t do it to the degree I’d like to, I think the best thing to do is step away for a little while.”
Geist urged those who might fill his seat on the school board to “pay close attention to the wishes and the will of the people.”
“It’s easy to get caught up in what different interests who vie for your time want you to do, but the average citizen in the county may not have the opportunity to put forth their viewpoint as easily as some of those special interests,” Geist said. “You really have to work hard at listening to the people of the county and really knowing what they want as a group.”
Geist said Thursday he felt one of his biggest achievements was bringing more public debate about important county issues to the board.
“Although I know there can be some dangers in debate, or maybe a little lack of stability at times the last year or two, I think it’s good to have a healthy, open discussion, that brings a lot of different viewpoints” Geist said. “I think it’s important to have open, well-rounded discussions on topics like school choice and some of the other controversies that have come up over the last three years.”
In recent months, Geist often found himself the lone school board member to side with fellow member Kelly Marlow on several issues, drawing the attention of a local group that organized to rally against Marlow.
The SCRAM! group organized to recall Marlow last year after she wrote a letter to the school accrediting agency, AdvancED, calling for an investigation.
One thing Geist said he’s focused on is trying to make investments that will help lower the district’s operational costs in the future.
“One of the things I’ve kind of focused on the last couple of years is looking at how we can make investments to reduce our operational cost,” Geist said. “One of the things I’ve suggested is renewable energy, investing in solar power to take advantage of those big roofs we have around the county, also looking into how we can take advantage of digital technology.”
Geist said he hoped the board would move forward with using more digital technology in the future, and noted he thought there had been a shift in the board’s mindset on the subject.
Geist said he also advocated for changing SPLOST laws to allow for spending on digital content like digital textbooks and other educational tools, “to help bring down the recurring cost associated with content.”
Geist’s term will conclude at the end of the year, and a new school board member will be elected for a 2015-18 term.