In their first order of business Tuesday night, the new Riverside Elementary School District 96 school board elected a new board president.

The board, with four new members sworn in just moments before, voted 5 to 1, with one abstention to select Mary Ellen Meindl over the previous board president, Nancy Jensen.

Jensen cast the only vote for herself.

Meindl, looking clearly uncomfortable, abstained from voting. Mary Stimming, Jennifer Leimberer and new board members David Kodama, Michael O’Brien and Art Perry voted for Meindl, though O’Brien hesitated before raising his hand to vote for Meindl.

Stimming nominated Meindl for board president.

It was not a post that Meindl, who has served on the board for two years, sought last night.

“I would not have nominated myself,” Meindl said. “I wanted Nancy Jensen as president.”

But Meindl said she didn’t want to turn down the nomination.

“I could have turned down the nomination,” Meindl said. “If it wasn’t Nancy, I think I was the second-best choice. When Mary nominated me, I said OK the time is now. We’ll see what happens.”

In nominating Meindl, Stimming said that she felt the board was in a time of transition.

“The board under Nancy’s leadership has been one that worked well together,” Stimming said. “The election results do indicate that we are beginning a transition now. A change in leadership does not mean that Nancy’s experience and leadership will be lost on this board.”

Jensen nominated herself for board president. O’Brien seconded her nomination.

After the nominations were closed, the two candidates for board president had an opportunity to try and persuade their colleagues to vote for them. 

Meindl declined to say anything on her own behalf.

Jensen, who has served for 10 years on the board and as board president the last two years, sought to maintain her position as board president.

“I think that [Meindl] will make a great board president someday,” Jensen said. “I feel that I would like to suggest that you consider my experience on the board. We’re going to be hiring a new superintendent. I’m the only one on the board who has experience doing that. Among the six of you, you’ve got six years of experience on the board. I just want you to consider the experience that I have.”

But her colleagues decided that change trumped experience, and Meindl was elected.

Stimming was selected board vice president in a unanimous vote.

Meindl said that while she had hoped to be board president someday, she wanted it to be after Jensen stepped down from the board.

But although the office came to her sooner than she desired or expected, she said that she will do her best.

“It would have been easier for me to have Nancy remain as president, as we face many challenges, but it is what it is,” Meindl. “I wouldn’t put myself in a spot I didn’t think I could handle.

“Do I walk in with a little fear? Of course, but I have enough confidence in myself and it’s important to me, and I’m willing to do the hard work it will take to get myself up to speed.”