CRESTVIEW — A new era was ushered in Tuesday evening for Okaloosa County schools.
New Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson took her oath of office alongside new School Board member Dewey Destin. Cathy Thigpen, who won re-election over two challengers, also was sworn in for a fourth term.
Jackson replaces Alexis Tibbetts, who served as superintendent for the last six years. Destin replaced Chuck Kelley after running unopposed for the seat.
Kelley did not seek a third term.
“I realize what a tremendous responsibility this is and the only thing I can promise the people that voted for me is the bottom of every decision I make will be for the welfare of their children,” Jackson said. “That will be what we measure everything by.”
The ceremony came almost two years after Jackson announced her intention to run for superintendent. She said it had been a long road and that she couldn’t be more pleased to finally be on the job.
“We’re ready and anxious to go,” she said.
About 200 people gathered to welcome Jackson and Destin to their new roles at Shoal River Middle School. A short reception preceded the swearing-in.
The school district opted to hold the ceremony at Shoal River rather than the main office in Fort Walton Beach for several reasons, Jackson said.
Not only did it seem appropriate because she and Thigpen are from the north end of the county, but the school had an area for the reception and a stage for the ceremony.
Jackson, Thigpen and Destin were sworn in by a person of their choice.
Destin said he was looking forward to the challenge. He previously served on the Destin City Council, and said he expects the new role will come with a learning curve.
“I’m going to sit and listen for a while,” he said with a smile.
Thigpen said she plans to continue on the path she began 12 years ago.
“For me, it’s just the superintendent and the School Board developing a vision, a common vision,” she said. “Always keeping in mind who put us here.”
Many people at the ceremony said they came out to support Jackson, and were hopeful about the future.
“She’s very attuned to the needs of the students and the teachers and the community as a whole,” said Champee Kemp, a retired educator.
Several others echoed her sentiment. They said Jackson has what it takes to improve the district.
“I believe in Mary Beth Jackson,” said Karen Minks, a kindergarten teacher at Florosa Elementary School. “(And) I think it’s time for change.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Katie Tammen at 850-315-4440 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KatieTnwfdn.