'Surprise' school board resignation is the talk of Everett

by: Deborah Horne Updated:

EVERETT, Wash. -  Jeffrey Russell resigned last Sunday after four years on the Everett School Board.

It is the same day he took a leave of absence from his job as a Lutheran pastor.

All he said in his resignation letter was that he needs to restore his "emotional health and balance."

So we went in search of Russell.

Our search began at his Everett home.

 "Knock, knock, knock."

 No one answered the door. But a few minutes after we left, someone closed the blinds.  So we asked what kind of neighbors Everett's now former School Board president and his family have been.

  "To themselves," Summer McMurtrey said.  In the year she has lived here, McMurtrey said neither Russell, his wife nor their three daughters have had much to do with their neighbors.

  "They'll play Frisbee out in the front yard and stuff like that and walk their dogs but they don't really talk to any of us," said McMurtrey. 

  They don't mingle with the neighbors?  "No," she replied.

  Fifty-one-year-old Jeffrey Russell has been pastor at Everett's Central Lutheran Church since 1991.   He was elected to the Everett School Board in 2009; chosen last December by his peers to be Board president.

Russell was on the board in 2011 when internal divisions erupted during a closed door meeting and were captured on video.  At one point, there was even talk of trying to recall him. 

But one parent, who is also a Snohomish County judge, said he always respected Russell.

"I thought he was an effective board member and pleased that he became president of the board," said Joe Wilson.  "I'm surprised by his resignation."

 "We were all surprised," said Mary Waggoner, Everett School Board communications director. "So none of us was ready for that."

 Now his colleagues are on a fast track to replace him.

 "The board must fill this position within 90 days," Waggoner said. 

  Anyone can apply to replace Russell.  The board plans to select his replacement on Jan. 9th.

Whoever is appointed will serve out the last two years of his six-year term.