This is a feature story on School Board Vice President Randy Hutchinson.
School Board Vice President
The current longest tenured school board member is a Springdale High School graduate who might never have been involved in Springdale Schools if his father hadn’t done research on the district. Randy Hutchinson’s basketball skills landed him at Southwest Junior High and to eventually becoming an all-state basketball player at SHS.
“I didn’t know this until many years later but while we were in the process of moving from Fort Smith to Northwest Arkansas my father researched all the schools in the area to find out who the best junior high basketball coach was,” explains Hutchinson, who is beginning his 14th year on the school board. “He knew I was tall, had big hands and feet and could be a good basketball player.
“Dad discovered that Steve Price at Southwest was the best junior high basketball coach in Northwest Arkansas. I also played the tuba and Noel Morris was the Southwest band director. He was excellent as well. So, we bought a house in Springdale and I was ready to go to Southwest.”
Hutchinson almost didn’t make it to Southwest, though. His parents thought they had moved into Southwest’s zone but it turned out their home was zoned to Central Junior High even though it was two miles closer to Southwest than Central.
“Dad asked for a transfer and he took me to see Dr. (then Superintendent Jim) Rollins,” Hutchinson recalls. “I was about to be an eighth grader and went in to see him by myself. I explained the situation. He couldn’t have been nicer. He signed the form and I was enrolled at Southwest.”
He spent two happy years at Southwest, playing basketball, football for coach Bruce Matthews and tuba in the band. He enjoyed all three activities but his father advised him to choose only one as he began high school.
“Dad suggested basketball, so that’s what I did,” Hutchinson remembers. “That didn’t make Pat Ellison (band director) or Jarrell Williams (football coach) very happy. I was going to be a tight end in football. If I have one regret about my time at Springdale High, it’s that I didn’t play football.”
Hutchinson thought he would be playing basketball for coach Dwight Gilbert but before Hutchinson’s sophomore campaign, Gilbert took another job. Jim Hamilton became the coach. Hutchinson still had a wonderful career, starting his entire junior (except for one game) and senior seasons and enduring when several players decided to leave the program.
He thought he had a future in basketball until he spent his freshman year at John Brown University and saw very little playing time. He decided to transfer to the University of Arkansas where he earned a degree in business.
“I met my wife, Cynthia, while I was at the UA,” Hutchinson says. “We had a late winter storm and I was at our fraternity house when Cynthia and a couple of her friends came by. She was competing in the Miss UA pageant. My ex-girlfriend had competed in several pageants so I was well versed in them. That prompted conversation with Cynthia. We clicked, had a date a week later and have been hanging out ever since.”
Ever since is 29 years of marriage. That’s a year less than Hutchinson has worked for Shelter Insurance.
“My mom had been working with Steve Harp, a Shelter agent, for years,” Hutchinson says. “Steve heard Shelter was hiring and, unbeknownst to me, put my name in the hat. I had accepted a job with Dillard’s and was about to go into management training in Little Rock. Walmart had talked to me about a job but I would have had to start in Grove, Oklahoma, so I accepted Dillard’s instead.
“I got a call from Shelter telling me there was a claims adjuster position opening. It sounded pretty neat so I interviewed and got the job. It was hard calling Dillard’s to tell them I wasn’t coming. They’ve managed to do all right without me.
“After a little more than six years as a claims adjuster, I became an agent. I love working with people and, since several of my clients are UA international students, I can truthfully say I insure people from all over the world. Shelter has been a great company to work for. It’s all I’ve ever known. I have many friends who have had four or five jobs in the 30 years I have been with Shelter.”
Settled in Northwest Arkansas, happily married and raising three boys, Hutchinson was invited by his good friend and SHS classmate Mike Luttrell to run for a position on the school board. Luttrell was moving and could not run for his zoned position on the board.
“Mike knew how involved I was with our sons’ booster clubs and PTAs,” says Hutchinson. “He thought I should run. I didn’t know anything about what school boards did. I had met Dr. Rollins as an eighth grader but I didn’t know anyone else on the administrative staff.
“I met with Mike and Annette (now Thompson) Freeman, who was principal at George Elementary where our sons had all attended. They convinced me to run. I was unopposed. I think the vote was 2-0 since my wife and I were the only ones who voted.”
Once he joined the board, he was immediately intimidated. He recalls, “Doug Sprouse, Jim Van Bebber, Robert Farrell and Jim Bradford were on the board at the time. They were all extremely successful. I wondered what I had gotten into. I just listened. I really enjoyed it, though.
“When I started, Andrew was 12, Matthew was nine and Sam was eight. Now Andrew covers the Razorbacks for Rivals, Matthew works in Springdale and Sam just graduated from the UA and was just accepted into the master’s program for Supply Chain Management.
“So, they’ve been out of Springdale Schools for four years but I still enjoy going into the schools and meeting the students and teachers. Plus, Cynthia and I do photography and take photos at athletic events and other venues. It keeps us young and gives us a chance to stay plugged in. It would be great to have another 13 years on the board. I am a Springdale guy through and through.”
Also a member of the Arkansas School Board Association board who has been nominated for secretary-treasurer which, if he is elected, will lead to eventually being board president, Randy Hutchinson is a member of a strong school board that helps make Springdale Public Schools #THEChoice.