Grant's retreat: Board departure a mystery

Gary Grant is no stranger to the hot seat. In fact, he's been on it pretty consistently since he was elected to the at-large seat on the Albemarle County School Board in 1999.

Grant ran for office as the information candidate, and, true to his word, he published a clear and detailed account of every school board meeting. His At-Large District Constituents' Report managed to irk fellow board members and resulted in public rebukes when he annually reported which teachers didn't make the cut to have their contracts renewed by the county.

But his insistence on making public records public earned him as many admirers too– including the esteemed Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

What caused him to throw down his pen at the March 27 school board meeting and publicly acknowledge in a 1:42am email sent to the 300 recipients of his Constituents' Report that not only did he not want to be at that particular meeting, but that he wasn't running for reƫlection?

Was it weariness with a contentious school board? Was it an upcoming election against well-organized opponent Brian Wheeler?

He won't say. But he denies he's having a midlife crisis.

Grant's only other forays into politics came at his Iowa high school where he served as freshman and junior class president. "No one else wanted the job," he says, because it involved running a magazine sale and organizing the prom.

Before joining the school board, Grant was best known for his journalistic stints at the Observer and WINA.

His radio career began at age 12. "My father owned a radio station, and he needed Saturdays off so he could go to Iowa State football games," recalls Grant.

He admits that reporting got in his blood, but says, "I don't miss the money."

These days, Grant is a house dad by choice. He referees soccer games and works part time at the post office in Ruckersville. He estimates that school board business takes an average 15 to 20 hours a week, and he marvels at how people who hold full-time jobs manage to serve.

He clears up one misperception. "Some people think I'm a social conservative as well as a fiscal conservative. I'm not," says Grant, citing his support for a woman's right to choose and his opposition to the death penalty.

And where does the soon-to-be ex-school board member see himself in five years? "I'd still like to be refereeing soccer," he says. And while he doesn't exclude taking up politics again in the future, for right now, "I'm not actively thinking about it."

Meanwhile, Grant remains mum about why he's not running again, but perhaps the real story will come out if he ever manages to live his Walter Mitty fantasy.

Age: 54

What brought you here? A job at WCHV in 1984 after vacationing here in 1982

What's worst about living here? Land prices

Favorite hangout? Kitchen table

Most overrated virtue? Compromise

What would people be surprised to know about you? I used to open bodies for autopsies at a Seattle morgue in 1971.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Shyness in social settings

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Having taught school for six years

What do people find most annoying about you? I don't know, but I'd like to.

Whom do you admire? Del. Rob Bell, Larry Sabato, Dick Mountjoy, Rosa Parks, skilled workers (carpenters, plumbers, masons, etc.)

Favorite book? How Schools Really Work (Saul Cooperman) and Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

What subject causes you to rant? Public officials who keep public information from the public

What thrills you about life in the 21st century?

 "Millennials" (the generation born since 1982)

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century?

 The misery of children in Third World countries

What do you drive? 1998 Toyota 4-Runner

What's in your car CD player right now?

 Never anything. I prefer listening to news.

What's your next journey? I'd like to save some money to take our adopted daughter to Russia to meet her two sisters, whom she hasn't seen for 10 years.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Jailed in Kampala, Uganda, in 1972 under suspicion of spying while in the Peace Corps.

What do you regret? October 31, 1993 [On that date, Grant's, 21-month-old daughter died in her crib of natural but unknown causes.]

Favorite comfort food? Popcorn

What's always in your refrigerator? Unused soy sauce, hot mustard, and duck sauce packets from Chinese restaurants

Must-see TV? USA Men's National Soccer Team games

Favorite cartoon? Sally Forth

 Describe a perfect day. Breakfast of waffles and decaf coffee on a sunny porch, browsing antique stores with my spouse, watching my children's soccer games, and finishing the day with a spicy Chinese buffet.

Walter Mitty fantasy? Writing a best-selling novel based on characters from the Albemarle School Board

Who'd play you in the movie? Cary Grant– we have the same birthday.



Most embarrassing moment? Dropping a friend's birthday cake on her doorstep

Best advice you ever got? No good deed goes unpunished Favorite bumper sticker? Ignore your rights and they'll go away.