After 16 years, McKenna stepping down from school board |

After 16 years, McKenna stepping down from school board

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealJohn McKenna walks his dogs Dante and Tobe Thursday afternoon at Riverview Park. McKenna retired after 16 years on the Carson City School Board.

The headline of an editorial that ran in October 1992 in the Nevada Appeal read: “Board needs CPA.”

The editorial urged Carson City voters to elect John McKenna to the school board to restore trust lost after the 1990 bond, referred to in the article as the “asbestos boondoggle.”

“We need someone on the school board who knows how to handle money, contracts and accounting,” the editorial said. “Someone who knows how to find the answers without hoopla and grandstanding, and implement solutions. McKenna, with years of experience as a certified public accountant … has the knowledge and skills to bring sound financial oversight to the school board.”

Voters agreed, and McKenna was elected to the board.

In his 16 years of service, fellow trustee Norm Scoggin said, McKenna has proven that editorial correct.

“I think John is one of the better members we’ve ever had,” said Scoggin, an 11-year veteran of the school board. “His knowledge of finance is invaluable to us. He’s very unselfish, looking out not only for the students but everyone in the community.”

Having reached his term limit, McKenna did not run for re-election this year. He will be replaced by Steve Reynolds.

As a member of the school board, McKenna served as a representative to the Parks and Recreation Board for 12 years as well.

Both boards met on alternating Tuesdays, which means he’ll have that night free this week for the first time in more than a decade.

“I don’t expect much emotional distress over it,” he said. “I worked hard while I was there to do the job right, but I’m ready to leave.”

His philosophy while on the board, he said, was to “hire good people.”

“Give them clear direction and the resources to get the job done,” he said. “Then get out of the way.”

McKenna has been known as a straight-talker, sometimes inciting anger, like when he defended the school district’s position not to allow seniors to walk in graduation ceremonies if they had not passed the state-mandated proficiency exam.

He said to do otherwise would be “an invitation to mediocrity,” during the 2002 controversy.

He makes no apologies.

“I believe in honesty,” he said. “I think being harsh is not productive, but anything short of honesty is counterproductive. Not mincing words makes people think.”

McKenna, 63, is single with no children. However, he said, that did not excuse him from service to schools.

“There’s lots of reasons for everyone to take good care of kids,” he said.

One of those reasons for McKenna was his service in the Vietnam War.

“If I’m willing to do that to make the U.S. a bastion of freedom, why not take the time to provide an opportunity for our children, our future?”

An accountant since 1972, McKenna moved to Carson City in 1987.

He is also a member of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, featured in the May photo for this year’s calendar put out by the association.

He’s working with the association to complete a trail from Mount Rose to Reno, along with other projects.

“It gets me up in nature, out among the dirt and the rocks,” he said. “I get to work hard.”

His other passion is his two Cairn terriers, Toby and Dante.

Along with McKenna, trustee Bob Crowell will also leave the school board in January to assume his new role as Carson City mayor.

Applicants are being sought to replace Crowell.

As McKenna departs, he said he’s leaving the school district in “excellent condition, both educationally and financially.”

“They have a clear path to a good future,” he said.

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at or 881-1272.