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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville City Council has voted to fill the vacant District 4 seat on the Huntsville City School Board.

The council chose Ryan Renaud to replace former HCS Board of Education Vice President Walter McGinnis. Reynaud was one of five candidates who interviewed for the position.

“We are grateful to all the applicants who expressed a desire to serve our community. Each one brought a unique set of skills and experience,” City Council President Jennie Robinson said. “We wish Mr. Renaud much success in his service on the Board of Education and look forward to working together to make our schools and community even better.”

“I look forward to working with our new school board member for the betterment of the students and schools of District 4 and of the community,” said District 4 Council Member Bill Kling.

Renaud’s selection came after a fiery discussion in the city council chambers Thursday night. The first vote not actually ending with Renaud’s selection. Instead, Phillip Cagle was nominated and received the majority vote after an executive session, which is held behind closed doors.

After that vote, council members Frances Akridge and Devyn Keith expressed issue with something that happened inside that executive session.

“I object to whatever action was taken in that room,” Akridge said.

What exactly was said, News 19 does not know, as we were not permitted inside the Executive Session.

We do know the vote to fill the vacancy is meant to be objective based on information given by Human Resources and background checks; however, information was brought forward directly after the session Akridge and Keith said could have influenced that decision.

The information is from Council Member Bill Kling, who brought information to city attorney Trey Riley immediately following the Executive Session, while other Council Members were in the space. Kling said there should not have been an issue among other council members because he was asking a question as an individual council member.

“Trying to get some things cleared up about the process that they had used and anytime a city council member can certainly talk to the city attorney and we had adjourned the special executive session so I think that was certainly in order to ask questions,” Kling said.

The information Kling had was not made known to every council member in the session overtly.

“There was a statement made about the information. It was made in a room. I heard it,” Keith said. “There is information being considered that is outside the purview of the objective in which we put together which was interview information as well as information such as a background check. What is the point of a background check and what is the point of other considerations put together inside of the executive session, if, at the end of the day, we all bring in things that have no consideration of where they come from,” Keith said.

The frustration over this exchange led councilman Keith to leave the room at one point.

“If that was background information that it was public knowledge. Our professional [Riley] who makes more than we make, who accounts for every position in this city would have found it in the background check but you got the information I did not get. That’s sad,” Keith said.

City council members then went back into an executive session once again to talk about the candidates. When they returned this time, Council Member John Meredith changed his vote to Renaud, giving him the majority and making him the new District 4 School Board Member.

“It certainly is unfortunate having one’s name drug through the mud, it’s never something you look forward to, but it’s the reality and nature of the beast that is local governance,” Ryan Renaud said.

He says he’s a product of Huntsville City Schools himself, and he looks forward to giving back to his school system in his new role.

“That’s my focus; maintaining focus on the school system and getting to work, so I’m grateful and very humble for the opportunity and I look forward to getting to work for District 4,” he said.

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley released a statement after the vote, “Ryan Renaud brings a wealth of knowledge and unique experiences to the Huntsville City Board of Education. We are grateful for his willingness to represent the students, families, and community members of District 4.”

Board President Elisa Ferrell said, “We are pleased to welcome Ryan Renaud to the Huntsville City Board of Education. We look forward to future collaboration, advocacy, and partnership as we work together to serve the students and staff members of Huntsville City Schools.”

McGinnis stepped down due to health concerns. Reynard will hold the seat until McGinnis’ term expires in November 2022.

Renaud is a mortgage loan originator for Trustmark Bank. A Huntsville High graduate, Renaud attended the University of Alabama, where he studied political science, international relations and criminal justice. He ran against McGinnis for the District 4 seat in 2018.