The name that jumps off the ballot more than any other Philomath School Board candidate for the May election is former high school football coach Troy Muir.
A degree of controversy accompanies Muir’s candidacy for the seat currently held by Rick Wells. The school superintendent fired Muir in December 2016 following a football hazing investigation and the Philomath School Board upheld the decision during an appeal that followed.
With that in his past, it’s not difficult to speculate that Muir might have an ax to grind against the school district.
“I went into the appeal that I thought I was the right person for the job, still even through the ordeal that we went through, to help guide and bring the community back together, keep the football team intact and obviously try to change the direction of it,” Muir said. “Was I angry about the way it all went down? There’s no changing that at this point and I kinda just washed it under the bridge at that point.”
During the summer of 2016, Philomath High’s football team was involved in a hazing incident against 11 freshmen at Camp Rilea, a conditioning camp near Warrenton that the Warriors had participated in for several years.
The Oregon State Police conducted an investigation that led to charges against six players and a volunteer assistant. The school board canceled the 2016 varsity football season and conducted its own hazing-related investigation and among the outcomes was Muir’s dismissal.
After the appeal hearing, Muir said he understood why the school board voted to uphold the superintendent’s decision. He knows that running for the school board is controversial but feels that he can contribute to the district’s governance.
“I thought it was the right time to put my resources, my background, my knowledge of the district to work back within the district,” Muir said. “Obviously I’m not doing that as an employee now but I see this as a way for me to give back to our school district, which has a direct impact on our kids. And it’s not just football kids, it’s everybody’s kids.”
As far as his reasons for wanting to run for the school board, Muir went to a meeting for the first time in two years in December. That night, longtime board member Rick Wells announced that he would not be running again.
“That kinda hit home for, honestly. I don’t think I would’ve ran — at least not against that position,” said Muir, who said he appreciated Wells’s approach to the job. “I always felt comfortable in asking him questions and getting a straightforward, no-nonsense kind of answer and I think that’s a definite need on our board.”
Asked if he feels like he has community support for his candidacy, Muir said he would like to think so. As far as the other end of the spectrum, he said he hasn’t experienced much more opposition to the idea beyond what he would expect.
“There’s going to be people on both sides of that (the hazing issue) and I would hope that if there’s genuine concern or questions, that people would just come and straight up ask me,” Muir said. “I’m obviously very accessible and I have no problems taking time out of my day to answer questions.”
With the hazing investigation and the fallout that followed, would Muir have an agenda if he gets voted on to the board?
“Obviously, I’m going to have my opinions but I think the nice thing about me being away from the grind and the meetings the majority of the time is I have no real opinions on what’s going on currently,” Muir said.