Robert MacGregor joked with Kelso residents during a public forum Thursday night that because of his Scottish heritage and plaid, kilted wardrobe, he already was a highlander.
On Friday, the Kelso School Board made him a Hilander.
Board members unanimously voted to offer MacGregor the district's superintendent job, a decision that drew cheers from those who showed up at the district office to hear the announcement.
MacGregor, an assistant superintendent with the Renton School District since 2006, impressed board members with his call for increased collaboration among teachers, said board President Bob Simmons. Simmons said comments from staff, students and residents in favor of MacGregor also helped push him to the top of a list of three finalists for the position.
The school board plans to work out a contract with MacGregor over the next week. Simmons said he expects the hire will be made official at the board's June 13 meeting.
MacGregor, 53, will replace Superintendent Glenys Hill, who is retiring after 12 years in Kelso. He is expected to begin July 1.
The school board chose MacGregor over Bethel School District assistant superintendent Ann Varkados and Tumwater assistant superintendent Bob Kuehl.
"I'm very pleased," said MacGregor, who spent Thursday night in Kelso and visited the district office Friday afternoon after hearing the news. "I think the Kelso district has done some great things. I think the skills and experience I bring to the district are a good fit and we can continue the good work."
School board members expressed relief Friday to have finally completed a search that took twice as long as expected.
The board initially picked three finalists in April, but two backed out of the running days before they were scheduled to interview. Board members reopened the search and selected three more finalists earlier this month. Varkados was a finalist in both searches.
"We came back with even stronger candidates," said board member Joan Tolby.
MacGregor didn't apply the first time around, he said, because he needed more time to discuss a possible move with his wife. When the job reopened, he was convinced he wanted it. Last month, MacGregor drove to Kelso to gauge how the community viewed the district's schools. Before leaving town, he bought a blue-and-gold Kelso cap, which he donned Friday.
A former elementary school teacher who spent more than two decades in the Ellensburg area, MacGregor said he plans to stay in Kelso until he retires.
"This is the last district I want to work in, period," he said.
School board member Roy Parsons said he's pleased with the result of the search.
"It would have been nice if we would have got through this the first time, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way," he said. "I think Kelso down the road will really be in top shape."