Richmond Hill Mayor Pro Tem Tara Baraniak has been a vocal proponent for the city and its local government since she took office in 2017. That won’t change, Baraniak said Tuesday, despite her decision to relinquish her seat after the council’s second August meeting.
“I’ll always figure out a way to be involved in my community,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll run again, but I’ll always be involved.”
Baraniak is leaving Richmond Hill to accompany her daughter Camryn to Jacksonville in the fall. Camryn, 12 and a top swimmer, was accepted to the prestigious Bolles School and will enter as an eighth grader.
In addition to tough academics, the school, renowned for its athletics (it’s where Chipper Jones went to high school ) has one of the top swimming programs in the country and counts a number of Olympians as alumni. Baraniak said her daughter decided to apply on her own and, given the school’s acceptance rate of about 50 percent, wasn’t sure she’d get in. Baraniak, whose husband Brian owns B&P painting company, said she was proud of her daughter for chasing the chance of a lifetime.
“We weren’t going to tell her no. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” Baraniak said, quoting hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
The move won’t be an easy one for her daughter to make, Baraniak said.
“All she’s known is Richmond Hill, and we love Bryan County Schools. She’s been blessed with awesome teachers and friends, and the swim program, with her coaches and teammates is just great. The dynamics here are so wonderful, it’s just that this (Bolles) is a great school,” Baraniak said, noting that “the biggest thing is the emotional attachment. That’s going to be the hard part for her, she’ll miss a lot of people, because people are what make this city tick, it’s what makes this a great place to live.”
Baraniak is the third council member in 2019 to leave due to opportunities elsewhere. District 3 representative John Fesperman resigned his seat in March after he took a job in Columbus, which led council members and Mayor Russ Carpenter to call for his resignation, and Fesperman was later replaced by Bill Donahue. District 4 representative Jan Bass resigned in February to take a job in Tennessee and was replaced by Les Fussell. Both men were appointed by council after applications were sought from the public.
The resignations and replacements followed the death in December of Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Murphy after he lost a lengthy battle with cancer. Baraniak credited Murphy with getting her involved in planning and zoning, and in encouraging her to run for office.
Former United Way Director Kristi Cox was elected in his stead, and Baraniak gave the new council and Mayor Russ Carpenter high marks.
“I think we have a great team,” she said. “I think we have a good thing going, and I’m going to miss being on that team. I love everything about it.”
Her seat will be up for election in the fall. It will remain vacant until then.
She said she did not want the city to pay for an election.