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Leonardtown Middle School teacher Anna Laughlin was elected this month as the new president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County.

She will take over the helm of the 900-member organization in July from Wanda Twigg, who has served on and off as president for eight of the last 12 years.

“I intend to visit the schools whenever I can,” Laughlin said this week. She also wants to highlight the ways teachers help in their community outside of school in churches and civic groups to help improve educators’ image.

Laughlin, who is the current vice president of the union and acknowledged she is known for her sometimes heated public rhetoric in support of schools and school employees, said she will continue to be a vocal supporter of teachers’ rights and pay during budget hearings and other public events. She also said she is looking forward to working with local and state public officials.

Laughlin ran against Peg Johnson, a Spring Ridge Middle School teacher, and Christian Meyers from Esperanza Middle School. An initial vote did not yield a majority for any candidate, so the association held a runoff vote between Laughlin and Johnson. “It was very close, so we had a recount on the very same day,” Laughlin said. The count held, and Laughlin won by 20 votes out of nearly 600 cast.

She said that she did not remember there ever being more than one person vying for the EASMC president job since she has been teaching in St. Mary’s.

Laughlin will start her two-year term July 10. The new vice president of EASMC is Billy Breslin, an English teacher at Leonardtown High School.

She said after gearing up for the start of the next school year, a primary focus will be getting involved in November’s election, including supporting the school board candidates endorsed earlier this year by the union.

Twigg, who is now running for vice president of the Maryland State Education Association, said Laughlin’s experience and passion will serve her well in her new role. “There’s always a learning curve for anyone who comes in,” Twigg said, adding that she will continue to support the local union.

“I’m looking forward to the next level,” she said. “I think she’s going to do just fine.”

Laughlin, 55, of Lusby has been the vice president for five different presidents in the St. Mary’s school union, but had never run for president herself because she was raising her daughter, she said. Now that her daughter is a freshman in college, Laughlin said she is ready to devote the time needed for the president position.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she said.

“I want to get the leadership back into the schools more often” to hear directly from employees, she said. “I want the face of the union to be out there more often.”

She has taught for 34 years, the last 24 in St. Mary’s. She worked as a special education teacher and most recently as a social studies teacher at Leonardtown Middle School. She also directs the school play each year at the middle school.

Her teaching duties will be put on hold for the next two years; the president position is a full-time spot with an office located in the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in California.

As president, her salary will remain about the same as it currently is as a teacher, but will be paid for by union dues.

jyeatman@somdnews.com