SUMMIT, NJ - The newest member of the Summit Board of Education is that rare public official who does not take office with a plan to immediately impose their vision on a community or governing body.
Instead, Katherine Kalin, a self-described "lacrosse mom," takes to her new responsibilities with caution and humility, intent on listening, observing and learning how the school system works before making any bold proposals.
"You can't come in with the answer," she says. "It's about listening then forming an opinion."
Kalin, who speaks with a slight English lilt that betrays her country of origin, has lived in the States for the past 20 years and in Summit for the past 12.
Her three children have grown up in the school system and are now 16, 15 and 11 years old.
Kalin never saw herself as taking a position of power or authority in the community. She has been content to raise her family and enjoy long runs with her golden Labrador retriever named Wilson.
"I'm not the type of person to put myself into any type of popularity contest," says the executive with Johnson and Johnson.
But a few months ago, a friend who was on the school board asked if she'd be interested in being a candidate for this year's opening.
"I said 'sure,' and didn't really give it another thought" as the weeks went by, Kalin says.
"Then someone called and I met with the board president, Thomas O'Rourke. I said, 'Hello.' and we had a nice chat. I knew there were other candidates so I didn't give it much thought after that."
But gradually, through the early part of the year, she met with the other board members and "then I was told I was their top candidate. They said, 'Can we take your name to the mayor,' " Kalin recalls. "I said it would be an honor and a privilege."
And now she is charged with helping to run what she describes as an already successful school district.
She points with pride to the students' high level of achievement, not just academically, but in music, the arts and sports.
Her children have been long been involved in outside activities and sports, says Kalin. "It seems at the end of every day I find myself at a soccer game or more likely a lacrosse game these days."
When she's not working or learning the business of the school board, Kalin enjoys going for runs with Wilson, her Lab who is named after the soccer ball made famous in Tom Hanks' movie "Castaway."
She also likes cooking, going to wine tastings and ("I don't want to sound too British") gardening.
Now, in addition to flowers and vegetables, she'll be helping young minds grow.