BAR HARBOR — “I don’t believe that two angry people can solve a problem,” Sandy McFarland told the Islander.
That might help explain why he has been such an effective problem solver for the school system and, particularly, Mount Desert Island High School, for nearly five decades.
After serving on the Bar Harbor school committee for several years – which meant he also was on the high school and school system boards – he served for more than 35 years as a member of the high school board of trustees, which is responsible for the buildings and grounds. He decided not to seek re-election this year.
As a high school trustee, McFarland helped plan and oversee several renovation and expansion projects. From the band room to the athletic fields, he said, “I think the school has outstanding facilities.”
McFarland led the high school trustees as chairman for a number of years. In that capacity, he worked closely with Howard Colter, who twice served as school superintendent for a total of 16 years.
“Sandy was an effective, forward-thinking and influential leader on the MDIHS trustees,” Colter said. “He was an outspoken proponent of doing what is necessary and prudent to preserve and improve MDIHS.
“He always chaired meetings as a gentleman and with grace. I admired his desire to hear all sides on complicated issues.
“Sandy was also not afraid to take a stand,” Colter recalled. “Once his mind was made up, there was no second-guessing; we were moving on.”
Rob Jordan, who served on the trustees board with McFarland, said, “He helped navigate the high school through its last major renovation, and the results of that investment are still evident today.
“He has always put the concerns and challenges of the town of Bar Harbor and the high school in the forefront of his discussions and deliberations.”
But McFarland also realized early on that, as he put it, “If we’re going to survive, we have to think of ourselves as an island community and not towns.
“I always thought the high school was a catalyst for that. Suddenly [in the late 1960s] kids thought of themselves as being from MDI; they weren’t from Southwest Harbor or Mount Desert or Tremont or Bar Harbor. That made a tremendous difference and really brought the island community together.”
In addition to his work on behalf of the schools, McFarland served one term on the Bar Harbor Town Council.
Now, at 82, he is ready to sit back and take it easy, right? Hardly.
He is commodore of the Bar Harbor Yacht Club, a member of the Bar Harbor cruise committee and serves on the Acadia Senior College board.
The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping him from being a tour guide for cruise ship passengers in Bar Harbor this summer. But nothing keeps him from being at the YMCA when the doors open every morning.
“I don’t have any problem staying busy,” he said.