Longtime Gainesville City School Board member Willie Mitchell was recognized at Monday night's school board meeting as a Pioneer RESA Pioneer in Education.
"First off, it was a total surprise. I had no idea it was coming," said Mitchell after the board meeting. "The people who had been awarded the award before, it made me feel extremely proud to be among such a great people who had done so much for education. And when I look back at my life and service, I never did it for any type of award or anything, but what it was, I thought it was a calling, something that my God, my creator put me here to do."
"So I look back on it and I think about the award and I say, 'Ok, nothing I was working for, but showed up,'" said Mitchell. "I said, 'I just hope I just made a difference in only one child's life, it was worth all of the effort that was put behind it.'"
Mitchell quoted his favorite scripture, James 2:8. "The royal law, love your neighbor as yourself and I think that's what I've done, or what I've tried to do."
Mitchell was awarded the 2021 honor on November 5, and was recognized at the school board meeting. The Pioneer RESA awards honor exceptional individuals in the education field. "To be a “Pioneer in Education” is not to strive to be the best IN the world, but to strive to what is best FOR the world," said a press release. "They have given us a standard that we can strive to follow, and we are honored to recognize and celebrate these individuals."
Mitchell was appointed to the board in 1989, and was elected to Ward 3 in 1991. He has been reelected to the Ward 3 position and continues to hold the seat.
Mitchell is a Gainesville native and graduated from E.E. Butler High School. He was also the first Black firefighter in Gainesville in the 1970s. Mitchell has taught Sunday School, mentors Red Elephants, volunteers with the Newtown Florist Club, and was a past president of the NAACP Gainesville Chapter. He has also received numerous other community awards.
He and his wife, Joyce, have been married for 49 years. They have two children, Kreneeshia and Korvin, and two grandchildren, Sharia and Amir.