Former UAHS principal and recently-elected city councilman Kip Greenhill discusses his goals while in office
By Melanie Terez, ‘14
What led you to retire as principal of UAHS?
You know, I went to everything every night. … But when I got to be over 60 years old, I just couldn’t do it and I realized that I was going to probably impact my health. I’d still be there if I could do the nights. I mean … I love that place. … I truly bleed black and gold. ... I’m just so proud of the students, their work that they did, the teachers, the whole climate of the school. I was so proud of the trust that I think we gave the students but students also had in us. … I love the place, but I ran out of gas. I keep saying this, but it was really love. And then, you know, I don’t say this to blow my horn, but I was up there Saturday mornings because I took the Saturday School kids out and we planted flowers and pulled weeds, we picked up trash, and then I bought them breakfast. … It was my way of connecting with students who sometimes didn’t always have the best school experience … You know, nobody will ever match how long I was a high school principal, I mean it. … And I don’t think it measures success by how long you do a job. … But I loved it. … I get fired up just talking about the place, still!
What have you been doing since resigning from UAHS and before your campaign?
Well, actually I retired on Aug. 1, 2012. [On] Aug. 2, New Albany called and said, ‘We can’t find a middle school principal. Will you do it for us?’ Well, in middle school, you don’t have night stuff. So I said, ‘You know, I can do this part-time until you find somebody.’ So last year I was the interim principal at New Albany Middle School.
How has it been working in New Albany?
I had never been in a middle school before. I had been in a junior high, but never in a middle school. … So what happened was they hired a principal. Then, at the end of last year … she ended up not taking the job and they said, ‘Could you do it one more year?’ So I said, ‘Yeah, but this is my last year.’ I’m glad I did it because I learned a lot. … Besides my own children, I’d never talked to a sixth grader before. I’ve just been an interim, that’s the key thing. … I had no idea it was ever going to happen.
Have you enjoyed working there?
It’s been good for me. The thing that I’ve enjoyed [is that] the staff there is so young. … So I’ve really been more in a role, instead of being principal, I’ve been a teacher teaching them how to be administrators, and really working with the teachers to develop them because they’re all so young. Two thirds of the teachers are younger than my own children. That’s how young they are. It’s been gratifying for me … to work with these young people. I feel like a college professor because I’m teaching them about how you make a school great.
When did you decide to run for city council?
I committed to doing this three years ago. I had said I was going to do it. People asked me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ and I’d said, ‘I’m going to run for city council.’
Why did you decide to run for city council?
Well, I love this community. I love [the] high school, and I love the community, but it’s not a perfect community. And I think that one of the things that city government can do a better job of is sitting down and listening to the citizens and just ask[ing] the question, ‘How are things going in the city?’ And that’s what I tried to do at the high school. Every other Friday, I invited parents to come in and have breakfast with me and I just said, ‘How’s school going for your son or daughter?’ And then at lunchtime, I invited students in every other Friday and we had pizza, and my question was, ‘On a scale of one to 10, how do you rate the school?’ … Well, I’m going to do that with city council. The first Saturday of every month, I’m going to invite people in and just ask them, ‘How’s the city going?’ … And people will talk, they’ll give [us] their ideas, their thoughts, and onto that, I think [we] could get good ideas.
This was your first time campaigning. What was it like?
I like people, you know, it was good for me. My wife and I would go down the street and she would go down one side and I would go down the other, and she would end up way down there, because I would still be talking to people for a half hour. So she got the whole street done and started coming back, and I got to two or three houses. She puts up with me.
In what ways do you hope to improve UA?
I think No. 1 we have to do a better job of listening and getting community input. Too many decisions are made without letting people really talk about them. And I think if there were eight people sitting down at this table, we’re more likely to come up with a better solution to a problem, than if I just sit here. So I think for these breakfasts and things like that, we have to listen to people because there are some tough decisions coming. The city has some financial problems. The state has cut funding to the city and [it] did away with the inheritance tax. And you can start to see it in the streets; they really need repairs, repaving, curbs. We have to engage the community more in these discussions because we’re going to have to cut some things. And we’re also going to have to get creative; how are we going to get money to fix the streets? But I think by sitting down with people, we can have those discussions. So my point is: I’m going to engage the community in discussions the first Saturday of every month in these types of discussions to come up with ideas to really work on the financial situation. Those are the first things I want to get done.
What do you think makes UA special?
There is a real tradition here of being a quality school system and a quality community. People take pride in that. You know, our students take pride in their high school. And it’s not arrogance at all, but they do, they take pride in it. So I think that’s the biggest thing that we have going: that people want our schools to be great. Not good; great. They want this community to be great.
Is there anything you want people in UA to know about you that they might not already know?
Oh gosh, everyone probably knows all my quirks and craziness. … I think the biggest thing, and hopefully this isn’t new, but I’m passionate about this. I was passionate about being principal. I’m passionate about this. … I will work very, very hard at this. … I will be well-prepared for meetings, I will be on top of the issues, I will have studied them, but I will be open-minded too.
On the ballot you were listed as “Francis C. Greenhill.” Where does the name “Kip” come from?
It’s a nickname. I’m actually Francis Cyril Willoughby Greenhill III. I was ‘the third’ so they had to come up with a name besides calling me [Francis]. … Actually they were going to call me “Kim,” but Kim in Rudyard Kipling’s book was a little thief, so they went from “Kim” to “Kip.” I’ve always gone by Kip. They wouldn’t let me use it on the ballot. I was worried about it.
Do you have any plans in regards to the new development going on in UA?
I think Arlington has to continue to bring about economic develop to help hold down taxes. And right now, the area around Kingsdale, there is some vacant land there. We have to do some things to attract business there. We lost a couple big medical practices. We can’t let that happen anymore. They moved across the river. Those are good-paying jobs; we need to keep them here in the city. We have to sit down with folks and say, ‘OK, what’s it take to keep you here?’ We can’t let them go; we have land over there, we can help people with the building. Like I said, it helps hold down costs.
Do you know what you might do after your term ends?
Who knows? I’m looking forward to the next four years. But see, I’ll be 67 years old then. Who knows?