For 90 minutes, Joseph Farnsworth, the fourth candidate to interview for the Billings superintendent job, answered questions from the School District 2 board in a thorough and direct way.
The board has posed the same 25 questions to each candidate, and Farnsworth, sitting on the dais Thursday night with trustees, asked for most of them to be repeated as he began his answers.
"Student achievement is why we're all here," he said. "It's about kids. That's the goal."
Farnsworth started his education career in Fort Worth, Texas, but he said really came into his own while in the small rural Pima Unified School District in southeastern Arizona, not far from the New Mexico border.
He was hired there as principal of Pima High School in 2005. One of his teachers at the time was Kalem Norton, who took over as principal when Farnsworth was promoted to superintendent in 2008.
"He's a sharp guy," Norton said. "I enjoyed working with him."
He described Farnsworth as a "hands-on" principal who took the education of the students seriously and worked hard to unify the staff.
As superintendent, Farsnworth aligned the curriculum in the district so there were no gaps as students moved from elementary school to middle school to high school.
"For the first time, all three schools were on the same page," Norton said.
Farnsworth worked for three years in Pima, where he was open and friendly with the community and with the school staff there, Norton said.
"He was a great boss," he said.
During the interview, Farnsworth explained that he's a team-builder. He likes to hear a diversity of opinions from those around him and in order to get employees to speak their mind, they have to trust their boss, he said.
That trust comes as employees begin to feel like they're supported by the superintendent. It's the attitude he always tries to bring to the job.
"I'm here to support. What can I do to do that?" he said, summing up his philosophy on district leadership.
In 2011, Farnsworth was offered the job of human resources director at Queen Creek Unified School District in the Pheonix metro area, near Mesa, Ariz.
"He has outstanding leadership abilities," said Tom Lindsey, Queen Creek superintendent. "He's an outstanding candidate, worthy of consideration."
At one point during the interview Thursday night, Farnsworth was asked about what guides him as a leader. He pointed to his superintendent and told trustees that he and Lindsey have had disagreements about how transparent to be, saying sometimes he sees lapses in moral and ethical judgment at the district.
It's one of the reasons he felt compelled to apply for the Billings job, he said.
For Farnsworth, Billings seems like a good fit for the next step in his career. The city, he said, has a great deal of appeal.
"I don't think Billings has reached its potential," he said. "I want to be a part of that."
He described himself as a family man — Farnsworth is married with five children — and said he believes Billings, with its quality schools and great amenities, will be a good place to raise a family.
"I want to be in a place where we can put down roots," he said.
He then smiled at the board and quipped, "I'm not afraid of snow or shoveling snow."