Steve Roberts, who chaired the Rockland-area School Board during its ongoing efforts to rebuild its schools and programs, died Saturday, Jan. 12.

His wife, Vera Rand Roberts, announced the death of her husband Sunday. He died at Sussman House in Rockport after a two-week battle with an aggressive form of kidney cancer.

"We will miss Steve. I personally had a very close professional relationship with him and he always challenged me to be my best and champion our schools," said Superintendent John McDonald. "Schools of Our Future is just a part of his legacy, and I am a better man for having known Steve. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family."

Roberts had served as chair of the Regional School Unit 13 Board since February 2014, when he succeeded Esther "Tess" Kilgour.

His selection as chair came three months after he had joined the board, having been elected in November 2013. He moved to Rockland from Hope in 2012.

An article about Roberts when he ran for the School Board listed him as semi-retired with an art studio in Rockland. He had a career as a mechanical engineer, engineer manager and manufacturing program manager in the automobile industry.

In a letter to the editor from Roberts in 2013 announcing his candidacy for the School Board, he said people asked him if he was insane for wanting to be on the board. The district and board were in turmoil at that time.

"So, call me insane. I think we can change. I think I can make a difference and make my being on the school board a benefit to our community," Roberts said in that letter.

The district has since undertaken the "Schools of Our Future" plan that includes renovations and additions to schools and the construction of a new pre-kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school in Owls Head, as well as the closure of schools. There have also been changes to education programs during the past few years as part of the Schools of Our Future plan.

Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger said Jan. 15 that Roberts' "commitment to the children of this town, his determination to make our schools something to be proud of, will be long remembered. My condolences to his family."

School Board member Carol Bachofner of Rockland also expressed her condolences to Roberts' family.

"To lose such a dedicated public servant so suddenly is very upsetting. Steve was my friend and colleague and will be missed by all of us. My heart goes out to Vera and the rest of his family. We, as a board and as a school district, will certainly continue to move forward with Schools of Our Future and thank Steve for his dedication to the children and families of RSU 13."

Loren Andrews of Cushing is vice chair of the RSU 13 Board. The Rockland City Council can fill the Rockland vacancy or wait for the next scheduled election in June.

RSU 13 consists of Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.