Martell Menlove forged his career path the day his father was left severely brain damaged in a car accident en route to an educational training session in southern Utah.

Ralph Menlove was a school superintendent at the time of the 1971 crash. Martell Menlove had just left Utah for a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil. By 1976, he would be an elementary school teacher.

"Partly out of the desire to follow in my father's footsteps, quite honestly, I decided to make education my career," said Menlove, who rose to superintendent by age 36. "I decided then that's what I was going to do."

For his experience and dedication to the profession, the superintendent of Box Elder schools was named Utah Superintendent of the Year. The Utah School Superintendents Association bestowed him with the honor this week.

"He's very deserving," said Kelly Nelson, president of the Box Elder Board of Education. "He really cares about the issues, about the students, the faculty, the staff . . . (and) has whatever's best for them in his heart."

Menlove was nominated for the honor by his peers and was selected by the Utah Education Coalition, which includes the Utah PTA, school boards, employees, principals and teachers associations.

The honor places him among candidates for the national Superintendent of the Year award, which will be announced in February at the American Association of School Administrators conference in San Diego.

Menlove oversees more than 1,200 employees in 24 schools enrolling 10,500 students. His career began nearly 30 years ago as teacher, guidance specialist and school counselor in Jordan School District. He has been a principal at Tooele County elementary and high schools. He has co-directed the Utah Assistive Technology Program.

A Utah State University adjunct professor, Menlove has created district teacher-training plans, a new teacher induction program, and expanded opportunities and programs serving at-risk students, the superintendents association reports. He also has served on many state boards and committees, including the State Textbook Commission and State School Land Trust Advisory Board.

The superintendents association notes his ability to prevent problems, support staff and his "genius at crunching numbers and keeping budgets solvent."

"I think he's gone the extra mile in working for the children of the state of Utah," said Duchesne Superintendent John Aland, president of the Utah School Superintendents Association. "He's definitely earned the respect of everyone he works with. He's a gentleman, a hard worker and he tries to do what's best for students."

Menlove also is noted for his diligence in working with legislators as past president of the superintendents association.

"I would hope they understand that public education is still the most significant form of education in the state of Utah," Menlove said of work on Capitol Hill. "Though there are some problems and concerns we all have, public education in Utah is . . . a tremendous value. The fact we do more and better with less than any (other state) in the country I think is significant."