"As much as I know about my kids' schools and what I value as a parent, it's a big system," Heagarty said. "Wake County is one of the biggest school systems in the country, and I have a big learning curve."
The Wake County School Board finally appointed Heagarty to the seat Tuesday that opened when Kathy Hartenstine unexpectedly died in September.
Hartenstine still won the seat posthumously.
"Really, I'm just a dad," he said. "I grew up here. I have kids in elementary and middle school here."
Heagarty will represent District 7, which includes Morrisville, parts of Cary and some of Northwest Raleigh.
"I want what everybody wants here -- I want good schools, quality education for our kids and I want them to be safe," he said. "No one expected what was going to happen. I think there was a lot of support for Kathy in the community -- we saw it even with her passing."
He was a state representative nearly 10 years ago. Since 2015, Heagarty has been executive director of the City of Oaks Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to land conservancy.
"This is not something I thought about a few years ago, but I have kids in the public schools, I've been seeing what's going on with friends of ours who work in the public school system," he said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity. This is a chance to give back to the community."
Heagarty will be sworn in at next Tuesday's board of education meeting.