Mr Macleod has been acting director for the past two years following the departure of Neil Galbraith to be the council's chief executive following a turbulent period as director.
He was first appointed to the education department in 1986 as an assistant director.
Norman Macdonald, chairman of the Western Isles education committee, admitted he was "astonished" that nobody from the rest of Scotland was interested in the job. "Perhaps there's a feeling that w're a bit out of the way here," Mr Macdonald said.
He did not feel the salary level was an explanation, nor did he accept that publicity over the rocky relationships between the authority and some of its staff had been a factor in putting off potential applicants.
He was quick to praise Mr Macleod as "a very good man for the job and he was our unanimous choice". Mr Macdonald added: "He has good common sense, tremendous knowledge and experience and an ability to deal with people. We need a period of stability in education here and he will provide that."
Mr Macleod, however, has promised "a range of initiatives".