Forget 2016; there's already a 2018 Pinellas School Board candidate
If you've had enough of 2016, one candidate is already setting his sights on 2018.
Former Tarpon Springs vice mayor and city commissioner Jeff Larsen, 39, is the only candidate in Pinellas County to officially file his paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections office for a 2018 seat -- the School Board's District 2 at-large race, a countywide seat.
"I don’t like to wait until the last minute," he joked.
Larsen, who lives with his two sons and wife in Tarpon Springs, is a reading intensive teacher over the county line in Pasco County at New Port Richey's Gulf Middle. He has led the school's dropout prevention team and coached girls' and boys' basketball in his 13-year career there.
But Pinellas is home to him, he says. Larsen's sons attend Tarpon Fundamental and Dunedin Middle. He was term-limited after six years in office as a Tarpon Springs city commissioner with the last two years as vice mayor with Mayor David Archie.
Larsen said he wasn't thinking about his next political move while in office. By the time he realized he wanted to funnel his passion for public service and education into a run for School Board, he said he didn't have enough time to organize a campaign for a 2016 seat.
Teachers, he said, should feel that they're valued and respected and enjoy their work. He said the the board should be more proactive in identifying problems and solving them, continue to develop relationships with parents and the business community and try to provide a mentor to every child.
"I really feel like we’re in a place right now where we have room for improvement," Larsen said. "I think the board itself needs to provide strong independent leadership, not just rubber stamp recommendations coming from staff."
Larsen has raised $2,201 in monetary contributions already, with $100 coming from current Tarpon Springs city manager Mark Lecouris. Records show he spent most of $941.79 on printing materials and consulting, however Larsen says he has only used those funds to make business cards and hasn't sent out any mailers.
He's waiting to roll those out in 2017, when he says he'll officially launch his campaign.
"I don’t want to be a distraction to the races that are going on right now," Larsen said.
Larsen could potentially run against District 2 at-large incumbent Terry Krassner, who was first elected to the board in 2010. She would be seeking her third term if she chooses to run for reelection.
Krassner could not be reached for comment.