Sunday, December 17, 2017
Education

Clark, Flowers win decisive victories for Pinellas County School Board

Despite facing an aggressive and better funded challenger, incumbent Janet Clark won a decisive victory against retired businessman Elliott Stern, giving her a third term on the Pinellas County School Board. But her fellow board member Glenton Gilzean Jr., appointed to the board early this year by Gov. Rick Scott, was trounced at the polls by challenger Rene Flowers, a former St. Petersburg City Council member.

Clark, 58, took 66 percent of the vote, while Stern, 73, earned 34 percent. Famously low-key, she first won the countywide District 1 seat in 2004, despite raising almost no money against a 14-year incumbent. She spent that election night at home in her pajamas.

Clark employed the same strategy this year. Stern raised 12 times more money than she did, pulling in about $93,280 to her $7,496. All to little effect.

"I'm pleased. I'm excited. I'm just sitting here in my pajamas," Clark said.

In the District 7 race, Flowers, 48, earned a whopping 77 percent of the vote, while Gilzean, 30, took 23 percent.

Flowers said she was a little nervous earlier in the day when she heard about problems at some precincts and that thousands of voters were called by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office and told they had another day to vote. But then she saw the early results put her at 77 percent, a lead she never lost.

"That did it for me," she said.

Flowers, a well-known face in Pinellas County, was considered a sure thing after nearly snagging the seat in the August primary — earning almost 48 percent of the vote in a five-person field.

A former staffer with the state Department of Education, Gilzean was a relative unknown in the area when Scott appointed him to the south Pinellas seat after the unexpected death of board member Lew Williams. He moved to the area from Tampa just before taking the seat.

Gilzean said Tuesday that, despite the loss, he felt "great" and planned to stay involved. He and his wife are closing on a house in Pinellas, he said. Gilzean also announced last month that he was taking a job with Step Up for Students, a nonprofit organization that administers the state's tax-credit scholarship program, which helps low-income students pay for private school.

"This is home for us," he said. "I'm not disappearing."

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.

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