BROOKSVILLE —After four years on the Hernando School Board, James Yant is ready to focus on his family, his book, and his piano.
"I've got several things that will demand a lot of my time," he said Thursday.
Yant, 66, has considered for months whether he would run for reelection but has finally decided to step aside and let at least four other candidates fight for the District 4 seat he won in 2008.
Supporters urged him to try to stay on the board, and as an incumbent who has lived in Hernando for nearly 40 years, he likely would have been tough to beat. He said he appreciates that support and is grateful for the chance to serve, but has other priorities.
Retired after a long career in the insurance business, Yant has an elderly mother and mother-in-law to help care for and a granddaughter in Georgia he wants to visit more often. He takes piano and voice lessons and now wants to devote the time to take that to the next level. And he wants to finish his book, tentatively titled Economics and the Bible, that he says will show how Scriptures apply to what's happening in the modern world.
Yant said the field is strong enough to make him feel comfortable with the decision. "I know they are all good people," he said.
Two of the candidates in the race so far have some level of countywide name recognition.
Gus Guadagnino, 57, is a Spring Hill business owner who also serves as president of the Hernando Education Foundation. He has twice run for local office. Robert Neuhausen is a 44-year-old senior commodities manager and export control coordinator at Sparton Electronics, east of Brooksville. Neuhausen ran for the same seat in 2008, coming in third in a three-person primary. Yant went on to win the runoff election.
The other two candidates are political newcomers. Michael Gordon, 50, most recently worked as an independent driver for a transportation company before suffering injuries in an auto accident. He now calls himself semiretired.
Helen Villafane is a 67-year-old former teacher and administrator who spent her entire career in New York and retired in 2006.
Yant's seat is one of two up for grabs this year, and the qualifying period begins June 4. School Board races are countywide and nonpartisan. If there are three or more candidates, the race appears on the primary ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the top two vote-getters move on to a runoff that appears on the general election ballot.
Yant said he and his wife, Christine, will remain active in the community. He doesn't plan to make an endorsement in the race.
"I want them to win on their own merits without me being involved one way or another."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.