LAND O'LAKES — Within a day of filing to run for re-election in 2012, Pasco School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley drew her first opponent: Bryan V. Williams, a Pasco newcomer who registered to vote in the county on the same day he filed papers to run for office.
Williams, 45, stressed the need for focusing on diversity and serving the educational needs of all children. He said he would attempt to help fashion the district's long-term vision and plan to create opportunities for all.
"With my background and knowledge of our district, I can help to provide the necessary leadership to keep the district on an even keel," he wrote in an e-mail to the Times.
Williams, who had a listed Hillsborough County address until August, initially said he has three children in Pasco County schools. He later said they are his stepchildren, and that he is married to their mother, Brenda Kellon, who also is listed as his campaign treasurer. He gave Kellon's Land O'Lakes address as his home address.
Hillsborough court records indicate Williams filed for divorce in August against his current wife, Heidelinde Williams-Bell, and that case is still pending.
Asked about the discrepancy, Williams said his divorce is set to be final this week, and that he is engaged to wed Kellon in May. He added that he has been raising her sons for nearly two years, and "they call me Dad, so I consider them my own." Connerton Elementary officials confirmed that Williams recently was elected to the school's advisory council.
Williams initially said he is a financial adviser for Tampa Wealth Management, a company that state records list as inactive. Asked for more information, he explained that he works independently as a financial adviser and insurance agent for "several" companies.
He also said he is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and a student at the University of Tampa.
Hurley, 67, said she decided to file her initial candidacy papers now, even though the election isn't until Aug. 14, 2012, to get a head start on what she expects to be a crowded field of hopefuls for many open seats from president on down.
"There's going to be a lot of people out there campaigning for one office or another," she said. "It's better to start now."
She acknowledged that the job has been tough over her first term, with declining revenue leading to spending cuts that have cost some people their livelihoods.
"I don't think it's going to get better any time soon," said Hurley, who was a spokeswoman for the Suncoast Parkway before retiring to serve on the board. "I would much rather be part of an organization that can help students in spite of the challenges. I see this as a time of great opportunity."
She listed the challenges as keeping budget cuts from further impacting students and staff, improving student access to technology, completing needed construction and maintenance projects, and bettering staff morale and parent involvement.
Two other school district seats are up for election in 2012.
Alison Crumbley has said she intends to pursue a full term in School Board District 4, to which she won a partial term in 2010 after Kathryn Starkey resigned to run for Florida House. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino also has indicated that she plans to seek re-election to a third term leading the district administration.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.