BROOKSVILLE — In true Florida fashion, Thursday morning's election was a squeaker.
It took three rounds of voting and about an hour and a half to winnow the field of five candidates for this year's student representative position on the Hernando County School Board.
"The student representative to the board of education for this year," said superintendent Bryan Blavatt, after a short speech, "is Sean Chapman."
Clapping filled the auditorium at Nature Coast Technical High School.
Chapman, 18, a senior at Springstead High School, pulled out the victory after two runoffs, capturing 26 of 44 student delegate votes. Nature Coast senior Matt Rhineberger, 17, was the runnerup with 18 votes.
"I guess I'll just start by saying, 'Thank you, guys,' " Chapman said, taking over the microphone after his win. "I'm definitely going to do as much as I can to help all of you as much as possible."
He pledged to devote himself to the job and to get started immediately — or at least after he finishes a couple of college essays.
"You probably will be hearing from me this week," he told the students. "I will be visiting you guys, and coordinating things, as soon as possible."
Each candidate gave a short speech before the first vote. In his, Chapman stood before the group without a piece of paper, holding the red microphone loosely in his hand.
He started with a macro perspective — something you might expect of a student who has his eye on becoming an engineer.
"Each school has their individual concerns, issues. A school can try and handle its own issues or concerns by itself, but it might not have the resources that another school might have," Chapman said. "I feel that if schools work together within this county to help each other out . . . we could get things done more effectively than before."
One area: Bullying.
Some schools, such as Parrott Middle School, have had more success in dealing with bullies than others, he said. He said he started the anti-bullying club at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics.
"If we could get clubs like that to diffuse out into other schools that might have issues with that, I feel like that would be most effective," Chapman said.
He said he wants to bring a student perspective to some of the important issues facing the school district, such as budget cuts. He said he is in a unique position to see how cuts have an impact on students.
He worries, for instance, about students, especially in the lower grades, who can't afford school-sponsored activities and sports. He wants to ensure that those students aren't denied the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.
William Allen, 17, who worked on Chapman's campaign, lauded the newest student representative.
"I'm really happy that he's in the position to serve the students of Hernando County," Allen said. "Sean is one of the most intelligent people I know."
As a student representative, Chapman hopes to continue building on the work done by Tori Selby, who last year became the first non-voting student representative to the School Board.
One of the first things he will do, he said, is talk with Selby.
"She did a great job last year," he said.
Chapman, like Selby before him, is also a Springstead student.
Also competing in the election, in addition to Chapman and Rhineberger, were Joey Katz, 17, of Central High School, Alexandra Rey, 17, of Hernando High School and Kayla Lewis, 17, of Weeki Wachee High School.
Rey made it through the initial vote before being knocked out in the first runoff.
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432.