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Seven in contention for Hernando School Board seat

BROOKSVILLE — An office manager and a self-employed novelist are the latest to add their names to the list of hopefuls seeking the Hernando School Board seat left vacant by Pat Fagan.

Tiffany Hoblit, 30, of Brooksville works for Brooks Oil in Bushnell. Franklin "Frank" Roderus, 68, is a Pittsburgh native and writer who moved to Spring Hill in 2002.

Born and raised in Hernando County, Hoblit is a 1999 graduate of Hernando High and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Florida. She was a member of the color guard at Hernando and now volunteers her time as a color guard instructor there. She has been with Brooks Oil since 2002.

Hoblit said she called Gov. Rick Scott's office to find out more about the appointment the day she saw the news that Fagan had resigned in the middle of his second term. Fagan, 61, stepped down after his job as county parks and recreation manager was eliminated so he could collect his pension benefits.

"My goal is to look out for the best interests of the students while looking out for the community and the teachers, as well," Hoblit said.

Roderus left Tampa's Plant High School in the 10th grade to attend an accelerated program at Emory College in Georgia. He later took some coursework at St. Petersburg Junior College but did not earn a degree. He served in the Army for three years before receiving an honorable discharge in 1963.

Roderus worked as a newspaper reporter for about 11 years, covering school districts in Polk County as well as in Iowa and Colorado. He also worked as the public information officer for the Polk County School District.

He has worked as a fiction writer since 1976, specializing in Western novels.

Roderus said he felt an "impulse" to apply for the School Board seat here. "I think I could contribute and bring an open mind," he said.

Neither Hoblit, a Republican, nor Roderus, a libertarian, lives in District 2, which includes the southwestern portion of the county. Residence in the district is not required for appointment but is required to run for election when Fagan's term expires in 2012.

The number of hopefuls now stands at seven. None of the other five applicants lives in District 2, either.

Scott is expected to make the appointment to the nonpartisan seat in the coming weeks but his office has not provided a timetable.

The Hernando County Republican Executive Committee announced earlier this month that it planned to form a committee to interview willing applicants and possibly make a recommendation to Scott.

Hoblit said she had contacted REC Chairman Blaise Ingoglia to let him know she was willing to sit for an interview.

"It's not his decision, it's Gov. Scott's decision," Hoblit said. "It's one party's opinion."

Roderus is open to being interviewed by the GOP.

"I have no particular desire to, but I have no objection," he said.

The party is not naming the members of the review committee so no applicants try to lobby them before the interview, Ingoglia said Wednesday in an e-mail to the Times. No member of the REC's executive board is sitting on the review committee, he said.

Ingoglia has said the committee will interview all willing applicants regardless of party. Like Hoblit, some have contacted the party already, and the committee may reach out to those who do not, he said. No interviews have been scheduled.

Ingoglia once again stressed that the interviews are independent of Scott's selection process.

"If we decide to (make a recommendation), we will only be offering our opinion," Ingoglia said. "To us, it is a First Amendment issue."

Hernando Democratic Executive Committee Chairman James Singer has called the GOP's involvement inappropriate, at the very least a violation of the spirit of the nonpartisan nature of School Board seats.

School Board Chairman James Yant said there's probably something to that argument. Personally, though, Yant said he doesn't see a problem with either party weighing in with a recommendation.

"As long as the person does not come onto the board and promote a political agenda," Yant said. "The students are the reason we're there, and we need to throw that political stuff aside."

The other five applicants so far:

• Keane Chapman, 41, of Spring Hill is a national sales manager for Alumi-Guard who challenged and lost to School Board incumbent Dianne Bonfield last year.

• Anna Liisa Covell, 60, of Nobleton owns Covell Electric in Brooksville. She is a former member of the county's Planning and Zoning and Housing Authority boards.

• Vi Coogler, 59, of Brooksville is a former supermarket worker and longtime school volunteer.

• Gus Guadagnino, 57, of Spring Hill is president of Joni Industries in Brooksville and serves as president of the nonprofit Hernando Education Foundation;

• Robert Neuhausen, 43, of Spring Hill is an engineer for Sparton Electronics in Brooksville who has filed to run for Yant's District 4 seat in 2012.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]

Seven in contention for Hernando School Board seat 03/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011 10:27am]
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