TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board will have one new face and possibly two, following an election Tuesday that could affect its balance of power.
Cindy Stuart, a PTA volunteer and mother of three, defeated longtime incumbent Jack Lamb in northern Hillsborough's District 3. Lamb had been a strong supporter of superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
"I'm feeling good," Stuart, 45, said from a community center near her Lake Magdalene home, where she gathered on election night with her family and friends. "I'm elated."
In countywide District 7, incumbent Carol Kurdell, also very loyal to Elia, will face Terry Kemple in a Nov. 6 runoff.
"No, it's not surprising," said Kurdell, who is seeking her sixth term on the board. "I've never not been in a runoff."
Kurdell would not speak specifically about Kemple. "It doesn't matter who it is," she said. "We'll go out there in November and beat 'em."
Michael Weston, a teacher who is harshly critical of the district's Empowering Effective Teachers program of evaluations, narrowly missed the runoff.
Stuart won despite having a campaign account that was a third the size of Lamb's. Lamb also outspent Stuart by a margin of three to one, according to the latest available reports.
Lamb, 78, spent several decades as an educator, administrator and School Board member. He was active in statewide professional organizations. At board meetings, he almost always supported the administration.
Stuart's campaign took her to countless front doors and weekend gatherings.
She had a professional campaign manager and updated her Facebook page frequently with pictures of supporters, including her own children.
"It was a definite grass roots and social media campaign," she said.
On the trail, she called for more accountability among administration officials and, like Weston, a hard look at the Gates-funded EET project.
Kemple campaigned for more parental involvement and led a movement to ban campus visits from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
That crowded race also included automotive dealer Robert McElheny, former school bus driver Carl Kosierowski and engineer Joe Jordan-Robinson.
In other races, two longtime incumbents kept their board seats.
Susan Valdes captured nearly two-thirds of all votes in defeating Eddy Calcines, an author and youth mentor who had pledged to be a better team player than Valdes.
In Central Tampa, Doretha Edgecomb held off challenger Henry Ballard Jr., who retired after managing the district's supplier diversity program.
Stuart, although acknowledging she has a learning curve, said she plans to start asking questions as soon as she joins the board. Too often, she said, only one or two members speak up. "I think all seven members should be asking questions."
Elia said she looks forward to working with Stuart and welcomes her questions. Aware of Stuart's involvement in PTA, Elia said that she enjoys a close relationship with the county PTA Council and believes that will provide common ground when they meet.
"Dr. Lamb was a great board member, and I'm sure Mrs. Stuart will work hard to fill that void," she said.
Elia did not discount the possibility that Kemple could pose a real challenge to Kurdell, which opens up the possibility of more divided board.
"I think he is a serious candidate," Elia said. "I think in any election, you have to really work to make people understand what you stand for."
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or email@example.com.