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Newcomer elected to Pasco School Board

Joanne Hurley surprised many Tuesday by winning a seat outright on the Pasco County School Board. Hurley, a 63-year-old former teacher and administrator, had many endorsements— but it's difficult to win more than half the votes in an election with three candidates.

Her competitors were Kurt Conover, 57, the director of business development for Bayonet Point Regional Medical Center, and Peter Hanzel, 63, a Wesley Chapel civic activist and retired prison educator.

"I'm thrilled," Hurley said from her Land O'Lakes home Tuesday night. She was at her computer, refreshing the tallies as the precinct votes came in. With 87 percent of the votes in, Hurley had received more than 55 percent. Conover had about 28 and Hanzel had about 16.

"I am truly amazed," Hurley said.

The seat became vacant when four-term District 2 board member Marge Whaley, who endorsed Hurley, announced her retirement after 16 years.

The candidates agreed on several issues, including improving employee wages and dealing with growth more aggressively. All supported the district's move to pump up career and vocational education offerings.

Hurley, a community relations coordinator for the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, was the most vocal of the three candidates in her opposition of state efforts to alter the way public schools are funded.

Hurley had not sought elected office before, though she has served on various appointed boards, including the Citizens Advisory Committee that updated the county's blueprint for growth. She has worked as a teacher in Hillsborough County and as a recycling coordinator for Pasco County. Hurley has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree from the University of South Florida.

An avid quilter, she is a Pennsylvania native who now lives in Land O'Lakes with her husband, John Hurley. They have three sons, two daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren.

The District 4 seat was also up this year, but School Board member Kathryn Starkey faced no opposition and won re-election without appearing on the ballot. The board consists of five members who serve staggered four-year terms. They oversee a system with a $1.1-billion budget, 65,000 students and 10,000 employees. Board members make $37,615 a year.

Times staff writers Jeff Solochek and Erin Sullivan contributed to this report.

Newcomer elected to Pasco School Board 08/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2008 4:18pm]
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