Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

As Hernando School Board field widens, incumbent still on the fence about run

BROOKSVILLE — As James Yant ponders a bid for a second four-year term on the Hernando County School Board, the field of would-be challengers continues to grow.

Yant, 66, says that doesn't worry him. In fact, it makes him happy.

"I know all of the people that are running, and I think their intentions are good," he said. "I think it's always good to get new ideas and have competition."

Gus Guadagnino, a prominent local businessman whose civic involvement in Hernando spans more than two decades, recently became the fourth candidate to file to run for the District 4 seat Yant won in 2008.

As an incumbent who has lived in Hernando for nearly 40 years, Yant would be tough to beat. But Guadagnino, who has twice run for Hernando County supervisor of elections, is one of two candidates in the School Board race who have some countywide name recognition and could present a formidable challenge to Yant.

The other is Robert Neuhausen, a 44-year-old senior commodities manager and export control coordinator at Sparton Electronics, east of Brooksville. Neuhausen ran for the same seat in 2008, coming in third in a three-person primary. Yant went on to win the runoff election.

Neuhausen has another advantage. He filed in January 2011, 11 months before Helen Villafane, the next candidate to enter the race. A 67-year-old former teacher and administrator, Villafane spent her entire career in New York and retired in 2006.

The fourth candidate, 50-year-old Michael Gordon, is also a political newcomer. He most recently worked as an independent driver for a transportation company before suffering injuries in an auto accident. He now calls himself semiretired.

School Board races are nonpartisan. If there are three or more candidates, the race appears on the primary ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the top two vote-getters move to a runoff that appears on the general election ballot.

Yant said the field is strong enough to make him feel comfortable as he considers whether to step aside.

There are some motivators that could push him in that direction.

His term has been a long four years, fraught with tight budgets and tough issues. Yant has voted to fire a superintendent and hire another. He and his fellow board members have made some difficult, controversial policy decisions, including an unpopular one last summer to cut bus service for students who live within 2 miles of their schools.

Though the seats are nonpartisan, the creep of politics into the board's decision-making process is frustrating, Yant said.

"A person will start off with the best intentions, then it depends how much they're influenced for political reasons," he said.

There are family considerations, too. Retired after a long career in the insurance business, Yant has an elderly mother and mother-in-law to help care for.

He's still not ready to make a decision, though. Supporters, he said, are urging him to try for another term, often stopping him in stores.

"People compliment me and my perspective," he said. "That's what puts me on the fence."

Asked when he might make a decision, Yant would only say that he will decide by the qualifying period. That is June 4 to 8, so he has about seven weeks to think on it.

Yant said if he does decide to run, he will pay the qualifying fee. For nonpartisan races, the fee is 4 percent of the current salary for the office sought. School Board members are paid $33,180, making the fee about $1,320.

Guadagnino said he didn't decide to file because of Yant's performance. Yant, he said, is good man who has done a fine job.

As a volunteer with the school system, the New York native says he has garnered plenty of insight into local education. He's been a member of the Hernando Education Foundation for more than 20 years, president for the last three. He is also president of the Pasco-Hernando Community College Foundation, Take Stock in Children and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Hernando County.

A business owner for some 45 years and a past president of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, Guadagnino said his executive know-how would help as the School Board considers how to cope with an ever-shrinking budget.

The married father of two said now is a good time to run because his son, Joseph, has taken over the reins at Joni Industries, the family's Brooksville business that specializes in promotional products.

Guadagnino holds an associate's degree in industrial arts from the Community College of New York City.

"I filed because I feel like I can take the board to the next level," he said. "It's about what I can do and the impact I can make."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or

As Hernando School Board field widens, incumbent still on the fence about run 04/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 19, 2012 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.