Tuesday's election capped a remarkable, five-decade career in public service for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard.
The man who worked his way up from classroom teacher to the superintendent of America's eighth-largest school system had a great second act as the county's elections supervisor. Taking over in 2009 after the sudden death of Phyllis Busansky, who took office only six months before, Lennard finished what Busansky started — cleaning up the mess left behind by her inept predecessor.
Lennard professionalized the office, making it more open and accommodating to candidates and the public. His attention to detail and high standards not only restored public faith in local elections. It made his operation a model for a state that continually finds new ways to botch the vote.
Lennard's cornball style overshadowed a sense of public duty that is too rare these days. Both as schools superintendent and elections supervisor, he was never hesitant to work late or roll up his sleeves to fix even minor problems. As a leader, Lennard followed through, meant what he said and treated people with respect. Craig Latimer, his chief of staff, takes over in January. Lennard, who did not seek re-election, will spend his days growing vegetables on his 12 acres in Riverview. He has made a real contribution to his hometown, this region and the state.