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Despite indecisiveness, Flato should keep post

Democrat Bob Flato is facing a substantial challenge to retain the District 1 Hernando County School Board seat to which he was appointed last year. His opponent is Steve Galaydick, a Republican who has earned a reputation as a tenacious gadfly at School Board meetings.

While Flato has earned our recommendation to voters, we believe he has some shortcomings to correct. However, we feel confident that if he is given the opportunity, he will be able to overcome them and contribute more as a board member.

When Flato came on the board, it was in a positive transition. With the arrival a year earlier of board members Gail Coleman and Jim Malcolm, as well as appointed Superintendent Harold Winkler, the board had made great strides toward recovering from the embarrassing failure of its most tenured members to obey the state Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. Flato's opportunity to serve on the board was created when the governor, and later the state Senate, removed Diane Rowden from office for that violation.

Since Flato took office most of his accomplishments have been largely ordinary, although he often asks intelligent questions of the staff. But he appears reluctant to take his line of questioning to the next step. Too often he seems content to accept whatever answer he is given, regardless of its substance. More probing follow-up from Flato would be welcome.

Another criticism we have, and this one also has been seized upon by his opponent, is that Flato often waits until all the other board members have indicated which way they will vote on an issue before he offers his opinion. Flato maintains that he prefers to hear all the arguments and then ponder those views before he makes a commitment. That very well may be, but we are concerned it may indicate occasional indecisiveness or a lack of leadership abilities.

But, with the exception of those concerns, Flato has been an attentive and responsible board member. He is earnest and dedicated and has shown a penchant for analyzing money matters, which probably comes from his experience as a private business owner.

Galaydick has been persistent in his criticisms of Flato and sometimes the whole board. He is organized, confident and enthusiastic, and his volunteer service as the chairman of the advisory council at Deltona Elementary School, where his son attends, is testament to his willingness to become involved.

But during his frequent appearances at the board meetings, Galaydick has shown a tendency to be temperamental and even vindictive. In fact, his candidacy for this office was born from his dissatisfaction with a stance taken by Flato on the issue of offering non-denominational prayers before School Board meetings. Galaydick publicly vowed after that vote to challenge Flato, or find a candidate who would.

While it was perfectly acceptable for Galaydick to strongly voice his opinion about that issue, it is unfortunate he chose to taint his candidacy by using it as a means of retaliation.

With slight reservations, we recommend that Hernando County voters offer Flato the opportunity to serve them for the next four years.

Opportunity to reply

Steve Galaydick is invited to respond to this editorial recommendation. The reply must be received no later than 4 p.m. Wednesday and is limited to 250 words. Deliver to Jeff Webb, Editor of Editorials, Hernando Times, 161 East Jefferson St., Brooksville, FL. Or fax to (904) 754-6133.

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