Ruthann Derrico's departure from the School Board after 12 years leaves a gap that three area residents have stepped forward to fill.
In the Sept. 3 primary, Republicans will choose between Avis Craig, an engineering firm planner and former county planning director, and Carl Hansen, an adjunct community college instructor and retired military officer.
The winner of that primary will take on Democrat John Troy in the November general election. He is unopposed in the primary. The term of office is four years, and the salary is $21,870.
Craig and Hansen have campaigned on their experience in the working world and in the community.
Craig's mother was a teacher for 36 years, and Craig credits her grandfather for instilling a strong work ethic in her. A planner for Berryman and Henigar, Craig, 45, has had firsthand experience with the school district as a school mentor.
School Board members should set policy and budget rather than focusing on day-to-day operations, she said. "The School Board member must continually step back and look at the big picture."
The job also requires a critical thinker and consensus builder, Craig said, and she said her background has given her those qualities.
Her community service includes a long list of organizations such as Altrusa International, American Association of University Women, the Citrus 20/20 board of directors, the Citrus County Education Foundation and the Crystal River Rotary Club.
She directed the Citrus County Planning Department from 1983 through 1986 and has been with Berryman and Henigar since then. Her specializations include land use, permitting, public involvement, dispute resolution, growth management and long-range planning.
Craig said she plans to apply a natural outgrowth of her work experience to the School Board job. She wants to be sure that the school district relies on county and student growth projects and rezoning of student populations to best use the current schools and to generate a building plan for the future.
Craig's platform also includes working to build consensus on the board, restoring confidence in the board and providing a moderating voice.
Among her ideas on the budget, she advocates lowering the cost of the school district's administration and cutting costs by contracting out some services now done by district employees.
She also wants to encourage more involvement by the business community, promote programs at the Marine Science Center, expand joint ventures with Central Florida Community College and push forward with plans to create an alternative program for disruptive children at the Lakeview School site.
She sums up her qualifications in this way: "You need somebody who has a real heart for children but also a good head for business."
Hansen also sees himself as the best-qualified candidate in the District 2 race.
The 57-year-old West Point graduate spent 25 years in the Army, working his way up to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After his military service, he worked in the private sector, went back to school to earn his master's in business administration and has taught at Central Florida Community College, Pasco-Hernando Community College and the Withlacoochee Technical Institute.
"I care about education," he said, explaining why he wants to be on the board. "I care about the future of our children and I care about the effective and efficient use of my tax dollars."
Hansen said meeting high school graduates moving on to the community college level has given him a good look at where education needs to be improved. "Standards need to be raised and they need to be adhered to," he said.
His military background gives Hansen an appreciation of the need for discipline in the schools. At West Point, he said, discipline "was crammed down your throat nickel by nickel."
He supports having School Board members play a more active role in lobbying state lawmakers on educational issues and has said he will have more time than his opponent to devote to the job because he is not working full time.
Accountability to the taxpayer is another major plank in Hansen's platform. He recently served as a volunteer on two committees in Crystal River that examined how the city charged for services and how to make the city's government more efficient.
Hansen and Craig share a similar philosophy about the role of the board as the policymaker for the school district and the need for board members to work together in a professional way.
He said he is determined to work with the school district's administration, "not micromanaging, but establishing a positive working relationship: an attitude that we're all on the same side, serving the same interests, those of the students and citizens of Citrus County."