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Daughter plans run for dad's position

The daughter of Thomas C. "Tom" Todd, the Pinellas County School Board member who died suddenly late last month, said Monday she plans to run this fall for the vacant seat.

This comes on the heels of Gov. Jeb Bush's appointment Friday of Janice Starling, a fellow Republican and an administrator and director of Starling School & Day Care Center Inc., who could become the first African-American elected to the Pinellas County School Board. Matthew P. Sullivan of St. Petersburg also plans to qualify for the race by petition.

Like her father, Tiffany Todd is a Republican. School Board races are nonpartisan, but local Republican leaders say they plan to support Starling this November.

"The Todd name in Pinellas politics is very well known, and the name Tiffany Todd will be a formidable one on the ballot," said Paul Bedinghaus, chairman of the Republican Party in Pinellas County. "But I think obviously on the part of the governor and the part of many Republicans, there is a desire to play an important role in making history by electing the first African-American ever to the School Board in Pinellas County."

Tiffany Todd says her father groomed her for the job for about five years. The two often "would look over the School Board agenda and discuss the issues," she said.

He would talk to her about expulsion, the school budget or new construction. He would tell her about his conclusion on the issues and then explain how he arrived at his decision.

"He was teaching me," she said.

He wasn't the only one. Her mother is Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd, and Tiffany Todd has worked on both of her parents' campaigns. At age 20, she worked as her father's campaign manager in his 1998 run for the School Board.

So hers is not the usual bid. Her father died June 28. It was the day before Todd married Charles Ciminera, 34.

"I'm not running for this seat because my father wanted me to," she said. "I'm running because I believe I can make a difference, and I want to serve this community like my mother and father have."

Barbara Sheen Todd said she is pleased her daughter decided to run.

"She was very close to her daddy. She has always wanted to get into public service. We just didn't think it would happen this quickly," said Barbara Sheen Todd.

Tiffany Todd, who has three children, is an operating room nurse at Tampa General Hospital. She also has worked with physically and mentally disabled children who were admitted to the hospital or undergoing surgery.

She says she is running because she has seen the internal workings of the School Board as a mother and an involved parent. She says she has seen how information trickles down from the board, to the administration, to teachers and finally to parents.

"I believe I can represent the parents and the view of our working families. I know how hard it is to work and be involved in the schools," she said.

She says she wants to promote fundamental school concepts, such as requiring parents to sign a contract and committing to attending mandatory PTA meetings. She also would like to help parents better understand the district's new choice plan.

She says the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test "serves a purpose of accountability." But, "I believe there is always room for improvement, and I would urge the community to express their opinion to our legislators on how it can be improved."

The candidate is already rallying people around her. Among them are her father's supporters.

Nick Kotaiche, a longtime family friend, called her a "compassionate mother" who deserves to be elected.

"We're going to get someone who knows choice inside and out," he said. "She understands the board and how it functions."

Tiffany Todd

Age: 24

Residence: St. Petersburg

Occupation: Registered nurse, Tampa General Hospital

Political affiliation: Republican

Political experience: Campaign manager of Thomas C. "Tom" Todd's 1998 campaign for the Pinellas County School Board.

Education: Licensed practical nurse diploma, Pinellas Technical Education Center, 1997. Associate's degree in science, then-St. Petersburg Junior College, 2001.

Experience in Pinellas County schools: Parent of a daughter who attended Ridgecrest Elementary School. Member of the Ridgecrest Parent Teacher Association.