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School Board win a Pinellas milestone

Published Sep. 4, 2005

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Mary Brown became the first African-American candidate to win election to the Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday, and voters approved a change to the way School Board members will be elected that could make it easier for more African-Americans to follow in her footsteps.

"The most significant thing about this is that now truly a young black child in the school system knows that there is hope and affirmation to aspire to the highest level of decision-making in education in Pinellas County," said Darryl Rouson, president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP.

Brown defeated a challenger bearing a prominent family name in county politics, Tiffany Todd. Todd's father, Tom Todd, held the seat until his death in June. Tiffany Todd's mother, County Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd, helped her raise a record $75,400, more than triple what Brown raised.

Brown, who had won more than 58 percent of the vote after 96 percent of precincts had been counted, will take over for interim board member Janice Starling, who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, but who lost in the primary.

Voters also approved single-member districts for four members of the seven-member School Board, a change African-American activists say gives black candidates a better chance of winning seats. The four seats will be elected by voters in specific geographic sections of the county. The three others will be elected countywide, as had been the case for all seats.