Felicia Kelly Smith became the second candidate to enter the race for the District 4 seat on the School Board when she filed her initial campaign paperwork Wednesday.
Smith, 62, said she is seeking the seat now held by Patience Nave because she is a child advocate and thinks her background as a nurse and teacher will help the students of Citrus County schools. Bill Murray, a Lecanto High School teacher and coach, is also seeking the seat. Nave has not announced whether she will seek another term.
Smith said she decided to get involved in politics after watching the board grapple with the divisive issue of where to put the Renaissance Center. She urged the School Board to find a home for the school other than a permanent one next to the Citrus County Jail.
She said Wednesday that the experience "set a fire under me" because she became sure that the board heard what she had to say and that her opinion could make a difference in a critical issue.
The board rejected the site by the jail and decided to place the school for disruptive students at the Lecanto school complex.
That locale is familiar to Smith. She mentors children there.
Smith does not work full time. A stroke three years ago impaired her vision and stopped the registered nurse from day-to-day duties. She has taught nursing and worked as a substitute teacher and substance abuse counselor. She earned her nursing degree from the State University of New York at Albany and her bachelor's degree in community health and human services from St. Joseph's College.
Smith is working on a master's degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling at the University of South Florida. She is vice president of the Citrus County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and is a member of the Drug Coalition of Citrus County.
A New York native, she moved to Citrus County from the Long Island area in 1999.
"I've always been involved with education and working with children," she said. "I really feel that every child needs to be able to reach their full potential."
That would be part of the role of a child advocate on the School Board, she said. "I want them to be able to get whatever they need in order to succeed in school."
Smith is also a big fan of mentoring programs and said she would like to see more retired people encouraged to mentor students and share stories of their lives with young people.
"This is the way that you would be able to bring down the gap . . . so that seniors and younger folks can be closer together."
_ Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendtsptimes.com.