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District finance chief willing to keep job

Chuck Rushe said Wednesday that he'd like to stay on as finance chief for Pasco County schools for another two to three years provided the next superintendent wants him and isn't interested in "turning the world upside down."

Rushe narrowly lost to state Rep. Heather Fiorentino, R-New Port Richey, in the heated Aug. 31 Republican primary election to replace retiring superintendent John Long.

"If we meet and everything's fine, I'd probably like to work another two to three years," Rushe said of the new superintendent in his first public statement on the matter.

Fiorentino has said that if she is successful against Democrat Alice Delgardo on Nov. 2, Rushe would be her first choice for chief financial officer.

On Wednesday, the teacher-turned-legislator repeated that desire. She said she looks forward to sitting down with Rushe to talk: "I've always said Chuck does a fine job, and he's an asset to the county."

That the two appear to be on the same cordial page now belies the tension and political maneuvering that took place during months of campaigning. The race pitted Rushe, a favorite of current school administrators, against Fiorentino, a former Pasco County Teacher of the Year with tons of political pull within the GOP.

In the three weeks since 46-year-old Fiorentino won by slightly more than 1 percent of the vote, it appears both are willing to let bygones be bygones. But first, Fiorentino said, "I have to win the next election. I still have an opponent out there."

Delgardo, 52, a licensed practical nurse who lives in Holiday, said that if she wins against Fiorentino, she also would want Rushe on her staff: "I'm not looking for major changes in the administration," she said.

Rushe, 56, has been with Pasco County schools for close to 30 years. He has a three-year contract in his current position and is paid $113,934 annually to oversee financial operations for the 57,000-student school district.

Rushe said he'd be ready to retire in two to three years. His wife, Kathryn, is principal of Trinity Elementary.

Rebecca Catalanello covers education in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6241. Her e-mail address is rcatalanellosptimes.com.

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