Jimmy Lodato, a teacher advocate and frequent presence at school board meetings, defeated Diane Rowden on Tuesday to take the lone remaining seat on the Hernando County School Board.
With all Hernando County precincts reporting, Lodato took more than 56 percent of the vote. In an interview Tuesday night, Lodato credited the victory to support he received from teachers — he had the backing of the teachers union — and other community support.
"The thing that is so humbling is that my teachers and the parents … all came out to support me," he said. "And that's the reason it went the way it went."
Lodato, 76, is a vocal presence at school board and county commission meetings. He has never held office before, but in 2015, he spearheaded a successful effort to revive a half-cent sales tax to support school construction and renovation.
In the Tuesday night interview, Lodato reiterated promises to tighten the district's courtesy school busing radius from two miles to one and to establish a new vocational school. He has also advocated for higher teacher pay and less emphasis on standardized testing.
"This election was not about me," Lodato said. "This election was about my children, my kids, my teachers, my schools and the community.
Rowden, 69, is a longtime Hernando County resident and has been in local politics for nearly three decades. She served a partial term on the school board starting in 1990 and has since served three terms on the Board of County Commissioners. Rowden based her campaign on a promise to increase and improve mental health services for students.
Lodato takes the seat held by departing school board member Beth Narverud, who ran this year for county commission and was defeated in the primary by incumbent Wayne Dukes. His first school board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 20.
For national and statewide election results check out The Buzz.
For local election results check out the Bay Buzz.
For school board election results check out The Gradebook.