BROOKSVILLE — Linda Prescott, a retired community college supervisor, was the biggest winner in the two Hernando County School Board races Tuesday, trouncing her two District 2 opponents and easily claiming a majority of the vote to avoid a November runoff.
District 4 incumbent Gus Guadagnino, meanwhile, received more than either of his two challengers, but still faces a runoff against longtime teacher and coach William "Bill" Vonada.
Prescott said she didn't expect to even win the most votes and had no belief that she would win so decisively, collecting about three times as many votes as her opponents, former principal Steven Van Gorden and the school district's former safety and security manager, Mario Littman.
"I'm absolutely shocked," said Prescott, 63, who worked for 14 years at what is now Hillsborough State College. She said she plans to study hard to prepare for the job.
"I have a lot to do between now and November, and I'm really looking forward to it," she said. "And thanks very much to the voters of Hernando County for having faith in my abilities."
Guadagnino, 62, said he had hoped to retain his seat outright, but "I'm happy where I am right now."
"I don't accept it as a big victory, but I accept it as the community saying we're happy with the direction the district is heading right now."
Prescott, Littman and Van Gorden entered the District 2 race after the board member who currently holds the seat, Matt Foreman, announced he would not run for re-election. Littman, 53, emerged as one of the county's sharpest critics of superintendent Lori Romano, even before his contract was not renewed last year.
Van Gorden, 41, served as principal of Zephyrhills High School, but permanently lost his license to teach in Florida due to a state investigation into 2014 allegations of sexual harassment.
The November race in District 4 will offer a sharp contract between Guadagnino, who is a vocal supporter of Romano, and Vonada, 52, who said he entered the race because he sensed a "loss of faith" among the district staffers.
Vonada earned a spot in the runoff by getting more votes than the third candidate in the race, district critic Michael Angelo Gordon, 55.
"I'm humbled by the support I received that allowed me to get into the runoff," Vonada said.
Contact Dan DeWitt at email@example.com. Follow @ddewitttimes.