Pinellas County School Board member Eileen Long, one of several school board members statewide targeted for defeat by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has drawn a challenger, school counselor Erika Picard of Palm Harbor.
Picard is a Republican but denied she is running because of DeSantis’ interest in the race.
A Florida native who has lived in Pinellas County since childhood, Picard is a current and former counselor at several Pinellas high schools, currently Palm Harbor University High School. She and her husband have three young children and she also works in real estate.
She is also a trustee at Westlake Christian School, where her two school-age children attended pre-kindergarten, but both are now in public schools. She said she and her husband plan on keeping them there.
“We believe the public school system should work for us” and “feel a calling to be in the public school system,” she said.
She said she is a former PTA vice president at her children’s school and a member of the school advisory committee.
Asked why she decided to challenge Long, Picard didn’t name any specific differences with the incumbent.
“I have a tremendous amount of passion for students, parents and employees that are stakeholders in our system. I will bring relevance to the board with my background” as an employee and mother of children of the school system, she said.
Long, formerly a long-time teacher and PTA and school advisory committee activist, is finishing her second term on the board representing the north Pinellas District 4. She filed for reelection in April.
DeSantis, who used his influence and political campaign money in 2022 school board races last year, has named 14 school board members statewide he says he’ll target for defeat in 2024, including Long.
“I’m not worried,” Long said. “I’ve been continuing to do my board work, making school visits, getting a lot of good support from teachers … the people in my district know me well.”