Two candidates with vastly different backgrounds are vying to replace Sandra "Sam" Himmel in the District 5 seat on the School Board.
Himmel is quitting the seat mid term to run for superintendent, leaving Citrus native and youth league coach Bruce Bellamy and longtime educator Linda Powers to battle it out in the general election.
Bellamy has made his outsider status a point of pride in his campaign at a time when the school district has struggled with a tarnished public image because of the Homosassa Elementary School construction problems. He also has used his status as a non-educator to talk about the need for a more diverse membership on the board.
While she is part of the school system, Powers also has been critical of the district's handling of the Homosassa school issue.
She also has touted her varied life experiences as a primary reason she is the best candidate. She has background in business from working in office management; 23 years in education, including her current job as a counselor; years of community service; and a personal education history.
"My focus is the same now as it was before," Powers said, listing accountability, school excellence, fiscal responsibility and communications.
Of those issues, improving communications with the school community and the community at large have been the main focus.
While Bellamy's background isn't education, he said he has always worked to build an educational focus in young people even on the athletic playing field. He said he has always emphasized both to his players and their parents the importance of taking schooling seriously.
Bellamy said his years working with local youngsters and their families have taught him problem-solving techniques needed on the School Board. They have also taught him how to relate to people from all walks of life, making him a good listener for youngsters who need to talk to someone and for older people who might have an issue to bring before the board.
That ready ear is especially needed in the school district because many people feel alienated by the system, as Bellamy said he has felt before. That same sentiment has also reared up in the Homosassa issue. He said he believes some people still believe the district is trying to cover up its mistakes on that construction job and so now is the right time for board members who can communicate well with all levels of the community.
"I can bring to the board something different: diversity, understanding and compassion," Bellamy states in his campaign literature.
School Board members are elected by voters countywide but must live in their district. They set policy and approve the budget for the county's public schools. The term is four years although in this case a board member has left her term in mid-year and these candidates are vying to fill the remaining two years of the term. The election is nonpartisan. District 5 encompasses portions of east Citrus County. The annual salary is $28,800.
BRUCE BELLAMY, 51, is a lifelong resident of Citrus County who works as a carpenter for A & R Construction. He attended the Citrus public schools graduating from the Withlacoochee Technical Institute. He returned to school at the age of 40 and earned an associate's degree in business from Central Florida Community College. He has worked as a carpenter, an adult education teacher preparing workers to operate wastewater plants, and as a worker for the city of Inverness wastewater treatment plant. He has spent 21 years coaching a myriad of youth sports teams and has participated in local community theater. Bellamy has four children. ASSETS: half-interest in his home. LIABILITIES: none. SOURCES OF INCOME: construction job.
LINDA POWERS, 60, is a guidance counselor at Inverness Middle School. A native of Green Cove Springs, Powers came to Citrus County more than 20 years ago and has worked previously as a teacher, mental health counselor and office manager for her husband David Powers' medical office. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from the Jacksonville University, her master's in English education from Florida State University and her master's in guidance and counseling from Rollins College. She is a board member of the Citrus County Fair Association, and is a member of the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council and the Citrus County Family Visitation Center. She has also been involved in the Citrus County Education Foundation, the Pregnancy Crisis Center, Camp E-Nini-Hassee and the Citrus County Little League including serving as an umpire. She has won several awards for her service including the Most Admired Award in Education from the Altrusa Club in 1998. She is married and has three grown children. ASSETS: home, half interest in medical office, building lots, cabin and property, stocks, retirement account. LIABILITIES: mortgages. SOURCES OF INCOME: School district salary.