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Election 2004

Familiar face to lead Citrus schools

Former School Board member Sandra Himmel easily tops two challengers.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published November 3, 2004


INVERNESS - Citrus County's new school superintendent is a familiar face.

A longtime School Board member and community resident, Sandra "Sam" Himmel easily defeated two opponents to win the top administrative job in the school system.

She will replace retiring superintendent David Hickey on Nov. 16. Hickey decided not to seek a second term.

Himmel, a Democrat, rode triumphantly onto N Apopka Avenue in a truck with a huge orange campaign sign Tuesday night after the votes were counted. That ride drew her enthusiastic supporters into the street to cheer for Citrus County's first female school superintendent.

Himmel, 50, took nearly 59 percent of the vote compared to 35 percent for her Republican challenger, Ted Sgouros, and 6 percent for Ansel Briggs, who has no party affiliation.

Himmel resigned her School Board seat to run for superintendent. She campaigned on the school district's many successes and the need to move the district ahead academically. She also had to answer criticism on how the district has handled the construction flaws in the two new buildings at Homosassa Elementary.

Himmel has said she wants to see improvements on the business side of the school district - specifically, she wants to pull maintenance and facilities departments together so they can form more of a partnership.

The new job doesn't start for two weeks, but Himmel said she planned to meet with Hickey and his executive team today "so that when I get sworn in, it's an easy transition," she said.

In the early weeks of her administration, Himmel said she will meet with district leaders and map out her course. "I plan on this district being again in the top five in the state," she said.

While Himmel was considered the front runner, she said she never let herself get overconfident and she worked hard to the end. "Every campaign I always think that I'm one vote behind," she said.

Himmel credited her success to her supporters and the district's record. "We've got a good history in the things we've done, the things we've said and the things we stand for," she said.

Sgouros, 57, and a relative newcomer to the area, also had served as a superintendent in small school districts in Colorado and New York previously.

"For somebody not that well known, I did okay," Sgouros said. But he admitted disappointment. "I really think that I would have been able to do a lot of good things for this district and I hope that Sam Himmel can do some good things . . . . I wish her well. I wish all the people in the school system well."

Briggs, 65, also said that his experience working with various social service and community education programs - as well as his advocacy work in the community - gave him the perspective needed to be superintendent.

He said after the vote count that he would not run again. This was his third try at the office. "That's what the voters want," Briggs said. "I don't regret (running). I'll just have to find other ways to get my message out."

The superintendent serves a four-year term and the annual salary is $107,118.

[Last modified November 2, 2004, 23:30:20]


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