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School chief to face principal

The Citrus superintendent and a former assistant superintendent proceed to the general election.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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INVERNESS -- Incumbent Citrus Superintendent Pete Kelly will be challenged by his former assistant David Hickey in the November general election.

Each won his respective primary Tuesday, earning Kelly and Hickey a place on the ballot with Ansel Briggs, who has no party affiliation, in bids for the $98,910-a-year job.

On the Republican side, Kelly took 56 percent of the vote over consultant Tom Mullins.

As Kelly's win became clear, Mullins walked over to him at the Supervisor of Elections Office to congratulate him and say that he would be there to defend him against any attacks about the amount of money he earns. "You earn every penny of it," Mullins said.

Kelly countered, "I'd appreciate your support."

Kelly, 57, has campaigned on his record, touting development of a strategic plan, establishment of a three-year, $8-million technology upgrade for the school district and the opening of the Renaissance Center to serve the district's disruptive children.

Kelly, completing his first four-year term, also has argued that he has worked to keep the district's pay scales and staffing more equitable.

"Now it's time to go to work," he said of the race before him.

Mullins, 58, focused on Kelly's financial decisions, at one point accusing the superintendent of nearly bankrupting the system, but Mullins' personal bankruptcy and other financial problems became an issue.

"The people have spoken," Mullins said.

On the Democratic side, Crystal River Middle School principal David Hickey, 56, beat out 42-year-old Lecanto Primary School teacher Chris Becker, with Hickey taking 57 percent of the vote.

Hickey, who moved back to the principal's job after two years at Kelly's side as assistant superintendent, ran a race focused on the need for strong experience and educational background in order to improve student achievement. He said he wouldn't change his approach now that his boss is his main political target.

He credited his campaign workers and the voters for his win but also said that he respected Becker as an educator.

Becker, who focused on the district's need to change, said he was pleased to have gotten his message out, and he was hearing some of his campaign comments in other candidate's speeches.

"I didn't get the votes, but I've still won," he said. "The whole idea was to make sure we see change, and we will see some."

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