Harvey, Carpenter weigh Manatee School Board re-election bids

jajones1@bradenton.comApril 21, 2014 

MANATEE -- Two Manatee School Board incumbents are undecided about whether to seek re-election, while several other candidates are already running hard.

District 4 school board member Karen Carpenter and at-large District 2 member Barbara Harvey say they still have time to decide, noting the official qualifying period doesn't start until noon June 16 and ends at noon June 20.

Any school board candidate seeking to qualify by petition, however, has until May 19 to submit the signatures of 2,095 registered voters.

The primary is Aug. 26, and a runoff, if needed, would be Nov. 4.

"I would suggest they get started," said Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett of anyone considering qualifying by petition.

Harvey and Carpenter say if they decide to run, they will qualify by paying the $1,507.24 filing fee, which represents 4 percent of the $37,681 school board member salary.

Harvey, a Palmetto resident and retired school principal, said her deliberation in making a decision this year is not out of character.

"My very first race, I was very late making the decision," Harvey said Friday. She was first elected to the school board in 1998.

"I am leaning away from running, but I have not made that final decision," Harvey said, when pressed about her intentions.

"When I was asked to run 16 years ago by communities east, west and corridor, I promised I would give 110 percent for Manatee County youth. That was No. 1," Harvey said.

While Harvey, 72, said she still gets phone calls urging her to run, she also believes she needs to do more with the nonprofit Education Consultants Consortium Inc., which she serves as executive director.

"My focus remains on providing the very best educational, social and emotional opportunities for every child in Manatee County without politicizing the position," Harvey said.

Asked whether she is comfortable working with Superintendent Rick Mills and other school board members, she responded: "I feel comfortable working with the superintendent and I would like to leave it at that point, please."

Carpenter, 71, a southern Manatee resident completing her first term on the school board, said Friday she expects to make her decision on whether to seek re-election in early May.

Carpenter, a lawyer and former executive director of the Women's Resource Center of Manatee County, is leaning toward seeking re-election.

"In whatever role I am in, I will work to advance education and the causes of children in Manatee County," Carpenter said. "I want to continue to serve the children of Manatee County."

Asked about the controversies swirling around the school board, including a multimillion-dollar deficit that led to former Superintendent Tim McGonegal's resignation, Carpenter said financial issues are getting fixed and all legal issues will be settled in court.

"We have to stay focused on education and the needs of 46,000 school children," Carpenter said.

Asked about her comfort level in working with Mills and the school board, Carpenter acknowledged there has been "tumult."

But she said that she is comfortable working with Mills and the board.

"There is a lot of energy and commitment," Carpenter said. "The superintendent has brought in a stellar group of people to run things. He is very skilled."

Those who have already thrown their hats into the ring are District 5 incumbent Julie Aranibar, a Lakewood Ranch resident being challenged by Carlton "Les" Nichols and District 2 challenger Rodney Jones, according to the Manatee Supervisor of Elections website.

No potential challenger has yet opposed Carpenter for the District 4 seat,

All Manatee County voters are allowed to cast ballots in each of the school board races. The election is nonpartisan.

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.

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