A group of 15 activists, entrepreneurs and educators met for the first time as the Citizens' Financial Advisory Committee, a group of volunteers tasked with fiscal oversight for the School District of Manatee County.
The group, which met on Wednesday afternoon, was created by the school board shortly before the passage of a one-mill increase on property taxes, which will lead to raises for teachers, bus drivers and other district staff.
Members of the committee will oversee the distribution of that money, which was recently projected to hit more than $37 million a year. Among other responsibilities, the committee is also expected to scrutinize the use of sales tax revenue, and to review any financial concerns raised by school board members or the public.
School board Chairman Scott Hopes said the committee will help the board further its transparency and fiscal responsibility.
"We are nearly a $1-billion-dollar-a-year organization that spends your money and your neighbor's money," he said, addressing the committee. "And, most importantly, we're charged with educating all of the children in Manatee County."
The committee is comprised of 15 volunteers:
The committee appointed Christopher, a certified public accountant, as the chairman on Wednesday.
He served as the managing principal of an accounting firm for several decades, and as assistant to the chairman and president of Tropicana Products from 1968 to 1977, according to his resume.
Horne, owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar, earned the title of vice chair during Wednesday's meaning.
His hospitality career started at the now-closed Fast Eddie's Place. He then branched out in 1996 and opened AMOB, which has grown to include four locations and more than 300 employees. Horne has also served on boards throughout the state.
Breslin is an assistant principal at Booker High School in Sarasota.
She also served as an assistant principal at Manatee High School, and as a language arts teacher at Berea Community Middle School in Kentucky.
Cerven specializes in real estate development and and asset management.
"As large landholders and business owners in Manatee County, Steve's family has a significant stake in the success of Manatee County, its school district and students," his professional biography states. "Accordingly, Steve and his family stand ready to help when called upon."
Conard, an accomplished doctor and community activist, has kept a close eye on the school district for decades.
He offered committee members a word of advice at Wednesday's meeting.
"Being on committees like this in the past, I think it would be very prudent that none of us go out and start talking to the media, and that this committee discusses things with the media through its chair," he said.
Since 2017, Dill has served as vice president of development for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee County.
She also worked as a leader of Take Stock in Children for more than a decade, helping low-income children access educational opportunities.
Harrigan is a community activist with a passion for education.
She served as the 2014-15 president of the Stewart Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization. Harrigan also vied for the school board seat that opened when Mary Cantrell died in 2015.
Hoover, a retired attorney, works in Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, Ellenton, Parrish and Palmetto as a real estate broker for Hoover Realty.
He is a graduate of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Stewart Moon Sr.
Moon is a Bradenton resident and the owner of Air & Energy, a Manatee-based company that offers air conditioning, plumbing and electrical services.
He previously served a Canadian pension fund and real estate development company for two decades.
Nelson is a community activist and a regular at school board meetings.
For years, he has critiqued everything from district spending to how the board follows its own bylaws.
Since 2014, Novak has directed the Masters in Health Services Administration program at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Lakewood Ranch.
His medical career started at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Oahu. Hawaii, where he administered the orthopedic surgery department and rose to the rank of captain.
Schaich is another community activist who can be found at every school board meeting.
She has vocalized concerns with the district's spending for years. Schaich also volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club Foundation, and at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota.
Simmons was a member of the school board for more than a decade.
He is a veteran educator, working as a teacher and an administrator.
Stanell is a tax staff accountant at Christopher, Smith & Leonard CPAs.
He holds a master's degree in accounting from Washington University in St. Louis, and he served on a finance committee for Boys and Girls Club of Manatee County.
Tokarz is a CPA with decades of experience in business and financial planning.
He serves as the vice president of finance for Medallion Home Gulf Coast Inc. The company's owner and chief executive officer, Carlos Beruff, financed the opposition to the property tax hike approved by voters in March.