Fresh face to take Manatee County School Board seat in November

In this file photo, candidates Gina Messenger and Ed Viltz face off in the Bradenton Herald forum for the District 1 school board seat.
In this file photo, candidates Gina Messenger and Ed Viltz face off in the Bradenton Herald forum for the District 1 school board seat.

A fresh face will take over the Manatee County School Board District 1 seat this November.

Since the primaries, Manatee County School Board District 1 candidates Gina Messenger and Ed Viltz have been working to convince voters they are the best choice to replace Bob Gause, who has held the seat for 10 years and decided not to seek re-election.

Viltz took the primaries with 28 percent of the vote, with Messenger only 408 votes behind, earning 27 percent. Linda Schaich and Xtavia Bailey earned 24 and 20 percents of the vote, respectively, and did not make it through to the general election.

Since the primaries, Viltz and Messenger have mostly stayed above the fray, compared to the District 3 race which went personal almost immediately after the primary. Messenger has questioned some of the experience Viltz touts on his campaign speeches, including whether he held a valid teaching license in the state of Florida.

Early voting starts Monday and runs through Nov. 5.

With similar views on many topics, they have been relying on their backgrounds and experiences during the campaign.

In the campaign, Viltz touts his experience in business, nonprofits and the classroom to make him the complete package and the best candidate for election.

“I think my background is very diverse. When you get to be my age, you’ve done a lot of things,” Viltz said at a recent candidate forum.

Messenger said her experience as a classroom teacher and her roots in Manatee County make her the better choice.

“All my experience is in Title 1 schools,” she said. Part of Messenger’s campaign is that she’ll be able to better question items that come before the board from a teacher’s perspective, saying that board members now don’t always ask the right questions.

In the campaign, Viltz has raised almost four times as much money as Messenger has. He has earned $72,089 in contributions, logged $1,200 as in-kind contributions and spent $67,373.20.

“I am grateful for the generous donations and support the campaign has received,” Viltz said. “I also have been discriminate in whose donations I have accepted so I am accountable only to the people of Manatee County.”

On the flip side, Messenger has raised $15,996.83 in contributions, logged $443.20 for in-kind contributions and spent $5,287.

“I feel like showing I can run a campaign on a tight budget is exactly what we need to show for our school board. We need to show we can function and get the biggest bang for our buck with our tax dollars as well,” she said.

The District 1 school board seat covers the area of the county north of the river. Candidates must live in the district they are running for but voters across the county will choose who wins the seat.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney

Name: Gina Messenger

Age: 29

Political experience: None

Professional experience: Six years as a Title I teacher in Marion County, currently at home raising her daughter

Family: Married, with 15-month-old daughter

Name: Ed Viltz

Age: 69

Political experience: None

Professional experience: Retired business executive, educator

Family: Three grown children with six grandchildren