At Kiwanis, Manatee County School Board candidates sell trust

Manatee County School Board candidates discuss how they’d build trust at a Bradenton Kiwanis forum.
Manatee County School Board candidates discuss how they’d build trust at a Bradenton Kiwanis forum.

Candidates hoping to join the Manatee County School Board explained Tuesday how they’d be the best person to restore the public’s trust in the system.

Both questions posed to the candidates during the hour-long Bradenton Kiwanis forum included the word “trust” and asked the board hopefuls how they’d restore trust — first, in how the public could trust the board with a proposed 15-year extension of the half-cent sales tax; and second, how the public could begin to trust the board again after four years of scandals.

Candidates for the District 3 race, incumbent Dave Miner and planner Misty Servia, offered differing views on where the board stands now.

“There was chaos four years ago when I came on,” Miner said. “To say there isn’t trust now, it’s just false.”

Servia disagreed, saying she had fielded two phone calls this week from people who needed help and weren’t getting it from Miner.

“I disagree that things are better and we don’t have chaos,” she said.

Charlie Conoley, a local banker also running for the District 3 seat, was not at the event.

District 1 candidates focused on their backgrounds and experiences, which they said set them apart in the race.

Gina Messenger, a former Title I public school teacher, said the community could best trust a teacher on the board, who would know which decisions would benefit those in the classrooms most.

“A teacher knows this is how our money should be spent,” she said.

Linda Schaich, a retiree who lost the District 1 seat to Bob Gause in 2012, said her prediction of the district’s financial meltdown was proof that she had the financial acuity to be trusted on the board.

“My platform then was the district was about to implode financially,” she said. “Six weeks after the election, the district imploded financially.”

Xtavia Bailey, a business owner, said there had been mistrust and mismanagement in the past, and her business experience and connections with the community could help keep that from happening again.

“I will do the right thing the first time,” she said.

Ed Viltz, a business executive and educator, said his combination of experiences made him the best candidate for the board.

“We still need a level of expertise on the board,” he said.

All registered Manatee County voters can cast a vote in the school board races on Aug. 30. If no candidate earns a majority of votes in the primary, the top two vote earning candidates will move to a runoff election in November.

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney