Scott Hopes, chairman for the School Board of Manatee County, was re-elected to the District 4 seat on Tuesday, defeating longtime educator Joe Stokes.
With all 70 precincts reporting, Hopes had 70,386 votes, or 51.62 percent. Stokes had 65,957, or 48.38 percent.
“Everyone in the district is in their positions, whether it’s a board member or whether it’s a maintenance worker that’s painting our schools, to support the work that our classroom educators do,” Hopes said on Tuesday night.
“This district must and will — under my leadership — develop a climate and culture where we all understand we are in place to support that teacher,” he continued.
Stokes won the primary election by about 8 percentage points, but neither received more than 50 percent of the vote, leading to a runoff.
Stokes, an educator and school administrator for 45 years, worked as the principal of Martha B. King Middle School before he accepted a position as Manatee’s director of elementary education in 2009, working in that position for four years.
He finished out his career as the assistant principal of Samoset Elementary School, retiring in 2016.
More than 80 current and former teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors and district administrators supported Stokes with a donation between the primary and general elections.
“The voters made a decision, and I love the process we have in our elections,” Stokes said. “I wish the board well. We have a lot of issues, and I want the board to be successful.”
Hopes’ teaching experience dates back to 1984, when he taught science in Hillsborough County for one year. He soon became the head of four departments at McLane Junior High in Brandon, and he later joined a new middle school as its department chairman.
But Hopes is primarily a businessman and consultant, a perspective that was desperately needed on the school board, he argued.
Along with chairing the school board, Hopes serves as the chairman and chief executive officer of CliniLinc, a health and medical technology company he co-founded.
He also sat on the University of South Florida’s Board of Trustees for more than four years.
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Hopes to the school board last year, filling a spot left vacant by Karen Carpenter’s resignation, and the board elected Hopes as chair about four months later.
Hopes overcame several controversies with Tuesday’s victory.
On Feb. 27, a heated argument between him and board member Dave Miner led to a police investigation and months of on-and-off debate. Board member Charlie Kennedy twice tried to remove Hopes from the chair position.
With the passing of elections, Hopes and his fellow board members can address several pressing issues.
A superintendent search is among the district’s highest priorities. Former Superintendent Diana Greene left to head Duval County schools in late June, and interim Superintendent Cynthia Saunders agreed to not apply for the permanent position.
The board will have to address a costly software project, which ballooned from a budget of about $9.8 million to a cost of more than $27 million.
And though voters approved a one-mill increase on property taxes last March, making way for higher salaries in Manatee’s school district, vacancies have remained constant.
Hopes will remain on the board with Dave Miner and Gina Messenger, along with Charlie Kennedy, who was re-elected in the August primary.
James Golden, who defeated incumbent John Colon in the primary elections, will soon start his service.
“We have nearly 50,000 children a day that depend on this school district for their future,” Hopes said. “We’re talking about the future of generations of families who are dependent on what this district does.”