We interviewed all of the county commission and school board candidates and have decided on who we will endorse. All of the candidates show great strengths in different areas so it is a difficult job to decide who to endorse. The fact that they ran for office shows a belief in service above self. They are presenting themselves and their abilities and hoping to be chosen to represent the community.
This is the first year we have endorsed candidates in an election and we felt it was an important thing to do since we are aware of the important issues the county faces and our recommendations can be an additional resource for you to make an informed decision. We are very thankful to all of the candidates for undertaking the difficult task of running for office. Without good people running for office, there is no choice and no democracy.
In the county commission district 2 republican primary race we have April Johnson-Spence, Brian Hawkins and Mike Fulford. We struggled with this race for many hours and could not come to an agreement. Each candidate has an expertise that would benefit our county.
Johnson-Spence has spent many years working with nonprofits in Hernando County. She brings a lot of enthusiasm for strengthening the realm of human services in Hernando County and ensuring fiscal responsibility.
Brian Hawkins is a veteran, successful former business owner and brings experience in finance and private equity. He recently donated $40,000 to help upgrade the memorial at Veterans Memorial Park.
MIke Fulford is a veteran and civil engineer who will bring an expertise in planning and infrastructure to the county commission, particularly with regard to our waterways. He has many years of experience in planning and anticipating changes that will happen.
County Commission District 4 is a universal primary because both candidates, Jerry Campbell and Anthony Arenz, are republicans. All voters will be able to vote in this election.
Anthony Arenz is a candidate who is resonating with young voters in the county and those who are tired of the political system. Arenz is showing people that anyone can run for office and we commend him for that. He also is committed to reducing the pervasive gang and drug problem and believes we need to fix those problems before allowing further growth in the county.
Jerry Campbell is a successful businessman and fiscal conservative who worked his way up to owning and operating several Domino Pizza franchises. As a child, he and his two older brothers were adopted into a large family of 12 and didn’t see the opportunity to go to college. His ability and knowledge in business finance will be his strength on the county commission.
We are choosing to endorse Jerry Campbell because he has the experience needed to make solid decisions for the county regarding budgeting efficiencies, planning and economic development. As a business owner, he felt the responsibility of the 175 employees that depended on him. He expressed concern for their well-being as opposed to his financial gain.
Jennifer Licata is the mother of a child in the school system who is in the gifted program/ESE. She sees a lack of leadership and a need for a fully independent third party audit in order to identify wasteful spending- like too many mid level administration positions/salaries. She believes education should be a team effort between parents, students and teachers.
Kay Hatch is a longtime volunteer in the public school system. She is the incumbent in the race and was elected in 2018. She is very supportive of teachers and would like to see VPK programs expanded. She says that a big part of her role as a school board member is educating community members about what is happening in the school system. She also believes that spending time in the classroom is important as a school board member. She describes herself as a real cheerleader for the public school system.
He has been a strong supportive voice for students. After serving on the school board (2014-2018) he created a low tuition ($25 per course) vocational program called T-Volt which provided training for high school seniors, unemployed and underemployed individuals. Sixty-five percent of those students found employment. While serving on the school board, he supported the Urban Gentleman’s Club which improved behavior of many struggling students. He has also been a watchdog against CRT in the school system.
In this race we are endorsing Mark Johnson because of his track record in creating and supporting programs that benefit local students. We also agree with his stance on eliminating CRT from the school system. He has a strong understanding of the school district’s finances and aims to improve the district’s efficiencies and eliminate wasteful spending.
Jimmy Lodato was elected to the school board in 2018. He has been heavily involved in making the Wilton Simpson Technical School a reality. He is a business leader who cares about creating job opportunities for our students and he has shown this with the relentless work he has done in bringing the standalone technical school to Hernando County.
Shannon Rodriguez is a business woman and the mother of three children in the school district. She seeks to bring conservative values and fiscal responsibility to the school system as well as unity between the school district and county commission. She feels that there needs to be more support for teachers and repercussions to students who misbehave in school. She would like students to learn cursive writing again so they can actually sign their names. She is a proponent of accommodating the influx of growth without spending enormous amounts of money.
We are endorsing Shannon Rodriguez because she is concerned that CRT and woke ideology exist in the school system and will work to remove it. She is also very active in supporting the school system as a volunteer and Vice President of the Hernando County Education Foundation. Her business background gives her a solid foundation in understanding budgetary issues and inefficiencies. While we greatly respect and value the work her opponent has done with the Wilton Simpson Technical School and other contributions to education, we feel that the woke ideology must be identified and rooted out.
Susan Duval is a former principal at Springstead High School. She is the incumbent in this race and has served on the school board since 2014. She is currently a very influential member of the school board.
Monty Floyd has a background in higher education as an administrator and auditor. He has experience in budgets and compliance. He strongly believes that the school district should regularly change auditing firms.
Lara Dedmon a speech pathologist (reading and speech development). She focuses on what is best for the child. She feels that the school district has often acted as if they were spending someone else’s money. She sees early screening and remediation as useful for helping young students close the achievement gap.
Pam Everett has extensive experience advocating for Hernando County students. Nine years ago she became involved as an IEP advocate. She was also part of a lawsuit to stop standardized testing. She sees the need for more of a focus on mental health.
We are endorsing Lara Dedmon for this race. As a speech pathologist, she works to support students struggling to speak and read. She will be their voice on board. Poor reading skills is a big problem in Hernando County. She cites, “Our 8th graders’ current reading scores on the FSA are at 46% which means that 54% of them are failing. Yet the high school graduation rate is just over 90%.” She is also very concerned about political ideologies in education. Lara says, “I believe in keeping our students’ curriculum free from social issues and political agendas, like CRT. These ideologies, no matter what you name them, include divisive language that can corrupt our children’s minds and hearts. We don’t send our kids to school to be corrupted by these ideologies, we send them to school to learn to read, and write, and problem solve and learn about their government, so that they can become educated and productive citizens. Our school curriculum should instead, reflect the family values of our community.”