SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Election day in Sarasota County came with record turnout. Almost 37% of registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.
Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner says the last time Sarasota County exceeded that number was 30 years ago. The vast majority of voters we heard from Tuesday said it was the school board race that brought them out to their precincts to vote.
“It is really important. I have three kids. They are all in school right now. Me and my wife want to make sure they are really getting education and a good education,” said voter Paul Willis.
Over the last two years, a number of school board meetings in Sarasota County have become heated over hot-button issues relating to parental rights, transparency and what is being taught in the county’s public schools.
School board member Bridget Ziegler tells WFLA the public was ready for change.
“Parents spoke up and concerned citizens have been raising their flag, myself included, over the last year and a half over issues that our board needed to address and take seriously,” Ziegler said. “I think they made it very clear that this community wants a reset and that is exactly what they are going to get. I am very excited.”
Ziegler was reelected to her seat Tuesday. Newcomers Tim Enos and Robyn Marinelli also won their races. All three candidates were backed by the local Republican party and Gov. Ron DeSantis. During a rally held by the governor this weekend, all three candidates took the stage before his remarks.
Ziegler tells WFLA she is elated to see the historically liberal majority school board flipped conservative for the first time in a long time. Several parents celebrated the new candidates at a watch party Tuesday night.
Not all parents in Sarasota County are looking forward to the newly conservative majority school board, however. Mother Angela Wynn says she’s concerned with what the 4-1 majority – on what should be a nonpartisan board – means for her child and others.
“When it comes to the votes, when it comes to new agenda items, I am fearful that all voices won’t be heard in Sarasota County. It is only going to be a select few and that is what I am fearful for our county,” said Wynn who is also co-founder of the nonprofit Support Our Schools. “Politics need to stay out of education. There is no place for them here.”
Newly-elected school board member Robyn Marinelli agrees, politics should stay out of the board room.
“The responsibility of the board is to represent all students of all parents and that is what the board needs to do. There’s no place for politics on the board. We have a job to do and that is educating students and that is what I want to bring and see happen, and that’s what I pledge to do,” said Marinelli.
The newly-elected school board members will be sworn into their new roles at a later date.