Monroe County voters will settle the election’s School Board race on Tuesday between incumbent Ed “Cap. Ed” Davidson and political newcomer Mindy Conn.
School Board members serve four-year terms and earn annual salaries of $30,118 and preside over the School District’s budget, which for the next fiscal year is proposed at $98.9 million for operating expenses and adds up to a total $170 million, including capital.
The nonpartisan contest pits Marathon resident Davidson, who in the last four years has butted heads with administrators and Superintendent Mark Porter — even threatening to “fire” him at one point —against Conn, a former attorney turned mother of two on Sugarloaf Key who says building relationships between the board and schools officials is key.
Davidson, a Vietnam combat veteran who almost always wears a cap and jacket bearing his name and School Board title, calls himself the voters’ fiscal watchdog. He often is the lone dissenter on the five-man board during roll call votes.
Conn, who moved to the Keys from New York in 2001 after practicing law and working for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, has taught at Florida Keys Community College and for several years was a substitute teacher in the public schools.
This is the only School Board race this year. Andy Griffiths was re-elected without opposition.
Davidson, who owns a dive shop and rents apartments in Marathon, was elected to the board in 2012 after dutifully attending board meetings often as a critic. This is Conn’s first bid for office. The two differ largely on approach, speaking style and background rather than on school policy.
Davidson is the only board member who doesn’t have children, while Conn has two kids currently in public school. Davidson said 80 percent of taxpayers don’t have children in the schools.
“This is a very big business,” Davidson said. “The other 80 percent of the board represents only 20 percent of the taxpayers.”
Conn said, “It is an asset to have my children as students in the School District. It gives me a whole different view of what’s going on in our schools and it’s a view that’s necessary.”
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen