McNealy wins School Board District 4 seat
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:09 p.m.
Newcomer Leanetta McNealy claimed victory to the District 4 seat on the Alachua County School Board on Tuesday, capturing 52.31 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting and only absentee ballots remaining.
McNealy, a former Alachua County teacher and principal at Duval Elementary, received 50,381 votes as of late Tuesday, while incumbent and longtime board member Barbara Sharpe received 45,927, or 47.68 percent of the vote.
McNealy was overwhelmed with congratulatory hugs and handshakes at a gathering of local Democrats at Cellar 12 in downtown Gainesville on Tuesday night when returns showed that she would win a close, nonpartisan race.
“Oh, my gosh,” McNealy said. “All I can say is oh, my gosh.”
She said Tuesday night that her priorities include improving graduation rates, exploring more options for vocational education for non-college-bound high schoolers and pursuing salary increases for teachers.
“They need a substantial raise in salaries and benefits,” she said.
Sharpe, who was running for her fourth term, said she was not upset with the results because she was prepared for whatever the outcome would be Tuesday night.
“I’m fine because the people chose who they wanted to choose,” she said.
Throughout the campaign, Sharpe said she did not wish to have endorsements and it didn’t matter that McNealy was raising more money.
On Tuesday, she said she felt her opponent’s campaign had grown nasty and denounced the local Democratic Party and the Alachua County Education Association, the local teachers union, for what she felt was unfair support of McNealy.
“I have never been in a campaign that was as nasty and mean-spirited as this one,” she said.
She added that she has enjoyed her time on the School Board and will focus on spending time with her family.
School Board Chair April Griffin said she did not see nastiness in the campaign but felt that sitting School Board members should not express support for candidates in the race.
Although no formal endorsements came from current board members, Eileen Roy told The Sun she backed McNealy during the primary in August because of McNealy’s experience as a classroom teacher and principal in Alachua County.
Griffin said she wished Sharpe the best of luck and looked forward to working with McNealy.
“I’m sure (Sharpe) will stay active in our community,” she said.
At Cellar 12, current School Board member Gunnar Paulson said he was happy for his new colleague.
“I think we have a very good new board member,” he said.
Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.