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District 1 school board race shaping up into a full field

By Staff | Jun 17, 2010

A third candidate qualified for the contested District 1 seat of the Lee County School Board on Wednesday.
Cape Coral resident Mary Fischer is running for the seat held by Board Member Robert Chilmonik for the past eight years.
Fischer, who ran for the District 1 seat in 2006, has a M.A. in Counseling from the University of South Florida, and has worked as a certified family mediator for the 20th Judicial Circuit, a counselor in the Lee County School District, and medical social worker for the Lee Memorial Health System, according to her campaign website.
She also was assistant director of the Guardian ad Litem program in the 20th Judicial Circuit.
Fischer is entering what is shaping up as a three-way race for the District 1 seat this fall with no incumbent. Her opponents are John Traube, a retired teacher and nine-year member of the Curriculum Advisory committee, and Arnold Gibbs, the former chief of police in Cape Coral.
From this week to the school board election in August, the District 1 seat will be empty unless Gov. Charlie Crist decides to appoint an interim board member. Chilmonik announced last week that he was resigning from his post to enter the race for Lee County Board of County Commissioners.
He officially resigned from the Lee County School Board effective 5 p.m. on Wednesday to pursue the Lee County Board of Commissioners District 1 seat, left empty by the passing of Bob Janes.
“When the District 1 seat opened in March due to the untimely death of Bob Janes, it was my intention to finish out my school board term and apply for and run for that position,” said Chilmonik. “However, due to unfortunate circumstances resulting from inaccurate information given to me and other candidates, I did not file a resign to run letter as required by law in time to avoid the current situation.”
Under state law, Chilmonik needed to file a resign to run letter — stating he would resign by November — before June 4. But, the letter was never filed, he said, because of a miscommunication about the opening of the District 1 seat.
He said it was this miscommunication between the state and local election offices which resulted in his early resignation from the school board.
Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington wrote an e-mail to Gary Holland, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of State, on June 16 asking if the resign to run requirement could be waived in Chilmonik’s case.
“Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances that transpired between our office, the governor’s office and the Division of Elections, Mr. Chilmonik was not able to file a letter of resignation with an effective date of November 2, 2010,” she wrote.
Holland’s response later that day was, “Neither the Department of State nor the Division of Elections has the authority to waive the requirements of the statute, allow a retroactive resignation letter, or create a later qualifying date.”
Candidates for the School Board of Lee County have until noon Friday to qualify for the seats up for election this summer.