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Commission bid derailed; school board ‘outsider’ Chilmonik looks to re-focus

By Staff | Aug 28, 2010

Bob Chilmonik nearly comes to tears thinking about the ongoing transportation issues that the Lee County School District is facing.
As a champion of the cause during his time on the school board, Chilmonik is nearly as frustrated about transportation as when he began serving as a public official eight years ago.
He said he ran for the school board in 2002 because of what he felt were inefficiencies in the transportation system. And now, nearly a decade later, he’s pained by the overall lack of a difference he feels he’s made.
“We had major busing issues even then,” he said of his early days on the school board. “What’s so ironic about it is, we, as a collective board, were supposed to stop those issues. And we still have all the same problems.”
Chilmonik, of course, can no longer directly affect the changes he feels are needed on the Lee County School Board.
He stepped down to run for the District 1 County Commission seat, falling short of the Republican nomination on Tuesday by just over 800 votes, losing to incumbent John Manning in the primary.
Now Chilmonik, 56, is tasked with looking ahead to whatever may be in store for a man who was often thought of as an outsider on the school board dais.
“I’m not saying I’m perfect,” he said from his Cape home on Friday. “But I’m disappointed we could not fix transportation and there were no significant improvements in math and science numbers.”
The Lee County School Board will have three brand new faces after the general election in November.
In addition to Chilmonik who stepped down, two long-time school board members, Steven Teuber and Elinor Scricca, were ousted by newcomers Tom Scott and Don Armstrong.
Chilmonik’s former seat will eventually be filled by either former Cape Police Chief Arnold Gibbs, or guidance counselor Mary Fischer, who were forced into a November run-off when both failed to garner a majority vote in the primary.
Chilmonik, of course, found himself on the outside of his own race, but the loss has done little to quell what he says is a continued desire to serve the public.
“As bad as losing can be, sometimes it can really help you to refocus your efforts on what really needs to be done,” Chilmonik said. “It’s really helped me to be more aware of the community’s needs, and what’s happening around the county.”
While not committing to a political future one way or the other, Chilmonik did say he’s not ruling out another run, though he wouldn’t say for what office, or when.
He said his approach to the county commission seat would have been the same as his approach to the school board had he been elected, mainly to focus on accountability and spending.
“My plan was not to increase taxes and to control spending. I wanted to focus on transparency and making it clear where the money is being spent,” he added.
More immediately, Chilmonik is looking for a full-time job.
Currently teaching computer applications part time at Edison State College, Chilmonik has to find a full time employment before he can start thinking of his political future.
But he has no regrets pursuing the county commission seat instead of seeing re-election on the school board.
He said he’s happy with the incoming school board members, though disappointed they’ll be facing some of the same challenges he faced when he took the seat in 2002.
“I feel good about the new school board,” he said. “But the problems we faced were so deep, there was so much mismanagement … I was trying to get accountability and couldn’t. It was a good fight, especially when you fight for the kids.”