TAMPA — Seventeen candidates are seeking three seats on the Hillsborough County School Board, but two people who give time and money already to education — a parent and a philanthropist — are running away in the race for campaign contributions.
Michelle Popp Shimberg, a 51-year-old political newcomer and mother of three, has raised the most money at $71,268 in cash and $840 in in-kind donations. She has spent $2,200 so far in the race for District 2, representing southwestern Hillsborough County.
Charles Brink, 61, of Westchase, comes in second with $65,000 loaned to his own campaign. Brink launched a local education foundation when he sold his interest as a founder in the international juice and beverage company MonaVie. He has spent $166 so far in the countywide District 6 race.
If two or more candidates in each race qualify, their names will be placed on the ballot for the Aug. 26 primary election. The general election is Nov. 4. Three of the board’s seven seats are up for election.
Up against Shimberg in District 2 are Sally Harris and Michael Weston, each of whom has run unsuccessfully for school board before. Weston, a former Freedom High School teacher, has raised $3,742 and spent $1,484. Harris has raised $1,000 and has spent $1,092.
The District 2 seat is held by longtime board member Candy Olson, who is not seeking re-election.
Online monthly financial reports filed last week show that in December, Shimberg, who served 18 years on the school district’s Citizens Advisory Council, raised $2,475 from 12 individuals and businesses.
“I have reached out to friends, family members and people I’ve known and worked with through the last 25 years,” Shimberg said. “I’m excited about the diversity and the broad base of support.”
Her top donation was $1,000 from the Hyundai and Mitsubishi dealership in Brandon. Others were $50 to $250, and include $100 from Tampa City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda.
She also received $250 from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and $500 from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Her husband is Tampa lawyer Robert Shimberg, who served on Bondi’s transition team.
Shimberg worked for several years as a leadership consultant and then as a management associate and personnel training manager at NationsBank. She served two terms as national president of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, which has 150,000 members, and has held leadership positions in local parent groups and education foundations.
If elected, Shimberg said her priorities will be focusing on improving transparency, as well as boosting the achievement of all students and working on engaging the community better.
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Brink has been unavailable for comment about his most recent campaign report.
He founded The Brink Foundation in 2008 and told the Wall Street Journal then that his family would look to its home in Tampa as a focus for $5 million it planned to put toward charity from the sale of its interest in MonaVie, a multi-level juice and marketing company.
In 2011, the most recent year for which it submitted information to the Internal Revenue Service, the foundation reported assets of $7.15 million, down from $7.3 million two years earlier.
The foundation gives grant money to organizations and programs that stress academic achievement, economic empowerment, humanitarian assistance and civic engagement, according to its website.
The foundation lists its address as an office building at 3409 W. Fletcher Ave., and its CEO, Jose Colindres, is a frequent speaker at school board meetings, often calling for more transparency and accountability in the school district.
Brink is seeking the school board seat held by April Griffin, who is not running for a third term. She filed to run for the District 7 county commission seat last year but has since dropped out of that race.
Closest behind Brink in fundraising in District 6 is Dipa Shah, 42, with $37,510 raised. The Brandon lawyer and mother of two has spent $4,928 so far.
Paula Meckley has raised $31,560, followed by Stacy Hahn with $18,430, Russ Patterson with $13,000, Randy Toler with $2,850, Asher Edelson with $646, John Evon with $575 and Alison McGillivray Fernandez with $150.
Toler, a founder of the American Green Party, said he is focusing on getting his name out in the community rather than trying to raise the most money.
“I’m running against a millionaire, as far as money goes,” he said, noting that he has racked up almost 500 followers on Twitter. “It’s clear to me I have a really broad appeal to the left and the right.”
The newest candidate to the race, Ralph Underwood II, filed to run Monday. He does not yet have a financial report on file with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.
Underwood, 33, is a culinary teacher at Hillsborough High School and a parent of two district students. He said he wants to serve on the board to give more of a voice to parents, but did not want to get into specifics yet.
“I plan on getting a little more in the limelight as the school year comes to a close,” he said. “Teaching is my first priority right now.”
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In the District 4 race, candidate Melissa Snively is the financial front-runner with $43,770 in cash and $1,330 in in-kind donations. Of that, $1,020 came in last month. She has spent $9,510 so far.
Snively, 43, a State Farm insurance agent and former chairwoman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, is up against three others for the seat: Terry Kemple, with $6,910 raised; Jereme Monette, with $2,915 raised; and Dee Prether, with $2,340 raised.
The seat, which represents much of eastern Hillsborough, is being vacated by Stacy White, who is running for county commission.
“Not that fundraising is the only indicator of who’s going to do the best in the election, but it’s one indicator,” Snively said. “It shows there’s support for particular candidates, especially when contributions are given by future constituents.”
Snively, who majored in English and minored in secondary education at the University of Florida, said two issues she would focus on if elected are boosting literacy rates and preparing high school students for college or a career.
“Whether it’s college, military or vocational, I think we can do a better job,” she said.