Lee County school board race: Melisa Giovannelli wins District 2 seat

Pamela McCabe
 
| Fort Myers News-Press

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2020: Election Day in Florida

Here’s a look in Florida as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Melisa Giovannelli will keep her seat on the Lee County school board.

The incumbent carried 42,284, or 64.78%, of the votes in Tuesday’s general election, beating out longtime educator Jeff McCullers. He took in 22,992, or 35.22%, of the votes.

District 2 stretches from Fort Myers south to the San Carlos Park area and east to Gateway.

School board races are nonpartisan. Each board members has an annual salary of $40,500.

Giovannelli, 57, is a local Realtor who first won a spot on the school board in 2016. She will take the oath of office again on Nov. 17, prior to a school board meeting.

Live blog: With polls closing at 7 p.m., voting at precincts starting to pick up

More: Latest election results for Lee County in Florida

On election night, Giovannelli said she wasn’t closely following the night’s results, but she was excited to hear the news she’d won her second bid for office.

She had been spending a quiet evening at home with family after waving signs at several precincts.

“COVID certainly made it difficult to campaign, but, you know, you just work with what you got and you keep working until 7 o’clock on Nov. 3,” she said

The polls showed Giovannelli that she’s on the right path.

“They apparently like what I’m doing and that makes it so much easier to continue on the path I am on — speaking for the people who elected me to do that,” she said.

During the next four years, her top priority is to continue to make sure children, teachers and staff are being taken care of in the school system.

“Because that is the No. 1 priority — that is the reason why you do this, right?” Giovannelli said. “It’s for the children and for the teachers and staff. Now, I will continue fighting very hard for them.”

According to Lee’s election website, Giovannelli put $40,000 of her own money toward the campaign and collected about $18,425 in other donations. 

Her challenger, McCullers, contributed $4,000 of his own money to the campaign and raised about $14,290 in other donations.

More: Mostly smooth sailing at the polls as Lee, Collier surge to record turnouts

McCullers, 59, retired in 2019 after working for the district for 35 years. He has a doctorate in education leadership.

He said one of the most “gratifying” experiences from being on the campaign trail was seeing how many people in the community care about education.

“So many people really do care about having good schools and they really do care about taking care of our teachers,” he said.  “They just don’t understand the system or understand how it’s funded or how it’s governed, the technicalities of it, but they really want it and they’re eager for someone to make it happen.”

In a prepared statement to the media, McCullers congratulated his opponent and wished Giovannelli well in her next term of office.

The two candidates picked up the most votes in the August primary, with Giovannelli picking up 12,350, or 42.03%, of the votes and McCullers earning 8,334 of the votes, or 28.37%.

Also in the primary were South Fort Myers High math teacher Charla Strange Fox and Emory Cavin, a former district intern who graduated amid the COVID-19 closures. Both pledged support to McCullers.

Previous coverage for District 2: Incumbent Giovannelli faces McCullers

And for District 3:Incumbent Patricca faces Perez

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