BUNNELL, Fla. - In a mostly unexpected development, Flagler County School Board member Cheryl Massaro has filed to run for re-election. Massaro has consistently maintained over the last year that she did not plan on seeking a second four-year term on the Board, but left the window open if she felt the field of candidates was not what she considered to be robust.
"I think the current climate and situation on our Board [affected my decision]," Massaro said in an interview Tuesday. "The need for student representation is so evident that after being asked a thousand times over the last course of a month, I think I need to run again."
Another factor Massaro said drove her to run again was the performance of three Board members in particular over the last year: Will Furry, Christy Chong, and Sally Hunt. All three were elected in 2022, and have become polarizing for their actions on key issues in the district. Massaro declined to elaborate on her objections to the trio, but confirmed they influenced her decision.
Just a year ago, Massaro all but closed the door on a re-election campaign. “I’m optimistic, but there’s always a chance, I’m not going to say outright no. There’s always a chance I could change my mind,” Massaro said in comments originally appearing on FlaglerLive in December 2022. "I would prefer not to carry that mantle for another four years. A lot of people are disappointed, I can tell you that. They tell me ‘you need to run, you need to run.’ That’s not what I’m planning to do.”
As of Tuesday, Massaro is the only candidate who's filed to run for the District 5 School Board seat. Two candidates have filed for the other election, in District 3: doctor Paul Mucciolo and paralegal Nicole Durenberger. However, according to a report from the Palm Coast Observer, Durenberger is not planning on continuing with her campaign.
Asked what she thought voters would take away from her first term on the Board, Massaro touted her judgement and decision-making. "I've been a common sense voice on that Board, and I've always put the kids and their families first," she continued. "I think the lack of historical knowledge, especially with the fact they're probably gonna end up terminating our [Board] Attorney...they'll all be brand new."
With Conklin, easily the Board's most tenured member, declaring she won't run for another term, four seats are set to be held by members elected in 2022 and 2024. Massaro, if she wins re-election, is set to become the most tenured member having been initially elected in 2020. The seemingly impending decision by the Furry-Chong-Hunt trio to remove Kristy Gavin from her long-standing job as Board Attorney would further remove tenured figures from prominent positions in Flagler Schools. Even Superintendent LaShakia Moore was only hired this summer after the decision by that same group not to renew Cathy Mittelstadt's contract.
If only one other candidate files, the District 5 race will be decided on the August 2024 primary ballot. If two or more join, the top two in August will then advance t Ao the general election ballot in November. Given the race is in a presidential election year, the potential exists for the national political dynamic to influence down-ballot races like Massaro's. As of now, she's unopposed.