LAKEWOOD RANCH — With just two months to go before the general elections, Julie Aranibar is determined to see her efforts through.
As a longtime volunteer in East County schools and now a candidate for the District 3 Manatee County School Board seat, the Lakewood Ranch resident is ready for the final push.
“This has to do with the fact that I’ve been volunteering for over 10 years,” Aranibar said. “That’s my motivator. I’m invested in this.
“We’ve never had a school board race where we discussed putting kids first and also being fiscally accountable,” she said. “Typically, with school board budgets it’s generally accepted that they are going to increase 3% every year. We cannot be in a status quo operations when our community and our economy is not in status quo.”
Although Aranibar’s primary victory — 245 votes — over incumbent Jane Pfeilsticker may not have been enough to garner more than 50% of the vote, she considers it indicative of a community seeking change.
“The fact that I’m ahead is not a little ahead,” she said. “That’s a huge upset.”
Aranibar plans to stay focused over the coming weeks but will reveal little of her strategy moving forward, except that the second phase of her campaign plan is already in place and under way.
“My strategy is to have 51% of the vote in the next eight weeks,” she said.
As a school advocate and volunteer, Aranibar is convinced Manatee County can move forward without some of the measures being proposed by the current administration.
The millage increase sought by Superintendent Tim McGonegal, she said, may not be justified and will have more impacts than what appear. The vote will change district policy as it pertains to servicing debts and may put the district in danger of being able to repaying debt, she said.
“That concerns me,” she said.
Pfeilsticker already has voted in favor of the millage changes, adopted by the school board July 26. Voters will have to approve the measure in November.
Aranibar notes both she and Pfeilsticker are dedicated to the children, but their perspectives differ because Pfeilsticker is an educator, not a volunteer.
“We are the same, but we are different,” Aranibar said. “Jane’s philosophy is we already cut, and we need more money. I’m coming at this (with the perspective) I’ve been on the budget committee for three years. I know the departments. We have added an entire layer of democracy.”
Aranibar’s jump into advocacy for Manatee’s children began about 10 years ago when her twins entered school at Braden River Elementary. At the time, the school was experiencing overcrowding with more than 1,000 students on campus. Children had to run across the parking lot from portables — rain or shine — to get to lunch.
“It was ridiculous,” Aranibar said. “I realized the time they could spend in the media center was very limited. The stress on the infrastructure of the school (is there even if you add portables.”
Aranibar then visited former superintendent Dr. Dan Nolan.
“I was told there was no money,” she said. “I said, ‘That’s not acceptable.’ I started organizing and educating parents.”
Through that campaign, Aranibar also realized there were many schools in dire need of repairs. Her focus became countywide.
And in 2002, voters approved the half-cent sales tax, which ended up funding most of the schools that have opened in the East County since then.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
The Lakewood Ranch Democratic Club will host both candidates for a debate at its next meeting at 7 p.m., Sept. 14, at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.