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Manatee School Board member vies for Florida House seat

Lakewood Ranch's Richard Tatem was elected to the School Board of Manatee County in August 2022.
Lakewood Ranch's Richard Tatem was elected to the School Board of Manatee County in August 2022.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Although Lakewood Ranch’s Richard Tatem is running for the District 72 seat in the Florida House of Representatives, he said his priority will be to continue to serve as the District 5 representative on the School Board of Manatee County until the day before the November election.

With nearly two years of experience with the school board under his belt, Tatem said he sees the Florida House of Representatives seat as an opportunity to make all Florida public schools more financially responsible and administratively efficient.

The Florida House seat for District 72 will be vacant as Rep. Tommy Gregory has accepted the position as president of the State College of Florida. Although his new post begins July 1, Gregory said he is likely to serve out the rest of his term through the election unless he finds the college or his constituents want otherwise. 

Tatem was elected to the school board in August 2022. He will have to resign from the school board, with a designated final day of Nov. 4, because he cannot run for the House while holding another elected position.

Richard Tatem
Courtesy image

"I will be a true and faithful school board member until Nov. 4 because that is my first duty," Tatem said. "That is the office I'm elected to so I'm a school board member first and a House candidate second."

Florida statute states Gov. Ron DeSantis will need to appoint someone to fill the seat on the school board as the resignation will occur with less than 28 months remaining in Tatem's term. 

Elections to fill a vacancy only are required if the remainder of the term is 28 months or longer. 

Tatem said the decision to resign from the school board to run for the State House was not taken lightly. 

"I have mixed feelings because I know many people worked right alongside me to help me earn my school board seat," he said. "I am eternally grateful for all the efforts that those people did for me. I would hope they would understand that they put me in that position because of some shared values and I now have an opportunity to potentially expand the influence of our values and try to make our school system more fiscally and administratively streamlined."

Tatem said he appreciates the work the legislature has done for schools, including the improvement of school security and giving more local control to school boards. But his experience as a school board member could bring a new perspective to the legislature, he said. 

If elected, he said he wants the legislature to look at district's unfunded mandates as well as the affordability of the construction of schools. 

Riverwalk's Richard Tatem shakes hands with Steve Vernon, the chair of the Manatee County Republican Party, as Vernon congratulates him on being elected to the School Board of Manatee County in 2022.
File photo

Tatem said he would like to look at the possibility of aligning the construction of traditional public schools to that of charter schools. Charter schools do not need to follow the State Requirements for Educational Facilities and can often take less time to construct schools than traditional schools. For example, Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy was constructed in nine months while the construction of Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School took two years. 

“I want to see if we can streamline the process and make it quicker and more affordable,” he said. “We want children to be safe. But if it’s safe enough for charter school students, why is it not safe enough for traditional school students?”

In regard to unfunded mandates, Tatem said the state doesn’t always provide efficient funding to districts to be able to fulfill the mandates. 

He said the mandate that requires all entrances to school property to be locked or guarded any time a student is on campus is helpful to increase school safety and security, but without the funding that will be needed to support the mandate, it puts a burden on the districts and the local communities. 

Besides education, Tatem said he wants to “continue the good work” Gregory has done to lower property insurance rates. He also wants to work on eliminating “unhelpful taxes” such as the tax paid as rent by commercial tenants as well as striking a balance between protecting the environment with responsible growth. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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