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Recount in School Board contest goes to Mullenax   (FL)

DONNA KELLY     News Chief    29 August 2008

It was a slim lead, but it was enough to land Dick Mullenax the District 4 seat on the Polk County School Board.
"We're happy about the result," Mullenax said after he was notified Thursday night of his victory over incumbent Brenda Reddout following a recount that took a little more than five hours. "We're ready to go to the next page."

The recount of ballots cast during Tuesday's School Board election showed a total of 24,867, or 50.22 percent, for Mullenax, a 61-year old retired school administrator. Reddout, 51, who was seeking a fourth term on the board, received 24,652 or 49.78 percent.

The votes totaled 49,519 and included the new recount numbers, plus provisional and unscanned ballots.

After ballots were tallied Tuesday, Mullenax had 24,850 votes or 50.23 percent, and Reddout received 24,621, or 49.77 percent.

The recount totals came Thursday night after 20 Polk County Supervisor of Elections employees ran ballots cast Tuesday through voting machines to recount the number of votes from the election. To this number, election officials added the number of votes cast for each candidate through provisional ballots, which are those cast by individuals whose voting eligibility was in question during the time of voting. A canvassing board decides whether a provisional ballot is accepted. Ballots that were cast but unscanned at the polls Tuesday also were added to the totals.

Elections personnel began counting the ballots at 1:30 p.m. and completed the task at 6:40 p.m. Mullenax was declared the winner shortly thereafter.

Mullenax's margin of victory over Reddout was more than one-quarter of 1 percent, making a manual recount unnecessary.

"The change was minimal and we're very proud of that," Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said Thursday evening. "A manual recount is not needed."

Edwards said there was a total change of nine votes as a result of the recount.

Mullenax's victory ends Reddout's 12-year tenure on the School Board. During this time, she worked with the board to develop ways to increase student academic achievement; develop a plan with the school district, municipalities and government agencies to address growth issues; build new schools and formed community partnerships that provide resources to students.

Reddout is known for her intense scrutiny of issues and willingness to question popular opinion on subjects like charter schools and ninth-grade centers within county high schools.

Reddout was not present during the recount process.

"I don't have anything to say," she said, when reached by phone after the results were announced Thursday.

Mullenax, who spent 14 years in the classroom as a science teacher before serving as the science supervisor for the school system and then as executive director of the Polk Education Foundation, stressed the importance of being one of seven school board members.

"All knowledge doesn't reside in one head. You do need to work with other people," he said.

He described his quest for office as "a clean, hard, fun race."

Mullenax spent some time at the Supervisor of Elections office while ballots were being recounted. He calmly spoke to the media about the wait for a final count.

"I'm an eternal optimist," he said, watching workers ing ballots into the voting machines. "I'm totally at peace."

Teaching was on Mullenax's mind as he was discussing the election results.

"There's a civics lesson in this race. It's that every vote does count," Mullenax said. "I know what 'close' means now.".

Mullenax will take office on Nov. 18. School Board members serve four-year terms and receive an annual salary of $38,415.

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