When Ron Hewett ran for a position on the Lee County School Board in 2002, he was the ‘darling candidate’ of the electorate that year. He expressed sound fiscally conservative opinions, and yet was sufficiently progressive in his fundamental views on the role of public education that he seemed perfect for the job. He had been a career Naval Officer, commanded ships and men at sea, and had served as a Junior ROTC instructor in public schools. He offered much potential. But he had to leave elected office before serving out his term so he could pursue out of town business interests. He fell short of his potential and accomplished little. His pre-election supporters questioned, ‘who was this guy behind the glasses?’
Just a few days ago, Ron Hewett reemerged, speaking like the Ron Hewett of 2002. He has announced his bid to run for a seat on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, but as a nonpartisan candidate. By the tone of the article in the Sanford Herald , he already thinks he has Bill Horner’s tacit endorsement again. Since his departure from the LCBOE some 9 years ago, Mr. Hewett hasn’t been totally absent from the public discussion on public school education. As recently as last year, he joined forces with Jan Hayes and vocally supported the Pre-K to 14 Education Concept, a 16 year schooling program that begins with 4 year olds in Kindergarten and culminates with completion of a two-year community college program. Pre-K to 14 has all the noble merits of any other ‘for our children’ liberal, progressive program. It will indoctrinate more children, at a younger age, and for a longer time in their lives, at a cost significantly higher than now paid for public education in terms of funds, facilities, and staff, for what in all sincerity amounts to a very small increase in the productive outcome potentials of the kids trapped in it.
Pre- K to 14 has never gained much traction around the country as an educational trend. It certainly didn’t catch on especially well in last year’s discussion here in Lee County. (Note to self, Lee taxpayers aren’t excited about sixteen years of publicly funded education; heck, they aren’t real excited about the twelve they pay for now.)
Maybe Mr. Hewett’s nonpartisan candidacy is a way to restart the discussion. Nonpartisan Mr. Hewett has a history of close ties to some of the most liberal and progressive people inLeeCounty. He cannot be expected to have a new found philosophy about education or the role of government in education.
So why is Ron Hewett running? Could his nonpartisan candidacy be an effort by the liberal progressives, while not calling him the democrat that he has always seemed to portray, to reduce the impact of an almost certain conservative take-over of the LCBOC? Whatever the case, he has the backing of the shadowy LEED political action committee, and he looks to have a real chance at landing on the fall ballot. Only time will tell whether local voters remember his failure to meet elected obligations a decade ago.