Local News

Stephenson brings business background, he says

This is the last of Highlands Today’s candidate profiles for the School Board of Highlands County District 5 seat. Early voting is from Aug. 16-23 and the primary election is Aug. 26.

Q: Provide a bit about your background – your profession or if retired what you did for a living..

A: I have lived in Highlands County for over 50 years. I have a vested interested in running for this seat because I have two daughters who have excelled through our system. Alex will be junior at FSU in the fall and Tori will be a senior at Sebring High school in the fall. I, too, am a product of our system excelling both academically and athletically (Florida state wrestling champion 1981).

I graduated from Sebring High School in 1981. I graduated from the University of Florida in 1986 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in business finance in 1986.

I’m the president and general manager of the Sebring International Raceway and headed this organization for almost 30 years now. It is the only job I ever held.

Q: Why do you want to be a school board member?

A: My primary reason for wanting to serve on the school board is because I feel my business background and my willingness to give back to Highlands County set me up well to be successful should I be elected.

I oversee a multi-million dollar budget and am a fiscal conservative when it comes to making tough business decisions. This position comes with a huge fiduciary responsibility which cannot be taken lightly.

I have a vested interested because I have a daughter in the system, and we are currently shaping the lives of students that will be our community leaders in the not so distant future.

And finally, the ½ cent sales tax that will be on the ballot in November. This is a much-needed tax as it would generate between $4-5 million in income for our district. With federal cutbacks, it is critical that the much-needed funds go toward purchasing new buses, new technology, and updating infrastructure at our older campuses.

Q: What are the major issues facing the school board and how do you plan to address them?

A: My main concerns are the following: Addressing the underachieving schools in the district by finding out why they aren’t performing up to acceptable levels and giving them resources they need -- that is personnel, technology, etc.-- to improve. We need to address school safety on every campus in our system by adding more fences, cameras, deputies during all hours the campuses are active to protect students and faculties.

Bullying is another big concern of mine. It is widespread throughout the school system and must be addressed promptly and consistently.

Q: Are there any issues or policies, etc., that have been addressed by the board or superintendent, that you disagree with?

A: I believe the board, the superintendent and the administration are doing a good job. My main concern is that they do everything they can for the upcoming sales tax vote. If it doesn’t pass, I believe I can be an asset to bridge the gap with some “out of the box” thinking. I have been overseeing multi-million dollar budgets since I started my position.

Q: Why are you the best person for the District 5 school board seat?

A: My almost 29 years of business experience (having overseen the finances of one of the largest events held in Highlands County for nearly three decades) coupled with my community involvement, current and past make me the most qualified candidate for the District 5 seat.

I’m a fiscal conservative with a commonsense approach that will spend every tax dollar wisely.

Community involvement

Current :

South Florida State College board member

Highlands County Tourist Development Council ( appointed by the board of county commissioners

Junior Achievement board member

Sebring Firemen Inc. member

Member of all three Chambers of Commerce

Highlands County SERTOMA Club member


Past president of the Sebring Chamber of Commerce

Past president of the Highlands County YMCA

Past member of the United Way board

Past member of Highlands County Junior Livestock Committee.