Nearly two years before voters will go to the polls to decide, the first candidate has prequalified to run to become superintendent of Okaloosa County School District.

Ray Sansom, who is no stranger to politics or political scandal, prequalified Tuesday.

The 56-year-old Niceville former commissioner and state legislator said he talked to hundreds of people before making his decision.

 

He said his goal is to bring “healing” back to the school district and the community, which has seen a handful of district employees charged with everything from child abuse to failing to protect students.

“I’ve had to go through my own personal healing,” he said, referring to his own highly publicized battles when he was forced to step down from state office in 2010. “Trouble comes in a million different forms.”

Sansom was accused of misappropriating funds, but the charges were dropped and his legal fees reimbursed by the state.

Current superintendent, Mary Beth Jackson, has not said whether she will seek reelection. She took over the role of spokesperson for the district in 2017 and in recent months has shut down all communication between the district and the Northwest Florida Daily News.

Sansom said communication is key to building trust.

“Ms. Jackson is not doing a good job,” he said. “Nice lady, but not doing a good job.”

He said the people he has talked to want to be able to trust the district again, they want to see leadership and they want change.

He added that teachers and principals are under stress, carrying the weight of daily interactions with students, without feeling like the top administration has their backs.

“I’m not running to point fingers,” he said. “I’m running to be an effective leader.

“The train has derailed and I want to see it get back on track.”

Sansom served eight years on the Okaloosa County Commission before being elected to the state legislature in 2002. Since stepping down in 2010, he has worked in various administrative positions with the Rader Group, which runs schools for at-risk students.