The Rant has learned that Dr. Lynn Smith, chairman of the Lee County Board of Education, has switched his party registration from unaffiliated to Democratic, giving Democrats a 4-3 edge on what had previously been an evenly divided board.
Unaffiliated school board members became a local rarity after the passage by former state Representative and friend of the Rant Mike Stone of a 2013 law which made the Lee County Board of Education and the Sanford City Council into partisan bodies. Smith was the last remaining unaffiliated board member before his change.
Smith joined the board as a Republican via appointment in 2006 to fill out the unexpired term of another member who had stepped down. He won election to a full term in 2008, and again in 2012 but left the GOP not long after. He told the Sanford Herald in 2014 that he had become disillusioned with the GOP’s approach to public education funding at the state level.
“In terms of their funding for public education, I cannot support those actions because I think it is not in the best interest of the students of our county,” he said at the time.
Smith isn’t the first school board official to leave the GOP for the Democratic Party. Members Tamara Brogan and Mark Akinosho have also made the switch in recent years, and along with Smith and recently-elected Ophelia Livingston, the four now constitute the board’s majority.