A political campaign, run well, is one part marathon, one part sprint, and one part obstacle course. It’s grueling. It immerses family, friends, and supporters in the process, which typically dominates about a year of a person’s life. It requires persistence, passion, and patience to survive and to ultimately enjoy the success of victory on election night.

And then, after all of the effort to win the election, more hard work, and conviction of purpose is required to righteously serve those constituents in your district.

Melissa Byrd ran the races, navigated past the obstacles, dedicated a year of her life to the pursuit of the District 7 School Board seat, persevered and in the end was victorious.

Byrd was sworn into office on Monday as the new District 7 Orange County School Board member, and many supporters from Apopka were there to share in the momentous event. Byrd succeeds Christine Moore, who resigned the seat to run for District 2 county commissioner, and defeated Patricia Rumph with 55% of the vote to become commissioner-elect.

Byrd is an Apopka resident who taught in the Seminole County School system and is currently a substitute teacher in Orange County. She defeated Eric Schwalbach with 63% of the vote.

 “First I want to thank all my family and friends who not only came out tonight but worked hard to get me to this point,” Byrd said after the swearing-in ceremony and while on the dais with the new school board members. “It took a year of teamwork to get here and I am eternally grateful for all the support and love I was shown in that time. Now I have the pleasure and honor of serving up here with these seven fierce women and I couldn’t be more excited. My husband and I said from the beginning of my campaign that if it was God’s will for me to serve on this board, then it would happen. We would follow His lead. And now as I sit here among these seven wonderful women, it occurs to me that I am only one piece in His plan. I can not wait to see what great things we achieve together ladies. We are so lucky that we get to advocate for our communities, our schools, and our children. What an exciting time this is for Orange County Public Schools and I feel so blessed to be a part of it. Thank you all.”

Byrd is part of an all-female school board, including new board chair Teresa Jacobs, the former mayor of Orange County.

On social media, several other Apopka residents had kind words for Byrd, including her husband Alan.

“What an emotional night,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “For years, I have wanted Melissa to run for school board. She’s simply one of the smartest people on education I know. She finally agreed and for more than a year, it has been our life. Few fully understand the grueling nature of a campaign, the sacrifices you make and the blood, sweat, and tears shed during it. But, it was worth every minute, to see my love behind the dais, just as beautiful as the day I married her, looking stately and living up to the new “honorable” title. It was, at times, overpowering. Thank you to all that were with us along the way. This is just the start to a fantastic journey for her – I’m just proud to be able to stand by her side as she works toward greatness.”

Byrd also thanked her supporters and volunteers on her Facebook page.

“I am beyond honored to be entrusted with the future of District 7. Thanks to each and every one of you who gave me your vote. I will work every day for our children to make you proud. I am thankful to all the supporters and volunteers who helped get us over the finish line. Thank you for all you did from sign waving to door knocking. We did this together! Here’s to our future!”

Apopka City Commissioner Kyle Becker also had kind words for Byrd.

 “Congratulations to the Byrd family, wishing Board Member Byrd and the rest of the school board much success for our kids over the coming years.”

Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce President Robert Agrusa looked forward to a relationship in which the chamber and school board could work together.

 “Congratulations Melissa Mitchell Byrd and Alan Byrd! You both worked so incredibly hard over the past year and I was honored to be here today to celebrate! I’m so proud of you Melissa and can’t wait to work with you for the betterment of our kids future!”

Because District #7 was vacated by Moore to run for County Commission, this was a special election to complete the final two years of the four-year term. Consequently, Byrd will have to run for re-election in 2020. But she isn’t ready to hit the campaign trail just yet.

“I’m so excited and focused on representing the parents and children of District 7 and I’m ready to get to work,” Byrd said. “Hopefully, that will earn me their trust to represent them in 2020.”

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