A Key West native who helps run a real estate appraisal firm and whose third daughter is about to graduate from the city's high school is making her first bid for public office by running against the longest-serving incumbent on the Monroe County School Board.
Yvette Mira-Talbott, 48, has filed paperwork for the District 2 seat held by five-term board member Andy Griffiths. Howard Hubbard also has signed up in the nonpartisan race.
Disappointed with the current leadership on the School Board, Mira-Talbott said she is stepping up to the plate after watching from the sidelines as the district overspent its funds, mismanaged money and now struggles to make ends meet.
The district is slashing $6.2 million from the fiscal year 2012-13 budget, to keep enough savings -- a few million -- to stave off state oversight. Several years before, the district had $12 million in reserves.
"They spent it all," said Mira-Talbott. "They talk about financial accountability. I'd like to see financial responsibility. We don't have it. When we do, we have to take better care of it."
The best interests of the children must come first, she said, adding that budget cuts should be explained as to how they affect the classrooms.
"You never hear the mention of a child in any of these meetings I attend," said Mira-Talbott, who works with her husband at Appraisers of Key West. "You never hear how these things affect the kids directly."
A political newcomer, Mira-Talbott said she made her decision to run before having learned that Griffiths would seek a sixth term, and that he is not a factor in her campaign.
Also, she recently found that she would have plenty of time to dedicate to a School Board office.
"I've just seen a deterioration in the school system; many people have become frustrated," she said. "The timing was perfect. My daughter's graduating in June and I'm retiring."
Mira-Talbott is the lone woman running this fall for the currently all-male School Board. A second race, for the wide-open District 3 seat, has drawn five candidates -- all men.
"Women bring a different perspective," she said, when asked if the board's makeup matters. "I truly believe there should be some female representation on the board."
Mira-Talbott has been active in the schools for more than a decade, recently registering with the state a nonprofit Key West cheerleading booster club. When reached for an interview Wednesday, Mira-Talbott had just arrived at the high school to help her daughter train for college cheerleader tryouts -- and she is volunteering to help put on the annual Key West High fashion show, set for this weekend.
Mira-Talbott, whose family goes back generations in Key West, is a 1981 graduate of Key West High -- one year behind Key West High School Principal Amber Bosco -- and earned a bachelor's degree in merchandising at Florida State University, where she minored in child psychology.
She worked in Miami as a buyer for a department store later acquired by Macy's before returning to her hometown in 1991. She created an Old Town guesthouse, the Duval Inn, which she ran for several years before selling it in 2000, and now works in the firm in which her husband, Kevin Talbott, is a registered real estate appraiser.
The Talbotts, married since 1987, have three daughters: Lauren, 23; Amanda, 21; and Caroline, 17, who is Key West High's Student Council president and bound for college this fall. The older daughters attend Florida State University.
Mira-Talbott credited the teachers and staff for the success of Monroe County schools, which are generally high-performing in state assessments and academics.
"At the end of the day, the teachers are in the trenches," she said. "I feel like they've been torn down. Morale is at an all-time low. I talk to them all the time. These people are in fear for their own families. They see the cutbacks."
When asked about the fact that Monroe County teachers are the highest-paid in the state, Mira-Talbott said the pay doesn't cover the time and energy that the classroom instructors invest in the schools.
"How can you pay someone enough money to train the future of our country?" she asked rhetorically. "They do their jobs no matter what."
The primary is Aug. 14. If necessary, a runoff will be held during the Nov. 6 general election.