PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay District Superintendent Bill Husfelt announced Tuesday that he is stepping down later this year.

Husfelt was first elected superintendent in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012, 2016, and 2020. He previously served as principal of Mosley High School.

Husfelt will retire July 31.

“This community and I have been through a lot together,” he said, “and it’s been my privilege and honor to serve the students and families of Bay County for the entirety of my 40-plus years in education,” Husfelt said in a news release. “The decision to retire a year early is something I have wrestled with, and prayed about, but I believe the time is right this year.”

Governor Ron DeSantis has the authority to select a replacement. The office is up for election again in 2024.

Husfelt briefly gained worldwide fame when he and the members of the school board were held hostage by a man with a gun in December of 2010. During the tense altercation, Husfelt told the man, Clay Duke, to let the other members of the board go and keep him hostage.

Instead, Duke eventually opened fire at point-blank range on the board. However, none of the board members were injured. Bay District’s security chief Mike Jones shot Duke and then Duke took his own life.

After the event, Husfelt said that God intervened and saved his life and the lives of the board members.

“You stop and think that all the shots that were in here and that none of us were harmed, it’s a miracle,” he told News 13 on the 10-year-anniversary of the event. “People can say what they want, but I know that I’m part of a real-life miracle that I can point to.” 

Husfelt also found himself leading the school district after Hurricane Michael destroyed a swath of the Panhandle in 2018. The category five storm also caused hundreds of millions in damages to Bay County schools.

And as local residents and the district was recovering from that crisis the coronavirus pandemic caused a worldwide shutdown of schools in 2020. Husfelt and district employees found themselves trying to teach via video conference and continue to have school in extraordinary circumstances.

Husfelt has repeatedly urged federal and state authorities to do more to rebuild the buildings. He has also said Bay District’s students have been going through a mental health crisis ever since Hurricane Michael and asked for help on that front.

In more recent years Husfelt fought for a half-cent sales tax proposal that he said would go to raising teacher salaries. The measure was defeated by the voters in 2020.

In August of last year, it was revealed that Husfelt and then State Senator George Gainer were named in an FBI search warrant connected to a corruption probe. The search warrant was issued in August of 2021 under seal and was revealed to the public through a technicality. Neither Gainer nor Husfelt have ever been charged with a crime.

Husfelt’s full statement to Bay District is below:

“I have learned over the years that there are seasons for everything in life and that seasons change as we adjust and grow older. When I ran for my fourth term as Superintendent three years ago, I intended for my final season as Superintendent to conclude in the fall of 2024. However, it’s probably no secret by now that I have tendered notice to Governor DeSantis that I intend to retire effective July 31, 2023. That’s a year or so sooner than I previously anticipated, but it’s time for me to retire. I know the district will be in great hands with whomever the governor appoints to serve out the rest of my term.

Initially, as many of you may remember, I wasn’t planning to run again three years ago, but the hurricane changed all of that. I had a vision and a mission to “fix” everything that the hurricane destroyed to “hand off” the district to my successor as a complete and “fixed” package. We’ve made incredible strides since the storm, and I am so very proud of all of our employees who have literally “eaten the elephant one bite at a time” to get our district rebuilt.

Unfortunately, the FEMA process is beyond my control, and our recovery has not been as speedy as I would have liked. I understand now that I can’t dot all of the “i’s” and cross all of the “t’s” before finishing my season as Superintendent, but that doesn’t take away from the incredible progress our team has made.

A friend recently shared with me this weekend, “people who were retired always told me you would know when it’s time to go.” I know that now is the time for me. We’ve faced many challenges together, including the recession that was ongoing when I first took office in 2008, endless state mandates and curriculum changes, a “once in a thousand-year” hurricane, the pandemic and the long-term impact of all of those on the children and families in our community.

I have enjoyed working through all those difficult situations with our fantastic team, and I will treasure those memories, friendships and partnerships. Giving back to our community by serving as your Superintendent has been a privilege, an honor, and an experience I will always cherish.

Now, however, it’s time for me to give back to Theresa and my daughters and their families, who have supported me throughout my 40-plus years in education. It’s time for me to enjoy being a full-time, hands-on grandfather to my 13 grandchildren.

Rumors, over which we all have no control, may swirl about my early retirement but let me assure you that this decision, one that I have prayed over and pondered for a very long time, is my own and is being made for no reason other than I’ve realized we can’t take life for granted.

There’s so much left I want to accomplish while I still can, and I can’t focus on family while serving as superintendent. I have no regrets about any aspect of my career in education, and I am grateful for all of the relationships and partnerships I have fostered during those four decades.

Being Superintendent, and serving alongside more than 3,500 passionate employees and friends, has been an honor and a great privilege for which I will be eternally grateful.

Thank you for all of your loyal support throughout the years and for the support I know you will give to the Governor’s appointee. Bay District Schools is an amazing family, and I know we can count on each other going forward because we all care passionately about the children in our community.

I appreciate all of you and am sure our paths will continue to cross in our small community. Stay safe, and God Bless!”