WHO TO WATCH IN 2013: Linda Costello

By: 
Dec. 24, 2012

As the new Ormond Beach representative on the Volusia County School Board, Linda Costello  believes in God, greatness and going the extra mile.

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

When she was 6 years old, Linda Costello’s granddaughter, Skylar, was involved in a car accident which separated her spinal cord from her brain. An “internal decapitation,” they called it.

She could only blink, Costello said — not talk, not move. Most people die from that kind of wreck, she added. But Skylar didn’t die. “Her head is held on by a metal stabilizing device.”

After the wreck, Costello and her husband, Fred (the former state representative), took custody over Skylar and set out to reteach her everything she’d lost in the accident — like basic math skills, how to walk, how to eat, how to swing at the park.

Costello also quit her job at Our Children First, an at-risk clinic, to begin home-schooling Skylar, as well. And after about a year-and-a-half, Skylar was back to normal.

Today, you can barely tell she ever had any issues at all.

“It was annoying,” Skylar said, remembering how Costello used to push her in rehab, always to take just a few extra steps, even during the days she was draped over her walker.

One time in particular, right after Skylar relearned how to talk, Costello asked her to make it just to the doorway. She did. OK, then just to the nurse’s station. Then just to the lounge.

When Skylar got to the lounge, she growled, “Grandma, move the chair.” She wasn’t finished walking yet.

“It was such a breakthrough moment, because now, there was nothing that could stop her,” Costello said, “There was no question: Full recovery was the goal.”

It’s that kind of no-doubt-about-it determination that Costello’s friends and colleagues identify in her immediately.

“Linda’s a little fire ball,” said Margie Patchett, whose known Costello 28 years and helped organize her School Board campaign. “A go-getter. … She’s a person who means what she says and says what she means. And today, that’s a very weird combination.”

The Costellos met Patchet through church. They heard there was a woman looking to move to Voluisa County, so they got her number and gave her a call. Fred Costello even found Patchett her first job, and he spent a day driving her around the city looking for a place to live.

But that kind of openness is not surprising to Cheryl Moore, a friend of Costello’s for the past six years. She tells the story of how Costello once bumped into a stranger at a craft store who was shopping for fabric. The fabric was for a complicated beauty pageant dress and, long story short, by the time the two left the store, Costello had agreed to take over the sewing and make the dress in the stranger’s place.

“She is an extraordinary woman of faith. That’s the only way I know how to put it,” Moore said. “She was there around the clock with Skylar. … If she is going for something, I don’t care if it’s just a conversation, she’s all full bore. That’s how she is with everything.”

Skylar, herself, credits Costello with 75% of her recovery. And for Moore, it has everything to do with her “intensity,” which comes in many forms.

Costello’s two favorite places in the world are her sewing room and her garden (“Every seed that sprouts is a miracle”). Years ago, she used to keep an all-organic garden with 21 different kinds of vegetables. But staying all-natural took work.

For fertilizer, she would haul in truckloads of horse manure. For soil treatment, she would buy hundreds of earthworms, and have them shipped through UPS. For mulch, the night before each lawn garbage day, she would drive around to collect neighbors’ bags of raked oak leaves, until she had 1,000.

But for Costello, all that’s nothing. Everybody, she believes, has their own “intensity,” whether or not it’s been realized.

“There’s greatness in every person,” Costello said. “I believe the role and goal of public education is to help every student identify, develop and fulfill their individual greatness. And I think they can do better.”

With a master’s degree in social work, Costello feels she’ll bring a unique perspective to the board’s District 4 seat.

“Social workers solve problems,” she said. “That’s basically what we do. Look at systems, and look at how they interact with each other.”

During her campaign, Costello tapped into her intensity hard by knocking on the doors of every home in nine precincts before the primary election, and then another seven precincts after the primary.

“So we’re talking thousands and thousands of doors that were knocked on,” she said.

That’s how she was able to oust a 20-year incumbent, she added — a feat made additionally surprising being that it was Costello’s first time ever running for any elected office, and that she hadn’t even initially planned to win the election at all, only contribute something new.

“I just wanted to change the conversation,” she said. “I didn’t expect to win, but I wanted to be part of this conversation.”

But Costello did win. And now she represents Ormond Beach on the Volusia County School Board.

Now, take a guess if you think it’s an appointment she’s taking lightly.

Linda Costello

Age: 63

Family: She and her husband, Fred, have three children and are currently raising their 12-year-old granddaughter.

Occupation: Retired

Quirky fact: It is has been confirmed by her 12-year-old granddaughter, Skyler, that Linda Costello can, in fact, hold a spoon on her nose.