TAVARES – While the nation's eyes are glued to one of the most heated and divisive presidential elections in memory, Lake County voters should not lose sight of important local contests that could shape the future of this area now and for years to come.

A number of important local races were decided in the August primary, but many others will be settled Tuesday when voters stream into the polls to cast their ballots.

Perhaps the most high-profile race will decide who succeeds Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders. Peyton Grinnell, 48, who has served for years as the second in command to Borders, takes on Clermont Police Chief Charles Broadway, 44. Little separates the men from a philosophical standpoint. Neither proposes to make major changes at the Sheriff's Office if elected, although Broadway said he will evaluate the department with an eye toward putting more deputies on the street. Grinnell, meanwhile, says his long tenure with the Sheriff's Office has given him intimate knowledge of this complex organization and allowed him to build a rapport with the employees that will create a seamless transition of power. Broadway and Grinnell also 

Also up for grabs are two seats on the Lake County School Board. 

In School Board District 2, education consultant and Ph.D Kristi Burns, 39, takes on Sandi Moore, the executive director of the Leesburg Chamber of Commerce. Both women have been deeply involved in the community and in area schools. Burns cofounded Lake Test Watch, a local nonpartisan group that has worked to reduce excessive high-stakes tests in Lake County and statewide; cofounded Lake County Healthy Schools, a Facebook page that focuses on bringing recess back to Lake County Schools, reducing common core testing, and district-wide school news; local leader in the Opt Out Florida Network. She has also served on the Treadway Elementary Student Advisory Committee and the Treadway Elementary and Spring Creek Charter School PTOs.

Moore served on the Leadership Lake Board of Directors, was a Boys and Girls Club Board member for the Teeter Unit, and was a member and past president of Leesburg Sunset Rotary, She also served on the Lake County Schools CTE Advisory Council, was a SAC member for Leesburg High School and was a foster parent for 10 years.

The other School Board race pits Sandy Gamble, a pastor and an appliance technician for the Lake County School Board, against real estate attorney James Myers.

Other key races on the ballot Tuesday include:

- Cary Rada, 48, against Brian Welke, 51, for county court judge

- Josh Blake, 35, against Peter Tarby, 60, for Lake County Commission

- Former state legislator Alan Hays against consultant Scott Larson and software developer Christopher Flint for Lake County Supervisor of Elections.

Lake County voters, as in most of Florida, took full advantage of early voting ahead of today's election.

Retiring Supervisor of Elections Emogene Stegall said 75,178 people cast ballots here from Oct. 24 to Nov. 5. Stegall has also received 31,488 absentee and mail-in ballots, meaning nearly half of Lake's 222,000 registered voters have already cast ballots.

Stegall said she is hoping for an overall voter turnout of about 70 percent.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.