MONDAY JAN. 24 8:11 a.m. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties
Williston Honors People At MLK Event
The photomontage above is from RaRhee Duncan's Facebook page. She and her husband Richard Duncan attended a Martin Luther King memorial program recently at the former Williston Vocational High School, which later became Williston Middle School, and was then vacated for the most part by the Levy County School Board when Williston Middle High School was built. Years ago, when segregation existed in the United States of America, the vocational school was for black students before integration. There was a similar vocation school in Chiefland at the time, and it later burned down. RaRhee Duncan further noted on the social media site more about the recent formal supper in Williston, where she wrote "This program honored former teachers and students from this school who have planted seeds into the lives of the Williston community, which has resulted in the growth of so many. I was especially elated to witness my dad, Mr. Wiley Jones, my Uncle Alphonso Johnson, and my former teacher Soror Rosa Rutledge, be honored at this program." She noted her appreciation for the Ministerial Faith Alliance for its "wonderful program honoring these pioneers of our former school." There was a gala held in Chiefland the week before to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and there was a parade in Chiefland on Jan. 17, which is the day designated in 2022 as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the civil rights leader who was assassinated. There were no known events for the public to attend in Dixie County or Gilchrist County this year to recognize the work of the late Dr. King. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, HardisonInk.com covered the outdoor parade in Chiefland, but was unable to cover the two other events held in Chiefland and Williston to memorialize the late slain minister.
Published Jan. 24, 2022 at 8:11 a.m.
Photos Provided By Gussie Boatright
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Dixie County Commission
looks at garbage issues and more
(from left) Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham, County Commissioner James Valentine and Dixie County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen are seen minutes before the start of the Jan. 20 meeting. Attorney O’Steen is leaning on the back of the chair where County Commissioner Mark Hatch would be sitting. Commissioner Hatch participated in this meeting via teleconference, including voting that way. At a meeting of the Williston City Council two nights before (on Jan. 18), that City Council would not let City Council Vice President Marguerite Robinson participate, including to vote, via teleconference because that City Council said Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order allowing that form of participation had expired.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 23, 2022 at 8:11 a.m.
CROSS CITY – Four county commissioners were in the meeting room and one commissioner participated in voting via teleconference (voting and even seconding a motion via telephone) Thursday evening (Jan. 20) in Cross City at the regular twice-a-month meeting of the Dixie County Commission.
(from left) Dixie County Commission Chairman Jamie Storey, Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills and County Commissioner Jody Stephenson are seen during the regular meeting, which happened after the executive session, where the press and the public had been excluded from watching. That executive session was with Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler as they spoke about courthouse security in Dixie County, outside the view of the public and the press, as that type of meeting is among the exclusions allowed from Florida’s Government-In-The-Sunshine laws.
Robin Rouse tells the County Commission about how she and other volunteers have picked up litter along roads in Dixie County.
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler (standing) tells about working with the Florida Department of Transportation to use the best methods to safely pick up litter next to roadways. The sheriff spoke from where he sat rather than going to the podium. Dixie County Commission Chairman Jamie Storey is attempting to bring more order and decorum to meetings than in the past. The twice-monthly regular Dixie County Commission meeting has been devolving from civility to the point a couple of weeks ago where there was a helter-skelter scene of commissioners being rude and threatening to physically fight with one another.
Dixie County Commission Vice Chairman Jody Stephenson passes a check for $92,000 to County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham for payment of services that were provided by Dixie County for Jefferson County in regard to solid waste transfer. Seen here (from left) are Chairman Jamie Storey, Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills and County Commissioner Stephenson and County Manager Duane Cannon.
Rodney Hawkins speaks about building a house in Dixie County. He and his wife were denied a special exception to put an RV on the property, however by building the house and following the county’s rules in that process, that short-term residence on wheels (RV) may be permissible at the house-construction site.
Order In The Meeting
The Dixie County Board of County Commissioners is comprised of Chairman Jamie Storey (Dist. 4), Vice Chairman W.C. Mills (Dist. 2), and commissioners Jody Stephenson, Mark Hatch (Dist. 3) and James Valentine.
Chairman Storey opened the Jan. 20 meeting, after the prayer and the pledge, by sharing with listeners a new level of order expected by the County Commission regarding people giving input to the County Commission.
After the previous trend of very loose decorum was seen reaching a pinnacle two weeks earlier, where there was shouting about a possible outdoor brawl that would include a couple of commissioners, and perhaps even the wife of a commissioner, to somehow settle a difference of opinion about facts, the chairman appeared to understand about a need for a bit stronger statement. Storey pulled on the reins of leadership so that meetings would not involve fighting.
Storey said everyone will have a chance to speak at the meeting. The requirement will be, however, that rather than just shouting from being seated in the audience, speakers will go to the podium, state their names and then say what they want, as well as be able to ask questions.
People who interrupt the meetings by shouting out will receive one warning. Storey said. The second time he bangs the gavel to bring order after the same person shouts out, that person will be escorted from the meeting room by a deputy with the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office, Chairman Storey said.
“And if you come back to the next meeting,” he continued, “and you interrupt us, interrupt the meeting again, you will be banned (from the County Commission meetings) for the rest of the year.”
Each commission, council and committee in the Tri-County Area has its own rules about addressing the governing body. Some have set minutes of speaking about matters not on the agenda, etc.
Code Enforcement Officer Quarantined
Steve Fremen, the Dixie County Code Enforcement Officer and Dixie County Veterans Services Officer, was absent from the meeting Thursday night.
It was said that he is quarantined due to having COVID-19.
Fremen is the only code enforcement officer in this county, which is one year into having a code enforcement department. Quarantines, illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths have caused issues in the private and public sectors for a couple of years now as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Garbage was a topic that flowed through the meeting, from volunteers picking up litter along local roadways, to concern for people who allow trash to fly off vehicle before reaching a solid waste transfer station, to which business or person is recycling the metal brought to the solid waste transfer stations, to the collection of overdue payments from a partner county.
The Dixie County Commission breezed through its pat agenda, including taking literally last minute action where a previous vote was rescinded and a new motion and second passed unanimously.
On Thursday night (Jan. 20), the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners voted 5-0 on all motions.
Before the start of the meeting at 6 p.m., the five men and others met out of the view of the public and the press as they were in “executive session” to reportedly discuss courthouse security with Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler.
Commissioner Hatch met and interacted via teleconference that night at the regular meeting. He may have been at the executive meeting via telephone, but that meeting was out of the view of earshot of the public and the press.
Robin Rouse told the County Commission about her work with other volunteers to clean litter from roadways in the county.
Commissioners pledged as much as $500 from the County Commission’s budget to pay for reflective vests, litter-grabbing tools and signs. All of the materials will be county-owned property.
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler offered input regarding methods used by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for safety as people pick up litter next to roadways. Rouse mentioned that she has adopted a road through the FDOT for litter removal CR 349 for one mile on either side of that dump site.
Rouse mentioned that Levy County has a countywide method for adopting roads there, which is similar to the FDOT program for litter control.
Litterbugs became so rampant in Marion County that a task force has formed to address how to cope with the effects from these state law violators’ actions.
Commissioner Stephenson said there are signs that show the $500 fine for conviction of littering includes “Secure Your Load Or Secure Your Payment.” He recommends making bigger signs for people to understand this concept.
Commissioner Hatch asked County Clerk Higginbotham to check and assure that the county ordinance about littering was properly filed in Tallahassee. A few years of relatively inept handling of clerk’s duties prior to Higginbotham being elected have caused issues and the County Commission is striving to overcome all of that.
Metal At Dumps
Commissioner Stephenson asked about progress with companies to pick up metal from the solid waste recycling sites.
Todd Herring said he has been working with Solid Waste Director Michael Latson on this for several years so far. Meanwhile, County Manager Cannon and County Attorney O’Steen are trying to reach an agreement with two separate metal recyclers in the area.
Those metal-recycling companies, though, are too busy to meet with county officials, as best as can be determined from what was said Thursday night. Cannon said he plans to provide an update on this matter at the next County Commission meeting.
Jefferson County Pays Bill
County Commissioner Stephenson presented a check for $92,000 from Jefferson County for its past due bills, and current payment.
The commissioner asked about where this money is going. Clerk Higginbotham and County Manager Cannon explained that the budget this year shows $69,000 of that payment for solid waste, as Jefferson and Taylor counties split fees paid to Dixie County for relevant services.
Cannon added that due to Jefferson County being three-plus years delinquent in its payment for those services, the placement of revenue other than for this year could go into the general fund as additional collected revenue, or it could go to help the current solid waste funding.
Title Insurance OK'd
County Attorney O’Steen brought a $1,000 check to give to the county clerk.
He said this money is from Code Enforcement Officer Fremen bring code enforcement cases through the whole process in court.
Banker’s Title contacted him after completing a title search, which showed a lien on property due to payment required to Dixie County from a code enforcement action that had been completed.
That title defect on the property, O’Steen said, caused the title insurance company not to write title insurance on that property until the money was paid and title defect was cured.
While the code enforcement issue had been resolved, O’Steen said, the property could not be sold until that payment was made. Hence, he added, the year-old code enforcement program is seen as working now in Dixie County.
Special Exceptions Tabled and Denied
While the previous months of the County Commission granting special exceptions, except where neighbors objected, to place recreational vehicles all over the county continued.
The two matters before the County Commission on Thursday night were carryovers from two weeks ago.
Regarding a petition by Carmen Merchan requesting a Special Exception to be granted to permit one recreational vehicle on the property at 485 N.E. 262nd Ave, Old Town, a 5-0 vote led to it being tabled again.
Regarding a petition by Kimberley Hawkins requesting a Special Exception to be granted to permit one recreational vehicle on the property at 1430 N.E. 796th St., Old Town, that motion was denied 5-0.
Later during the meeting, Rodney Hawkins, her husband asked for the County Commission to reconsider and rescind that vote. He apologized for being late the meeting that started at 6 p.m., but he is an electrician, and he works out of town.
After discussion with Mr. Hawkins, Building and Zoning Official Leon Wright, County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen and the County Commission helped the man feel a bit of comfort.
The Hawkins are building a house on the site. He was given the specifics of what is allowed as he builds it there. Wright and Hawkins agreed to meet to assure the property owner understands more about this procedure.
5-0 vote on non-agenda item
The Dixie County commission voted to give the historic Cross City Woman’s Club House to the city, while keeping the ground on which it sits – across the street to the southeast of the Dixie County Courthouse.
The County Commission authorized the city to move the historic house. Meanwhile, the county may be expanding its County Commission meeting room.
This final act of the night, with a 5-0 vote, was on an item that was not on the agenda.
In Levy County, before the County Commission votes on a non-agenda item, a motion and second are made and if that motion passes, then that body moves on with discussion and vote on the matters not on the agenda.
In Dixie County, the agenda lists at least 15 people with titles who may be present and if they are present, they may speak. Thursday night, most of them were absent or did not speak.
On the agenda for the meeting of Jan. 20, one of the people other than the plethora of typically listed people was Luanne Dempsey. That name actually had a topic with it “Sheriff Department Complaint.” Dempsey was absent from that meeting.
Bronson Has Drinking Water
At Municipal Building
The Levy County Emergency Management Department provided the town with a potable (drinking) water tanker, and the City of Chiefland provided the town with 500 gallons of drinking water. The tanker is located in the parking lot of the Dogan S. Cobb Municipal Building at 660 E. Hathaway Ave. (U.S. Alt. 27). Water is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents simply need to turn the yellow handle to the right to open the spigot and to the left to close the spigot.
Published Jan. 22, 2022 at 3:11 p.m.
Information and Photos Provided By Town Of Bronson
Boil water notice issued for Bronson
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
Information Provided at 7:02 p.m. on Jan. 19
By Bronson Town Manager Sue Beaudet
Published Jan. 19, 2022 at 8:11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 20, 2022 at 11:40 a.m.
BRONSON -- At approximately 2:30 p.m. today (Wednesday, Jan. 19), the Town of Bronson had a water main break at the corner of Thrasher Drive (State Road 24) and Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Alt 27).
The public works department is in the process of assessing the situation. There is hope to have water restored to the town relatively soon.
The Town of Bronson is under a boil water advisory until further notice.
Under a boil water notice, water used for consumption can be disinfected by any one of the following methods:
• Bring the water to a rolling boil and holding it there for one minute; or
• Use a disinfecting chemical. If you cannot boil water, you should put eight drops of common household bleach (unscented) which is about one-eighth of a teaspoon, into one gallon of tap water, then shake it, and allow it to stand for 30 minutes before drinking. If the water is cloudy, use 16 drops, about 1/4 teaspoon of bleach instead. Then, shake it, and let it stand for 30 minutes. There should be a slight chlorine odor. Use common household bleach that has 5 percent to 8 percent active ingredients. Use food grade containers; or
• Using water purification tablets or iodine that many sports and camping stores sell and follow their directions.
You can also buy commercial bottled water for consumption and food preparation as an alternative.
Consumption includes brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, and homemade ice. Tap water may be used for showering, baths, shaving and washing, so long as care is taken not to swallow or allow water in eyes or nose or mouth. Children and disabled individuals should have their bath supervised to ensure water is not ingested. The time spent bathing should be minimized. Though the risk of illness is minimal, individuals who have recent surgical wounds, are immunosuppressed, or have a chronic illness may want to consider using bottled or boiled water (that has cooled) for cleansing until the notice is lifted.
Businesses and non-residential sites should take steps such as posting notices at -- or disabling -- water fountains and ice machines during the PBWN. If you provide water to visitors or employees, use commercially produced bottled water for drinking or beverage preparation (coffee). Food service operations have additional requirements from their regulatory agency.
After the water system is repaired, and the pressure is restored in the pipes to your home or business, the precautionary boil water notice will remain in effect for one to several days while bacteria tests are conducted to assure the safety of the water. The notice will be lifted (rescinded) only after tests prove the water is safe to drink. It may be lifted in sections of the city/county as those areas' pipes are cleared and the water deemed safe to drink.
Anyone who uses Bronson city water is advised that should they have any questions or concerns, please contact Bronson Town Hall at 352-486-2354.
Peanut Butter Challenge collects
more than 22 tons statewide
Levy County wins statewide
Pallets of Peanut Butter collected by UF/IFAS 4-H in Levy County are seen with members of the Levy County Extension staff, members of Williston Peanut and Florida Farm Bureau.
Photo Provided By UF/IFAS Levy County Extension
Story By Kirsten Romaguera of UF/IFAS
Published Jan. 18, 2022 at 12:11 p.m.
GAINESVILLE – More than 45,000 pounds of peanut butter have been sent to local food banks statewide following the 2021 Peanut Butter Challenge, an effort led by the Cooperative Extension offices of UF/IFAS and Florida A&M University (FAMU) in partnership with local organizations.
The 2021 champion, Levy County, amassed an impressive 7,120 pounds alone. Madison County came in at a close second at 6,807 pounds.
The annual jar collection began in the Florida Panhandle counties in 2012 as a way to combat food insecurity with a shelf-stable product while also highlighting the peanut’s Florida-grown roots. The effort expanded statewide in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when an estimated one in 10 Floridians faced food insecurity, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Participating offices rely on grassroots community support to collect jars of peanut butter from Oct. 1 until the day before Thanksgiving, after which they’re counted, bragging rights are awarded, and the jars are delivered locally.
By the numbers:
- 45,157 total poundage collected
- 35,109 total jars collected
This year’s Peanut Butter Challenge community collection alone can make in excess of 700,000 peanut butter sandwiches! Fifty-five competitors accepted the challenge, including FAMU’s first entry and a UF campus collection for the campus food bank, the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry.
Many of the newcomers seemed to hit their stride, as totals increased 18,000 pounds over the first statewide competition. The top overall community collector of 2021 earned the title in only its second attempt: Levy County amassed 6,954 jars for a whopping 7,120 pounds.
“Our success this year is all thanks to our community, from the local school collections to an incredible donation from the Levy County Farm Bureau, Williston Peanut and Peanut Proud,” said Kristen Brault, who coordinated the UF/IFAS Extension Levy County collection. “We grow and process a lot of peanuts here in Levy County, and it’s rewarding to be able to give these jars right back to food banks, big and small, across our county.”
Madison County brought in an impressive haul, as well, at 6,807 pounds; other top performers include regional champions Jefferson County (Northwest, 2,237 pounds), Hardee County (Southwest, 2,000 pounds), Hernando County (Central, 1,731 pounds) and Indian River County (Southeast, 1,185 pounds).
In addition to engaging local communities, the Peanut Butter Challenge has partnered with the Florida Peanut Producers Association (FPPA) and Florida Peanut Federation (FPF) for years.
These organizations, based in the northwest and northeast peanut-producing regions of the state, also contribute pallets of the nutrient-dense spread to the totals distributed to food pantries in those regions. Peanut production contributed $119 million to the state economy in 2019, according to the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge makes such a simple ask – donating a jar of peanut butter – but our communities always respond in a big way,” said Libbie Johnson, UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County agriculture agent and co-organizer of the Challenge since its inception. “It’s exciting to be able to share so much of this nutritious, Florida-grown product with our neighbors who may be struggling. Thank you to everyone who donated a jar to the cause this year.”
(To see the story, photos and video from the 2021 Peanut Festival in Williston, click HERE. The Peanut Butter Challenge is mentioned in this story, and the video of the gentleman singing about peanuts is priceless.)
MLK Day with a parade
Members of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office are among the people who helped assure traffic stayed off of Main Street (U.S. Highway 19) during the parade late Monday morning. Members of the LCSO Citizens On Patrol, who are volunteers, also helped with traffic control that morning in Chiefland.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 18, 2022 at 10:11 a.m.
CHIEFLAND – Chiefland City Commissioner Lance Hayes succeeded in conducting the Fourth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in Chiefland on Monday (Jan. 17).
Pastor Hayes, who is the chairman of the Levy County MLK Committee's Chiefland Chapter, was among the participants. As noted, Hayes is a member of the Chiefland City Council as well as being a man of the cloth.
Another visible elected City Council member in the parade was Chiefland Mayor Chris Jones. And there may have been a couple of others in the city’s new fire truck, which was also in the parade.
After the parade, there was a gathering where a couple of pastors said prayers, and Mayor Jones provided a brief message in Trailhead Park, which is just north of The Deer Camp on the western side of Main Street (U.S. Highway 19).
The parade started at Chiefland Middle High School and ended at Trailhead Park, which is across the street from the Historic Chiefland Train Depot and the park around that structure.
Members of the Chiefland Police Department are among the people who helped assure traffic stayed off of Main Street (U.S. Highway 19) during the parade late Monday morning.
City employees put up a barricade along the parade route.
An officer in a CPD cruiser checks for safety along the route through downtown Chiefland just before the start of the parade.
Dotti and Bob Leichner of Dixie County stand in front of the former office for the Levy County Journal, which newspaper was last owned, and which office was last rented, by the late Andy Andrews (Nov. 13, 1942-March 29, 2016). There was no public celebration of the life of Dr. King in Dixie County this year or last year in Cross City due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Angela Carter is among the community leaders who successfully led the group effort in Cross City in recent years past. Bob Leichner, a musician as well as a teacher, helped the effort in Cross City for at least 16 years as he volunteered his service and equipment to have a public address and sound system for music and speeches back then at that event.
Parade participants travel southbound on Main Street (U.S. Highway 19), crossing Park Avenue.
Chiefland Mayor Chris Jones drives a golf cart in the parade.
A more full view of the parade participants are pictured here. The procession stretched for a few blocks.
Some of the many vehicles in the parade are seen above.
The new Chiefland Fire Rescue Department’s engine helps wrap up the end of the parade. There may have been Chiefland City Council members in there. The weather was relatively chilly at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit with a northerly wind in the 15 mph range. There were no floats in this parade, as there have not been in the previous few years of this parade in Chiefland. And while there were no marching bands either, many of the participants sang as they marched down Main Street Chiefland in honor and to memorialize the life of the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
Levy County Sheriff's Office vehicles and Chiefland Police Chief Scott Anderson in an SUV take up the very end of the parade, keeping all of the parade participants safe from traffic on U.S. Highway 19. That is Chief Anderson in the SUV on the other side of the LCSO cruiser as the chief waves to a photographer from the daily news website.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. honored
A Guest Column By Bob Leichner
Published Jan. 17, 2022 at 8:11 a.m.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
DIXIE COUNTY -- We pause today to honor the memory of a great man. A man of learning. A man of service. A man of God. A man of peace. He was a man who dedicated his life’s work towards the betterment and equality for all Americans.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is particularly renowned for his efforts in righting the civil injustices so prevalent throughout American culture at that time. And he pursued all of this by the means of nonviolent activism. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combatting racial inequality by way of non-violent resistance, a concept and means considerably inspired by the work of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a generation earlier in India.
Dr. King was a brilliant young man, having skipped both ninth and twelfth grades. He had passed the entrance examination for Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of 15! Just before his college senior year, at the amazingly young age of 18, King decided to enter the ministry, which he felt afforded him the best means to answer, (in his words) “an inner urge to serve humanity.”
In 1951, he graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary. At Boston University his doctoral studies were in systematic theology, and he was awarded his doctoral degree in 1955. He was but 25 years old.
In 1957, Dr. King, along with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth and others, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This group’s mission was to organize the power of Black churches in the quest for civil rights reform… through non-violent protests. Despite the Rev. King’s penchant for non-violence (or perhaps because of), he was frequently arrested and jailed. During his incarceration in Birmingham in April of 1963, his 13th arrest of 29 arrests, King penned his now-famous essay, “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” which contains the poignant line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Later major events helping make Dr. King a household name through repeated national television coverage included the March on Washington -- one of the largest political rallies for civil rights in American history, and drew more than a quarter million people that summer of 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965, the first of which came to be known as Bloody Sunday after Alabama state troopers and local county posse-men used teargas and billy clubs on the unarmed, nonviolent marchers as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma, Alabama, also garnered substantial media coverage.
The results of such brutal attacks on peaceful protestors, being covered on live TV, helped to sway the growing public sentiment that racial discrimination and segregation were wrong. And that the laws, customs and practices abetting such mindset HAD to be changed.
Dr. King will always be remembered and revered ~ and rightly so ~ for his untiring efforts of “fairness for all.” His contribution to the Civil Rights Movement of this nation’s 20th Century is immeasurable.
But his work was so much more; And not just in church. In 1967, he became involved in protests to end America’s presence in Vietnam, and he caught a lot of flak for doing so. It was feared by many of his supporters and team that such a position could go against President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was working so hard at the time to support and advance their cause. So, this was NOT a position to be taken lightly. And in early 1968, King, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, organized to address issues of economic justice with the Poor People’s Campaign. It was this type of activism that brought him to Memphis, Tennessee, in that spring of 1968. He was supporting the Black sanitation workers of that city, who had been on strike for two weeks for better treatment and higher wages.
On April 3, 1968, at Mason Temple, which is the world headquarters for the Church of God in Christ, located in Memphis, he delivered his legendary “I have been to the mountaintop” address. An assassin’s bullet tragically stole his life the very next day. Dr. King had been threatened his entire working adult life due to his disrupting of the status quo with his activism in civil rights. He had been beaten, he had his family intimidated, he had been thrown in jail, and he’d had his home bombed. But it was his work in supporting the working poor that was the focus of his efforts when he was assassinated.
No one should forget this fact: That although Dr. King will forever be revered for his efforts and success in advancing civil rights for Black America, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died supporting the working poor, the discriminated-against city employees asking for a fair deal.
Publisher’s Note: Bob Leichner is a retired business owner who now serves often as a substitute teacher in Dixie County, having earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and having completed other requirements to teach.
Debra Jones wins, unopposed
Jerry Robinson faces two others
and Darfeness Hinds sees
one other candidate in bid for reelection
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 14, 2022 at 3:11 p.m.
WILLISTON – Five people are seeking two seats in Williston city government, and one candidate has won reelection in a third bid for continuing as a municipal leader without having to do anything more than pay the qualifying fee and submit the proper paperwork.
Candidates for three elected seats in the Williston municipal government completed qualifying requirements at noon today (Friday, Jan. 14), according to information provided by Williston City Clerk Latricia Wright this afternoon.
Wright is the supervisor of elections for municipal elections in that city, according to the city’s charter. Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones helps all of the municipalities in the county with their elections when assistance is requested.
The seats that are up for election in Williston, and the incumbents in those seats are Mayor - currently held by Jerry Robinson; Seat D City Council - currently held by Darfeness Hinds; and Seat E City Council- currently held by Debra Jones, City Clerk Wright said.
The election is March 1, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the runoff election, if it is required is slated to be March 29, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wright said.
Williston municipal elections are held in Williston City Hall, 50 N.W. Main St. For more information about how to run for office in Williston, contact City Clerk Wright.
As for the races, Debra Jones won Williston City Council Seat E because she is the only candidate who qualified to run in that race, Wright said.
In the race for Williston City Council Seat D, incumbent Darfeness Hinds is running against Zach Bullock, Wright said.
The mayor, who is not a member of City Council, is running for reelection. Therefore, in that race, it is Jerry Robinson, Charles Goodman and Daniel Stewart seeking to be the next mayor of Williston.
Resident ruffles feathers
Commissioners react with fervor
Robin Rouse speaks from the podium as she levies accusations at County Commissioner Mark Hatch and others.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 7, 2022 at 3:11 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
CROSS CITY – A Dixie County resident expressed her opinion that dirt provided for a driveway was improperly placed, and that a county employee had not taken classes that he was allegedly supposed to take.
In this video, Dixie County Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills and County Commissioner Jody Stephenson are seen during their spat. Viewers are advised that there is some salty language. CLICK ON THE STILL SHOT ABOVE TO WATCH AND LISTEN TO THE VIDEO.
Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham and Commissioner James Valentine listen to a speaker at a meeting before the regular meeting Thursday (Jan. 6).
Commissioner Mark Hatch listens to a speaker at a meeting before the regular meeting Thursday (Jan. 6). At the regular meeting, one resident brought a response from Hatch that she was incorrect.
Commission Chairman Jamie Storey (left) and Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills
(from left) Dixie County Commissioner Jody Stephenson, County Manager Duane Cannon and County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen
Della Rhymes from the office of County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham (left) and Martha McCaskill, the administrative assistant and grant coordinator in the office of Dixie County Manager Duane Cannon, are seen during the regular meeting.
W.C. Mills (left) and Jody Stephenson are seen early in their discussion, which became heated.
Robin Rouse’s verbal sparks ignited an oral bout between County Commission Vice Chairman W.C. Mills and County Commissioner Jody Stephenson, and at one point Tracy Lee Stephenson, Commissioner Stephenson’s wife, walked up to the dais from the audience.
Rouse opened her presentation by complaining about the county allegedly adding 38 truckloads of dirt to build a driveway for a mobile home that did not have electric service yet.
She alleged that the people had been living in the structure for two months prior to having electricity, according to her information. Rouse felt her information showed the people were living in the structure prior to a certificate of occupancy being issued.
Rouse told Commissioner Mark Hatch that it was her opinion that he had instructed the Road Department to build a driveway to the residence. Hatch said that he received a call from a homeowner whose driveway was washed out during a flood caused by Hurricane Elsa.
Hatch said he asked County Manager Duane Cannon to see if the Road Department could help the person.
County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen asked Rouse what she wanted to be done.
Rouse said she felt that Hatch and the County Commission had used country resources to help a private interest, rather than to help the whole county.
O’Steen said the County Commission has been advised by him about the methods for helping people during a state of emergency, and how things are different when there is no imminent need for emergency relief.
County Manager Cannon said he concurs with O’Steen and the County Commission needs to move on from this point.
“These last couple of years, there have been a lot of people moving. A lot of people have lost their homes,” Dixie County Commission Chairman Jamie Storey said. “There are situations where we can’t get permits fast enough. We can’t get power. It’s not just in Dixie County. I see it in Gilchrist County, Levy County.
“(There are) people moving in,” Chairman Storey continued. “I see it every day – people moving in without their power being hooked up. They are having to get generators to hook up their wells so they can have water. Is that correct, of whatever?”
Storey continued with his thoughts.
He spoke about people in cities like Gainesville, where there are people putting up tents for their families to live in.
Rouse continued with her tirade as she said there should not have been anyone in that home, regardless of the situation from which they may be suffering.
County Attorney O’Steen again reminded the County Commission that to avoid this particular issue of the county providing dirt for driveway repair, the County Commission must articulate that there is a valid public purpose for the county using public resources on private property.
Rouse’s next point of contention was her belief that Dixie County Road Superintendent Steve Hutchison had not completed a course he was supposed to be required to complete.
In this instance, Rouse was referring to Hutchison having slapped County Commissioner Stephenson when they were in County Manager Cannon’s office.
Chairman Storey said he does not want county personnel to be ridiculed by name during a meeting.
The conversation heated up when Rouse intimated that the County Commission’s members were lying and covering up.
Commission Vice Chair Mills said he does not lie or cover up things.
Mills made a motion, seconded by Commissioner James Valentine, to discontinue the discussion about dirt being provided for driveways and Hutchison.
Before the vote on the motion, Commissioner Stephenson said he wanted to speak about the matter between him and Hutchison.
“I want my name cleared. The man lied on those papers that I read on what he said that I done,” Stephenson said.
The commissioner said he had spoken with county workers at locations who indicated to him that Hutchison had not been truthful.
Stephenson said what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong. He urged that everyone move forward and do the right thing in the future.
Mills asked Stephenson about the morning after Hutchison punched him. Mills said Stephenson told him that Mills was sorry for all of the things that happened.
Stephenson said that is correct. When Mills asked what he was sorry about, Stephenson said he had tried to solve a problem before it reached the whole County Commission and became the intense argument that it became.
Stephenson said he tried speaking with County Manager Cannon and Road Superintendent Hutchison to put out a fire that already had started. That is when, Stephenson said, Hutchison punched him in the mouth.
“I am sorry that it happened in his (Cannon’s) office,” Stephenson said, “because that is not my intention, Mr. W.C. Mills. And you are correct, Duane (Cannon), that I stated that several times.”
Tracy Lee Stephenson, the commissioner’s wife, then shouted from the audience, “A real man does apologize, even if he is not at fault.”
Commissioner Stephenson continued.
Stephenson said that he did not want to have a blackeye put on Dixie County, although it was belief that it has gone beyond that point now.
Mills, Commissioner Stephenson and Ms. Stephenson all began speaking at the same time, with Ms. Stephenson asking about whether it was right for a man to be slapped, and she questioned if the employee handbook for county workers allows a man to hit another while they are on duty as a county employee.
Amidst more yelling by Commissioner Stephenson and others, Commission Chairman Storey banged the gavel.
Stephenson raised his voice more and shouted that there was a thorough investigation by a third party that recommended Hutchison be dismissed from his job. The commissioner showed he was angry that the road superintendent did not lose any pay or suffer any repercussions after the incident.
Mills conceded that those statements were correct.
Mills switched the conversation.
He said that for the past year Commissioner Stephenson has been going around threatening county workers.
“You’re a damn liar,” Stephenson said to Mills.
Ms. Stephenson then walked up to the dais and asked Mills if he heard threats himself. A person in the audience yelled to Ms. Stephenson to back away from the dais. Ms. Stephenson shouted back to the audience that the commissioner being accused of lying by Mills is her husband.
“I sure have (heard the threats myself). I heard some of it,” Mills answered.
“Why has it not come up before now?” Ms. Stephenson asked.
Commissioner Stephenson said the only thing he said was for people to do things the right way.
Several people then were yelling at the same time, however Commissioner Stephenson’s shouting “I have never threatened a damned soul!” was heard.
Chairman Storey pounded the gavel again. Stephenson shouted at least twice more that it was his opinion that Mills was a liar.
Mills said something to the effect of settling the dispute with Stephenson outside.
Ms. Stephenson shouted for her husband to go ahead and go outside with Mills and settle it that way, because she is tired of bullies.
“Take me outside!” she yelled to Vice Chairman Mills. “I’ll go off with ya’. I ain’t scared of no damned man.” (And then the gavel pounding by Chairman Storey drowned out her other comments.
Stephenson told Mills “Sir, you and me will have our day.”
Mills indicated that he considered that a threat of physical violence. Stephenson explained that the two of them may face off in a legal arena, but that he had no intent of threatening violence against him.
There were a few more seconds of people shouting over each other and at each other, until Chairman Storey called for a vote on the motion by Mills, seconded by Valentine to discontinue the discussion about dirt being provided for driveways and Hutchison.
The vote was 4-1, with Stephenson being the lone dissenter, voting “No.”
Rabies alert issued for
portions of Levy and Gilchrist counties
Alert until Feb. 14
By Wesley Asbell, Environmental Health
Florida Department of Health
Published Dec. 14, 2021 at 8:11 p.m.
BRONSON -- The Florida Department of Health in Levy County and Gilchrist County have issued a rabies alert for portions of both counties.
This is in response to a number of raccoons that have tested positive in the past few weeks in the Trenton, Chiefland and Bronson areas.
All residents and visitors in Levy County and Gilchrist County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population. Domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated.
The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Levy County and Gilchrist County. Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public, but they should not get a false sense of security to areas that have not been named as under an alert.
This rabies alert was issued Dec. 14 and is for 60 days.
The rabies alert is for the Northeastern portion of Levy County and areas near Trenton and the Levy-Gilchrist County line. This rabies alert includes the cities of Trenton, Chiefland and Bronson.
More specifically the area defined below:
• Areas east of U.S. Highway 19 and north of State Road 24 northward to the county line and Trenton area.
Positive rabies locations are:
• 750 N.E. 155th St., Trenton
• 1805 S.W. 14th St. Chiefland
• 8690 N.E. 110th Ave., Bronson
• 770 N.W. 160th St., Trenton
An animal with rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies.
All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.
Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm-blooded animals, including humans. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunization.
Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure, will protect an exposed person from the disease.
Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
• Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
• Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Levy County Animal Services at 352-486-5138.
• Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
• Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
• Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
• Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
• Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
• Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Levy County at 352-486-5300.
• For more information on rabies, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html or call the Florida Department of Health in Levy County at 352-486-5300, or Levy County Animal Services at 352-486-5138.
The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.
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