State attorney starts
possible statewide program
8th Judicial Circuit works
with supervisors of elections
to help qualified felons to vote
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones (left), Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian S. Kramer and Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim A. Barton are seen moments before the start of the press conference Tuesday afternoon (May 17). This program will allow State Attorney Kramer to provide a convicted felon with an opinion as to whether he or she is qualified to register to vote. The supervisors of elections are the final deciders as to who is qualified to vote within any of the 67 counties. However, the six supervisors of elections in this circuit now have a resource to help them in making that determination, and convicted felons residing in this judicial circuit also can use this free resource rather than hiring an attorney to assist them in finding facts in relation to the relevant laws.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 18, 2022 at 10:12 a.m.
GAINESVILLE – Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian S. Kramer started a program Tuesday (May 18) in a cooperative effort with all six supervisors of elections in this judicial circuit of Florida to help felons who have paid their debt to society to have the opportunity to vote.
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Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian S. Kramer introduces Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones (left) and Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim A. Barton.
State Attorney Brian Kramer listens to a question posed by a member of the press.
Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator and Public Information Officer Darry D. Lloyd and Eighth Judicial Circuit State Eighth Judicial Circuit Chief Assistant State Attorney Heather Jones stand as some of the staff members who were in the conference room during the press conference on Tuesday. State Attorney Brian Kramer spoke highly of Chief Assistant State Attorney Jones, Chief Investigator Lloyd and all 45 attorneys and 100 support staff in his office. While these two staff members were captured on film, the handful of other employees in the conference room scurried away when asked for a photo opportunity.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon (May 17), State Attorney Kramer shared with members of the press from a couple of local TV stations, the daily Gainesville Sun and the daily news website HardisonInk.com why this program came into existence, and how it is anticipated to work.
One member of the clergy was present for the conference. Pastor Ron Rawls of the Greater Bethel AME Church of Gainesville learned that he, too, should send interested parishioners or others to the supervisors of elections’ websites, or to the Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office’s website to find the form and procedure to use this resource.
All six supervisors of elections in the Eighth Judicial Circuit -- Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim A. Barton, Baker County Supervisor of Elections Christopher Milton, Bradford County Supervisor of Elections Amanda Seyfang, Gilchrist County Supervisor of Elections Connie Sanchez, Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones and Union County Supervisor of Elections Deborah K. Osborne have joined forces with Kramer to provide this Voter Education Program, Kramer said.
In Florida, each of the 67 counties has a supervisor of elections. Another political subdivision in Florida is judicial circuits. Florida has 20 judicial circuits with an elected state attorney as the prosecutor of people suspected of criminal offenses and an elected public defender as the person who defends people suspected of crimes, and who cannot afford an attorney to present their defense.
To print the form to complete click HERE. This process is simple.
To find answers to frequently asked questions about the program, click HERE.
Voters Restore Rights
In 2018, nearly 65 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which automatically restored voting rights to as many as 1.4 million Floridians, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, who had completed the terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.
On June 28, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066, prohibiting those felons who had served their terms from voting unless they pay off all legal financial obligations (LFOs) imposed by a court pursuant to a felony conviction, including LFOs converted to civil obligations, even if they cannot afford to pay.
The Brennan Center and other civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the law created by the Florida Legislature and signed by DeSantis, which preempted the voters’ choice to restore the right to vote to most felons who had served their time.
That suit was consolidated with similar cases filed by others. An expert report submitted to the court showed this law created after the people voted to restore those rights would create requirements to prevent at least 770,000 people from voting — and it would hit Black Floridians the hardest.
On May 24, 2020, the federal court issued a ruling finding Florida’s “pay-to-vote” system unconstitutional in part.
Since that 2020 decision, there has been more wrangling in the courts regarding the state of Florida’s “pay-to-vote” system.
V 8th Program
State Attorney Kramer, with help from the six supervisors of elections in this judicial circuit, created a clearinghouse of sorts within his office to assist convicted felons so those felons seeking to restore their right to vote can feel comfort in knowing they are qualified to vote, and to know they will not be prosecuted in the Eighth Judicial Circuit for various crimes related to voting if they register.
Kramer made it clear that the federal government and other state attorneys are not bound by the opinions he will provide to felons who go through the program he started, in regard to the prosecution of persons suspected of a crime related to voting.
There are three possible opinions which will be given to the possible voter who uses this program – “You Are Eligible To Register To Vote” or “You Are Not Eligible To Register To Vote” or “We’re Not Certain Whether You Are Eligible To Vote.” For the people who see the uncertain response, they will want to seek other help to make that determination.
State Attorney Kramer named the program V 8th, which is short for Vote in the Eighth (Judicial Circuit). Of course, V8 is a vegetable drink. There is Spicy V8 enjoyed by at least one journalist residing in this judicial circuit, and other variations of that drink are available, too.
“As State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, I swore an oath to support, protect, and defend both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Florida,” Kramer noted in part of the press release provided during the press conference. “Traditionally, the state attorney, as the chief law enforcement officer of the circuit, meets the requirements of this oath by lawfully and ethically prosecuting those charged with crimes. However, the state attorney serves other critical functions as well.
“Among these many functions, for instance, the state attorney serves an integral role in the sealing and expunction of criminal records by verifying a former defendant’s eligibility to have his or her record sealed or expunged,” he continued. “There are other examples, but suffice it to say that prosecution is just one of many roles that the state attorney serves in the name of supporting, protecting, and defending the Constitution.”
As noted, on Tuesday, Kramer started the new program to help previously convicted felons, except those convicted of murder or a sexual offense, who have completed all of the terms of their sentences, to be able to vote.
Kramer, on Tuesday, said litigation is now settled about the “pay to vote” issue, and, as state attorney, he is bound to enforce the law as it is interpreted by the courts.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the phrase “all terms of sentence,” as used in Article VI, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Florida, has an “ordinary meaning that the voters would have understood to refer not only to durational periods but also to all legal financial obligations imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt.”
In other words, Kramer said, to be qualified to vote again, a convicted felon must have satisfied all financial obligations from the case including court costs, fines, and restitution.
With this decision, Kramer said, it created a significant conundrum for many people who had been convicted of a felony and want to vote.
“This uncertainty creates a Hobbesian choice for these individuals,” Kramer noted.
A person who thinks they are eligible to register to vote may continue to be disenfranchised or vote and potentially commit a new felony offense if they do not take care to be certain they have met all obligations imposed on them when they were convicted of a felony in Florida.
The “V 8th program” serves the dual function of effectuating Amendment 4 and enhancing election security.
“We will accomplish this by offering my opinion on whether an individual has completed all the terms of his or her sentence,” Kramer said. “I must be clear that it is not the role of the state attorney to make this determination. However, enforcing the law of the state of Florida, and preventing potential criminal actions are squarely withing the purview of the State Attorney.
“Ultimately, it is the duty of the supervisor of elections to determine who may or may not vote. when a citizen disagrees with the supervisor’s decision, that citizen would have to go to the courts to address this decision,” he continued. “I, however, am free to offer my opinion on this issue, and if I determine that a former felon is eligible to vote, I am within my duties as State Attorney to assure that person that exercising that right will not result in criminal prosecution.”
Kramer repeated that it is the supervisor of elections who determines a person’s right to vote. His opinion, though, will carry weight with these six supervisors in their respective counties and he believes they will trust his decision.
This state attorney said his office has 45 lawyers and 100 support staff to deal with all of the criminal prosecutions and certain other matters in these six counties.
Can They Do It?
When asked if the team of professionals in the Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office can manage the new job of ascertaining the eligibility of convicted felons who want to vote, Kramer said “My staff is incredible!”
He went on to share more about those individuals in his office.
“They do incredible work,” Kramer said. “They are amazing people who are dedicated to the job they do. And, I fully believe, they will meet any challenge we present to them. I am very comfortable with it.
“If we are surprised,” Kramer continued, “with the amount of things we receive, we will apply more people to it.”
Having the ability to expand resources in one part of the office and contract in another part, he said, is necessary.
“The criminal justice system does not operate in a smooth and orderly fashion,” he said.
The state attorney said that his team is able to respond to a high volume of cases when it happens.
For instance, when the University of Florida students return to Gainesville after going to their homes away from college, there is a likelihood of reported burglary cases being made, he intimated, as law enforcement officers find facts and evidence to show those crimes were committed by particular suspects.
“We’re ready,” Kramer said. “We know they (more burglary cases) are coming. We add more people. That’s how we do our business.”
How Long Does The Process Take?
State Attorney Kramer said depending on the volume of requests and the complexity of a particular felon’s cases will determine how long it takes for him or her to receive the letter from his office regarding the ability to register to vote.
Some felons may have several convictions that are in other circuits of Florida or in other states, Kramer said, and it takes time to see responses from those other government entities.
He advised interested persons to start this process as soon as possible. The primary election is in August, and the deadline to register for that vote is July 25.
There is the website for frequently asked questions, listed above, that includes an answer to that question.
What About Florida’s Future
State Attorney Kramer said his office will track the number of submissions from people seeking to have their right to vote restored in the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Likewise, the staff will keep a record the results.
Those results will be provided to the press and the public, and to the Florida Legislature as it may consider this program for use in other judicial circuits of the state. Likewise, county commissions, municipal councils and other interests may want to see how this method works, Kramer said.
State Attorney Kramer mentioned, however, that the Eighth Judicial Circuit is the third smallest in population. So, a larger judicial circuit may not be able to assist its supervisors of elections in the same manner or to the same degree. As for the Florida Legislature or the governor in the future helping people regain their right to vote in Florida after being convicted of a felony, only time will show how that unfolds.
Dixie County Bears Varsity Baseball
goes to Fort Myers as regional champions
Head Coach Shannon Smith pitches balls for players to hit in the batting cage on Tuesday morning.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 17, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.
CROSS CITY – The Dixie County Bears Varsity Baseball Team earned the regional championship after defeating their counterparts from Chiefland 9-1 on Friday (May 13), and now the Bears are going to Fort Myers in more post-season play.
Pitcher Carson St. Laurent (left) and First Baseman Connor Bechtold prepare for a question as to who wants to answer a couple of questions Tuesday during practice.
Nick Lanier on second base catches baseballs thrown from outfield during practice Tuesday, where and when the coaches let players shag flyballs and throw them to second base as the play that was called for. Lanier mostly plays as a catcher.
Baseball players practice in the outfield on Tuesday.
Players (from left) Conner Bechtold, first base; Drew Hatcher, second base; Kaden McCaskill, shortstop; Kolton Hunt, pitcher and catcher; Nick Chesser, third base; and Chessley Lord, third base; watch their teammates practice in the field Tuesday after completing some batting practice in the batting cages.
Assistant Coach Jason Lowkewicz gives the players some advice during an on-field talk on Tuesday.
Assistant coaches (from left) Jason Lowkewicz, Mill Lang and Jonathan Smith pause for a photo opportunity when requested Tuesday morning.
Seen here are the coaches and players, including Head Coach Shannon Smith, and assistant coaches assistant coaches Mill Lang, Jason Lowkewicz, Jonathan Smith and Michael Smith, and the 2022 Dixie County High School Bears Varsity Baseball Team Regional Champions who are going to Fort Myers to seek to become the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 1A State Baseball Champions, and those players are Connor Bechtold, Braxton Bernier, Troy Charles, Nick Chesser, Dyllan Corbin, Drew Hatcher, Sheldon Hoover, Kolton Hunt, Nicholas Lanier, Chessley Lord, Jordan Marlo, Kade McCaskill, Luke NesSmith, Bret Nettles, Drew Pleasant, Caden Reed, Trace Smith, Carson St. Laurent, Chris Staples, Luke Thomas and Baxton Wicker.
In 1925, the Dixie County School Board constructed a temporary wooden building for a high school in Cross City, Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas said. And this was the start of high school history in Dixie County.
In 2022, 97 years later, Dixie County High School (DCHS) has its first regional championship in its history.
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) was founded five years earlier than that first temporary wooden structure in Cross City, when the FHSAA came to fruition in April of 1920. It formed when 29 high school principals met on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville to create it.
The Bears are vying for the 2022 FHSAA State Championship in Baseball in the 1A Classification.
Max Preps shows the Bears with an overall 13-9 record and a 4-2 district record as of May 17.
With the DCHS Bears 9-1 win over the Chiefland Indians on Saturday in the Region 4-Class 1A championship, the Bears earned their first regional title.
Now they go to play in the final four of the FHSAA semifinal competition, and from there, potentially for the state championship.
The team will be playing in the Lee County Sports Complex - Hammond Stadium (Fort Myers). Their host will be Lee County Sports Development in this official FHSAA-sanctioned championship.
The Bears left Cross City on Tuesday afternoon (May 17).
During a practice session Tuesday morning, Head DCHS Bears Varsity Baseball Coach Shannon Smith, and assistant coaches Mill Lang, Jason Lowkewicz, Jonathan Smith and Michael Smith worked with the team as they have in the regular season.
Head Coach Smith was upbeat about the team competing in Fort Myers as he answered questions about the team he has coach for 18 months now.
“The boys have been working hard,” Coach Smith said. “They’ve been grinding away for really 18 months, when I first got here, and especially the last five months.”
The coach said the team trusts the process and it has all come together for them in the past three or four weeks.
When asked if this set of young men is a team, the coach said “Absolutely!”
“These kids really enjoy being around each other,” Coach Smith said. “They go fishin’ together. They go huntin’ together. They go to each other’s houses and have pool parties.
“This is a true team, family-like atmosphere from that standpoint,” Smith said.
The coach said these baseball players know about being good sportsmen.
“Baseball is just a metaphor for life,” Smith said. “Everything we do out here is to teach them to be tough mentally, tough physically; learn how to win, and when it doesn’t go your way, how to deal with that.
“So, we preach the fact that all these guys are probably coming back here to Dixie County,” Smith said, “and be fathers, and husbands, and teachers and cops. And what’s important is that they have good character, and they know how to handle themselves.”
The coach said this is a good group of young men who have worked extremely hard to earn the regional championship, and he noted he could not be more proud of them.
As for the support of the community, the coach said he believes this community is behind their Dixie County Bears. They provide money when it is needed, and they show up to games. Parents and other family members must be credited with this success, too, Coach Smith said.
“We demand a lot out here on the baseball field,” Smith said. “I know they go home, and sometimes it may not be the easiest situation at practice, but parents support us, and they encourage the boys. And they tell ‘em, ‘Just keep going through the process.’
“You’ve got to be willing to do what others won’t do, to have these types of opportunities,” Smith said. “And they are willing to do that.”
With practice uppermost on the players’ minds, and a journalist being pulled toward Gainesville for another story, only pitcher Carson St. Laurent volunteered and had time to answer questions about the upcoming game, or games in Fort Myers.
“I think it’s going to be a big game,” St. Laurent said. “We’re going to go out there and play the best we can. I think we’re going to come out on top.”
Like Head Coach Smith, this player said the team is ready, and they work as a team.
“We’re all locked in together,” St. Laurent said. “We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll be fine.”
As far as his own time on the mound, St. Laurent said that as long as he can pitch strikes and pitch contact, that part of the game will be on target. He has confidence in the other players.
“I trust my defense,” St. Laurent said. “We’re going to make the plays.”
As for the pitching staff on the team, St. Laurent said Kolton Hunt, Nick Chesser and Luke NesSmith are fine pitchers too.
“We all locate our pitches very well,” St. Laurent said, “and throw a lot of strikes – and we trust our defense.”
The DCHS Bears are slated to play the Bozeman Bucks of Panama City in the semifinals.
The Holmes County Blue Devils and the Fort White Indians (Columbia County) will face each other to decide which of those two are in the final two with either the Bears or the Bucks.
State attorney explains allowing
at Strickland Recreational Park
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 12, 2022 at 7:12 p.m.
CHIEFLAND – A number of members of the Chiefland area questioned why the Office of Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian Kramer chose against prosecuting a man arrested by the Chiefland Police Department for carrying a loaded pistol onto the grounds at Strickland Recreational Park.
State Attorney Kramer provided a response.
There is a statute that says that if a gun may be briefly seen is not a reason to stop or search someone. There is no exception in the law for a public park. It is illegal to discharge a firearm in a park, but it is not illegal to carry one concealed in a public park with a permit.”
-- Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brian Kramer
Here is how this matter unfolds.
On March 21 at approximately 6:30 p.m., CPD Officer R. Smith was on routine patrol at Strickland Recreational Park, 2340 Old Fanning Road, Chiefland, according to records.
Officer Smith found reason to arrest Wesley Austin Sims, 30, of Chiefland for violating Florida Statute 790.01(2), because the officer felt Sims was carrying a concealed firearm on or about his person. If Sims was doing that, according to Florida law, then he is committing a felony of the third degree, except in certain circumstances, such as having a conceal-carry permit issued by the state.
Officer Smith also charged Sims with a first degree misdemeanor by Sims allegedly violating Florida Statute 790.10.
That statute is titled “Improper exhibition of dangerous weapons or firearms.”
The state law notes that “If any person having or carrying any dirk, sword, sword cane, firearm, electric weapon or device, or other weapon shall, in the presence of one or more persons, exhibit the same in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense, the person so offending shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.”
One of the coaches at Strickland Park told Officer Smith that a concerned parent had observed a man wearing a green shirt who was leaning over the fence at field number seven, and he had a firearm protruding from his pants, according to records.
Officer Smith went to that field, records show, and he saw a man meeting the description.
“The defendant was observed sitting on the ground in close proximity to parents and kids,” Officer Smith’s arrest report narrative shows.
The officer saw, in plain view, a silver-colored handgun in the small of Sims' back, in a concealed holster that was exposed from his pants, according to records.
Smith later identified the man as Sims, according to records.
CPD Sgt. D. Prevatt and Officer Smith contacted Sims, and secured the firearm – a Ruger SR40c, which had a loaded magazine with nine rounds, as well as one round in the chamber, and the holster was secured as well, according to records.
The SR40c is a handgun backed by the .40 caliber Smith & Wesson round, making it one of the most powerful concealed carry handguns available today. For those gun owners that feel the need for a compact handgun in a caliber greater than nine millimeters, the SR40c delivers, according to promoters of this semiautomatic pistol made by Ruger.
Sims told Sgt. Prevatt and Officer Smith that he had completed paperwork for a conceal-carry permit but that he had not submitted it yet to the state for approval, according to records.
Sims was handcuffed and read the Miranda warning to assure he understood his rights, according to records.
The man told the law enforcement officers that he understood his rights and wanted to speak to them, according to records. Sims said he carries the firearm while he is fishing and hunting, which he was not doing in Strickland Park on March 21, according to records.
He also told them that he carries it when he visits a family member’s farm, but that he had forgotten to remove the firearm from his person before going to the park, according to records.
In addition to CPD Officer Smith and CPD Sgt. Prevatt, CPD Officer L. Hamilton assisted in concluding this incident with the arrest of Sims for the one felony and one misdemeanor, according to records.
As noted, the State Attorney’s Office chose against prosecuting this case.
“The issue is that it’s complicated legally,” State Attorney Kramer noted.
Kramer, the state attorney for the prosecution of all suspected violations of state criminal law in the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties, said case law supports the choice made against not prosecuting Sims for these offenses.
“The most recent case on this issue says the fact that someone is armed with a firearm is not reasonable suspicion to stop them or search them,” Kramer noted.
He went on to note that there are in excess of four million individuals in Florida who have a permit to carry concealed weapons.
“There is a statute that says that if a gun may be briefly seen is not a reason to stop or search someone,” Kramer said. “There is no exception in the law for a public park. It is illegal to discharge a firearm in a park, but it is not illegal to carry one concealed in a public park with a permit.”
By the man being seen with a gun in his waistaband, Kramer said that was not enough to arrest him, even after the man, post-Miranda, said he did not have an active conceal-carry permit.
Kramer explained what is required to succeed in showing a person violated Florida law in a case like this.
“In order to successfully prosecute a case for not having a concealed carry permit,” Kramer said, “the initial encounter with the law enforcement officer must have occurred due to reasonable suspicion that the person was committing a crime. And that crime cannot be carrying a concealed firearm.”
Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Kramer said the initiation of the actions leading to the arrest was not enough for the State Attorney’s Office to believe these cases, one felony and one misdemeanor, would be able to be successfully prosecuted.
The state attorney for this circuit said he understands how some people may not be happy with certain state laws.
“We recognize how the caselaw and the statutory scheme can be frustrating for the community, law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office,” Kramer said.
The proverbial bottom line here is that while Sims was arrested for allegedly violating Florida law regarding firearms, his presumption of innocence to those charges remained with him, even before the State Attorney’s Office tried to prove Sims’ guilt, because those cases were dismissed before they went to trial.
Brandon Peters says
he is different than Chuck Clemons
Peters opposes toll roads
Brandon Peters, one of four candidates so far for the District 22 Florida House of Representatives seat. District 22 of the House will include all of Levy County, Gilchrist County and the western part of Alachua County.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 10, 2022 at 4:12 p.m.
CHIEFLAND – One of the two Democratic Party candidates seeking election to the Florida House of Representative, District 22, let loose with both barrels Monday night (May 10) against what appears to be the top contender from the two Republican Party candidates in that race.
In this video, Brandon Peters explains why he believes he is the better person to choose on election day in November than Chuck Clemons. However, both Peters and Clemons must win their Democratic and Republican primaries respectively on Aug. 23 before they face each other in November. To see the video, click on the PHOTO.
City Commissioner Rollin Hudson (left) and City Commissioner Lance Hayes are seen moments before the start of the meeting Monday night (May 9).
Mayor Chris Jones and City Commissioner Lewrissa Johns are s seen moments before the start of the meeting Monday night.
City Commissioner Lewrissa Johns and Vice Mayor Norman Weaver are seen moments before the meeting starts.
Brandon Peters of Levy County (D-Williston) said incumbent State Rep. Charles Wesley "Chuck" Clemons Sr. (R-Newberry, Dist. 21) has voted repeatedly to push the proposed toll road construction through Levy County.
While Clemons is current in District 21, the new districting puts him in District 22 now. The candidates in addition to Clemons and Peters in that race so far are Tayari Amie Appiah, (R-Bronson) and Eva Olysha Magruder, (D-Gainesville).
Qualifying is in mid-June, but these are the active candidates as of Tuesday morning (May 10), according to information from the Florida Secretary of State. Division of Elections Office.
The primary race is Aug. 23, when Republicans in this House district will choose between Clemons and Appiah and Democrats will choose between Peters and Magruder, and perhaps others in both parties, and perhaps fewer candidates if any of the currently active individuals drop out of the race.
Meanwhile, on Monday night, Peters told the members of the Chiefland City Commission and everyone in the audience during that part of the meeting, why he believes he should be elected to this position in the primary and general election.
“I’m a resident of Levy County,” Peters said. “I understand the needs of rural counties like ours. There is no medical campus worth speaking of in Levy County.”
Peters went on to say that people who have significant emergency medical need must go to Ocala or Gainesville.
Peters said access to medical care must be improved for this part of Florida. A pregnant woman should not have to drive for an hour to see an obstetrician, he said.
Rural healthcare is a high priority for this candidate when he goes to Tallahassee as a member of the House, he said.
Peters said he believes the best government is closest to the people.
“There are forces in Tallahassee that don’t want great city commissions like we have here in Chiefland, or in some of our other municipalities, to make the decisions for the neighborhoods that they know best,” Peters said. “They have a one-size-fits-all approach that says ‘We, in Tallahassee, our combination of senators from Key West and Sarasota, and Miami-Dade, we know what’s good for Levy County.”
Then, Peters said Rep. Clemons of Alachua County has this belief – that one size fits all.
“So,” Peters continued, “there’s a stark difference between me and Chuck Clemons. He started out as a small-government guy. He started out as a guy who said, ‘The best government is the government closest to the people.’ But now, he is part of the Tallahassee one-size-fits-all approach.”
He went on.
“A vote for Brandon Peters is a vote to restore home rule,” Peters said, “and the power of local government – just like we have up here.”
Then, Peters shared his feeling about the toll roads proposed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Transportation, which can cut a path through Levy County.
“For four years,” Peters said, “I have been a consistently loud voice against toll roads. Chuck Clemons, the person who is in the (House) seat now has been a consistently loud voice for toll roads. He voted for them in 2019. He voted for them in 2021. And he didn’t just vote for them. He is the House Majority Whip. It was his job to get a lot of people to vote for the toll roads.”
He made another statement about for whom to vote.
“A vote for Brandon Peters is a vote to keep Levy County just the way it is,” Peters said. “And we love it just fine. We don’t want the toll roads – Tallahassee. A vote for Chuck Clemons is a vote for toll roads.”
Contacted about his alleged voting in favor of a toll road through this part of Florida, Rep. Clemons made a statement.
“There have no votes taken in the Florida House regarding finalizing a map or funding a new corridor road,” Clemons said in an email on May 10. “It remains currently in the planning stages.
“I voted on March 25, 2021 on CS/SB 100 (the vote was 115-0 in the House) (39-1 in the Senate) and was signed by Gov. DeSantis to, among other things, direct the FDOT to begin the project development and environmental phase for a project to extend the Florida Turnpike from its current terminus in Wildwood to a terminus as determined by the FDOT, and to submit a summary report by December 31, 2022,” Clemons continued.
That report is available online at http:/florida turnpike.com/turnpike-projects/featured-projects/northern-turnpike-extension/.
Clemon said the FDOT project that he and 114 other members of the Florida House of Representatives voted in favor of extends to 2024.
Peters shared material on May 10 about his campaign for election.
In that he noted, “I am running to fight for our working families and defend the values that we cherish here in Florida.”
In the literature, Peters explains his academic background and experiences helped him become more adept at collaborating with people by listening to them, and for showing compassion for others.
“As a professional mediator,” the attorney noted, “I understand that nearly any dispute can be guided to a satisfactory resolution if the participants are reasonable. I will take these skills to Tallahassee to fight for our shared values, just like I fought for the sacred voting rights of all Floridians as the Voter Protection Director for the Florida Democratic Party in the last election.”
Among the people who endorse Peters is former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.
Seen above, Levy County Court Judge J.T. ‘Tim’ Browning administers the oath of office to Lewrissa Johns and Lance Hayes as they begin their new terms. At the same meeting Monday (May 9) Chiefland Mayor Chris Jones and Vice Mayor Norman Weaver were again selected by a majority vote of the Chiefland City Commission.
Seth Sache, seen above with Chiefland City Manager Laura Cain, was recognized for five years of public service as a member of the Chiefland city workforce, which includes 38 full-time employees. Also honored that night was Shane Keen, who has been with the city for 25 years. Keen was no present for the ceremony to recognize him. He was at a school function where his child was being honored.
Destiny Clifford (left) of Chiefland Elementary School was honored as the Student of the Month as Mayor Chris Jones presented her and Aiden Duncan of Chiefland Middle School with certificates. Both children also accepted $20 gift cards from Walmart, and those gifts were purchased by the Rotary Club of Chiefland.
In still other news, the Chiefland City Commission spoke about supplying water to Cedar Key, Otter Creek, Bronson and other neighbors.
Mayor Chris Jones brought up the idea to help neighbors while creating a potential new revenue source for the city. Commissioner Rollin Hudson said he is against it.
Vice Chairman Norm Weaver and city commissioners Lewrissa Johns and Lance Hayes favor the idea in theory.
Mayor Jones made it clear that if any agreement were finalized, it would include that Chiefland water customers have priority over any secondary service recipients.
The city is planning to spend $1,500 on each employee who stays with the city to June 1 of 2023, and this will be for the 38 full-time employees, which excludes the City Commission members. This is incentive pay and will be in the current budget via a midyear budget revision.
The city leaders also agreed with Fire Chief James Harris to ask the County Commission for an equal amount to what the city puts into the Fire Department. Chiefland Fire Rescue covers the city, but it covers far beyond that into the unincorporated area of Levy County, as well as covering for the unmanned county fire stations.
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