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CareerSource Florida Crown
snd Elder Options
to host community events
Intent is to raise awareness
in vulnerable, senior population

Information Provided
By Noah Walker, Chairman Of the Board
CareerSource Florida Crown Executive/Finance Committee 
Published Aug. 12, 2022 at 7:12 a.m.
     LAKE CITY –
CareerSource Florida Crown with the aid of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs doing business as Elder Options is hosting a series of events aimed to increase awareness and reduce misinformation to those individuals who are 60 years or older -- on the facts and effects of COVID-19.


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     CareerSource Florida Crown and their partners are teaming up with rural counties to host community events in accessible and local venues to reach as many people in the targeted age range as possible. These events will bring COVID-19 information and education abroad to the communities of Union, Gilchrist, Dixie and Columbia County.
     The age range specified for these events is 60 years or older, due to the population being reported as more vulnerable and susceptible to the virus.
     Along with their educational partners, CareerSource will have various partners attending which will range from community assistance programs to the local college nursing programs—bringing more than just awareness to these events.
     The schedule set for these events is as follows:
     ● Aug. 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Cross City, 16024 U.S. Highway 19.
     ● Aug. 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Union County UF/IFAS Extension Office, 15120 S.W. 84th St., in the City of Lake Butler.
     ● Sept. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Gilchrist County Woman’s Club, 2107 Gilchrist County Road 339 (Bronson Memorial Highway), in Trenton.
     ● Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Park View Baptist Church, 268 N.W. Lake Jeffery Road, in Lake City.
     For more information or to RSVP, please call 386-487-1182.
     CareerSource Florida Crown provides workforce services to employers, job seekers and youth throughout Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist and Union counties. From job postings to job fairs, to employed worker training and programs that help disabled veterans transition to a successful civilian career, this agency has a fully staffed Business Services Department and Career Center to help businesses and job seekers – all at no cost.
     CareerSource Florida Crown is dedicated to a level of service that meets the highest private-sector standards. The members of this organization attain this measure by providing workforce services to improve the quality of skills and abilities of a job seeker and youth; and through enhancing the competitiveness of employers in this region of Florida. There are 24 aligned regional brands of CareerSource agencies in Florida’s 67 counties.
     CareerSource is the state agency that came into existence from a state agency previously known as Workforce.


WGP president resigns
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 12, 2022 at 7:12 a.m.
The president of the Friends of the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve (WGP) has resigned from its board of directors.
     Kent Gardner noted in an email to WGP supporters on Aug. 10 that he and his wife are moving away from Florida.
     Gardner noted that it would be impractical for him to continue on as an officer of the Friends’ board.
     Sally Douglas will take on the role as acting president until the next annual meeting.
     In closing, Gardner noted with fondness the progress made at the WGP, which is a 413-acre parcel of undeveloped wetlands located on the coast of southern Levy County.
     The property includes mixed hardwood, pine, and cabbage palm forest, tidal marshes, and several salt ponds. The WGP has a 30-foot tall observation tower, a salt pond boardwalk, and is accessible from or to the Gulf of Mexico by canoe or kayak, with a  dock.
     The WGP has a 4,500 square-foot Education Center. It is located at 1001 Old Rock Road, just off of Levy County Road 40 West, in Yankeetown, and the Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk.
     “It has been a pleasure to volunteer at the WGP,” outgoing President Gardner noted. “Over the last eight years I’ve met many great people volunteering. In my tenure with the Friends’ board, we have raised thousands of dollars, started an endowment fund, improved the Preserve's infrastructure, revised and enhanced the mailing list and website, and created a mobile app. I want to thank all of you for your past and future support of the WGP.”


NASA seeks student experiments
To soar in second TechRise Challenge

By NASA Communications
Published Aug. 10, 2022 at 3:12 p.m.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is calling on middle and high school students to join the second NASA TechRise Student Challenge, which invites student teams to develop, build, and launch science and technology experiments on high-altitude balloons.  
     Students in grades six to 12 attending U.S. public, private, or charter schools – including those in U.S. territories – are challenged to team up with their schoolmates to design an experiment under the guidance of an educator. Administered by Future Engineers, the NASA TechRise Student Challenge offers hands-on insight into the design and test process used by NASA-supported researchers. It aims to inspire a deeper understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, surface features, and climate, as well as space exploration, coding, electronics, and the value of test data. Teams should submit their experiment ideas by Oct. 24, 2022.  
      “We are thrilled to offer the second annual NASA TechRise Student Challenge,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The quality of the experiments and the creativity we saw from students in the last challenge are exactly the kinds of problem-solving and hands-on learning NASA hopes to inspire. We’re eager to see what innovative ideas pour in from students around the nation this year.” 
     To participate in the challenge, visit: https://www.futureengineers.org/nasatechrise.
     A total of 60 winning teams will be selected to turn their proposed experiment idea into reality and launch their technology on a suborbital flight test. The winning teams will each receive $1,500 to build their experiment and an assigned spot on a NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon flight operated by one of two commercial providers: Aerostar of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or World View based in Tucson, Arizona. Both high-altitude ballons provide exposure to the stratosphere at altitudes of approximately 9-19 miles (15-30 kilometers) and variable duration of flight time of hours to days. The challenge is led by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which rapidly demonstrates technologies for space exploration and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers.
     The winning teams will also receive technical support and mentorship from Future Engineers, including the opportunity to learn or improve technology skills such as soldering, coding, and 3D design. NASA encourages students and their instructors to submit experiment ideas even if they have no prior experience with these activities.  
      “We could not do a project like this in our classroom without the support of NASA TechRise,” said Jill Davis, Superintendent-Director of the Greater Lowell Technical High School in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, which had one of the winning teams in last year’s challenge. “It is something that is truly out of this world! This challenge helped students develop their own unique ideas for future inventions, which adds a new layer of meaning to what they learn.”  
     To enter the competition, teams will propose their experiment idea online using the design guidelines and proposal template on the competition site. NASA plans to announce the competition winners in January 2023. The selected student teams will build their payloads from January to May, and the final experiments will take flight in summer 2023.  
     Educators interested in TechRise are strongly encouraged to join the virtual educator workshop on Saturday, Aug. 27, to learn more about the challenge, high-altitude balloons, and how to develop a NASA TechRise proposal. Attendees will also have an opportunity to ask questions of TechRise educators who recently participated in the winner build experience.  
     NASA also is seeking volunteers to help judge the entries anticipated from across the country. United States residents with expertise in engineering, space, and/or atmospheric research who are interested in reviewing NASA TechRise Student Challenge submissions can apply to be a judge on the Future Engineers website.
     NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, based at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, and part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), is leading the NASA TechRise Challenge, with support from the NASA Tournament Lab, also part of STMD.


Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Logo
DEO encourages Floridians
to prepare for hurricane season

Story and Graphic Provided
By DEO Communications
Published Aug. 9, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
The 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season began June 1, and all Florida residents and visitors are encouraged to have a disaster plan.

     The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity noted for any person who does not have a plan and needs help making one, that there is an excellent resources for this by visiting FloridaDisaster.org.
     Following the impact of a hurricane, residents may lose access to basic services, such as power and water, and be subject to limited or lack of access to essentials like food, drinking water, and medicine. With these situations in mind, all individuals and families are encouraged to stock up on essentials and build a disaster supply kit to last for a minimum of seven days.
     For information about Hurricane Preparedness and how to stay informed, please visit FloridaDisaster.org.


Exploring Finances
When Can You Choose Retirement?
Published Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:12 p.m.
     NEWBERRY --
If you’re like most people, your work has been a central part of your life.
     So, wouldn’t it be nice to have the flexibility to decide when you no longer want to work?
     Many people of retirement age have achieved this type of control. In fact, two-thirds of workers ages 65 and older say they work primarily because they want to, not because they have to, according to a 2021 study by Edward Jones and Age Wave. But that means that one-third of workers in this age group feel financially compelled to work. This doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike the work they do — but it’s probably fair to say they would have liked the option of not working. How can you give yourself this choice?
     You can start by asking yourself these questions: 
     • When do I want to retire? You’ll want to identify the age at which you wish to retire. You may change your mind later and move this date up or back, but it’s a good idea to have a target in mind. 
     • What sort of retirement lifestyle do I want? When you retire, do you anticipate staying close to home and pursuing your hobbies, or do you hope to travel the world? Would you like to spend your time volunteering? Open your own business or do some consulting? Clearly, some of these choices will require more resources than others, so you’ll want to follow a financial strategy that aligns with the retirement lifestyle you intend to pursue. 
     • Am I saving and investing enough? As you chart your course toward your retirement journey, you’ll want to assess the sources of income you’ll have available. If you think you may be falling short of achieving your retirement goals, you may need to consider saving more.
     • When should I start taking Social Security? You can begin collecting Social Security benefits as early as 62, but your monthly payments will be much bigger if you wait until your “full” retirement age, which will likely be between 66 and 67. Your decision about when to take Social Security will depend on several factors, including your other sources of income and your family history of longevity.
     Of course, as you’re probably aware, the Social Security system is facing significant financial stress, so it’s possible that we may see changes to Social Security, based on actions Congress could take. In any case, you might want to be fairly conservative in estimating how much Social Security can contribute to your retirement income.  
     By addressing the above questions, you can get a clearer sense of when you might reach the point at which work is optional. But you’ll also need to consider other factors, too, such as how much you enjoy working or when your spouse or partner is planning to retire. In any case, the sooner you start planning for this next phase of your life, the better position you’ll be in when it’s time to make the transition. 
   Publisher’s Note: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.


Have Fun Flying Drones While Being Safe And Obeying Federal Law
FAA issues reminder to drone pilots
By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 7, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) DroneZone Team sent a reminder on Aug. 2 to all recreational Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) owners.
     A UAS is everything, the control box, the drone, etc., that allows a person to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone).
     “The summer flying season is here! Before you step outside to fly your drone, we want to remind you about The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST,” the FAA noted. 
     Federal law outlines how, when and where any person in the United States of Amercan can fly drones for recreational purposes. It also requires all recreational flyers to take and pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test, and to provide proof of test passage to the FAA or law enforcement – as well as drone registration – if asked, the FAA noted in its message to UAS owners.  
     Click HERE to read about TRUST. This is the starting point to find a test administrator leading to taking the 30 minutes or so of training and testing.
     The federal agency that regulates flight in the United States noted for recreational UAS owners “If you’ve already taken TRUST – thank you! Your TRUST certificate never expires, so keep a copy in a safe place. 
     “If you haven’t taken TRUST yet, you must do so before your next flight. TRUST is free and available on-line from 18 different FAA-approved test administrators,” the FAA communications people noted.
     Click HERE for links to the 18 test administrators.
     Most recreational flyers complete TRUST in about 20 minutes, and there is no minimum age requirement to take the test.


Artemis I becomes a time capsule
for trip around the Moon

The Orion capsule sits atop the largest rocket to be launched in the history of mankind as it awaits the Aug. 29 ignition of those engines. In the background is the full Moon.

Story and Photo Provided
By the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Published Aug. 6, 2022 at 4:12 p.m.
Continuing the tradition of crewed and uncrewed spacecraft carrying mementos, Orion will carry symbols of cultural significance and educational materials as it travels around the Moon during Artemis I.

     A small Moon rock from Apollo 11 that also was aboard the final space shuttle flight will fly aboard Orion, marking the significance of the return of a spacecraft built for humans to the Moon. Space science badges from a collaboration with the Girl Scouts of the USA will be aboard, as well as four LEGO minifigures and digitized entries from NASA’s Artemis Moon Pod essay contest.
     NASA has a strong history of international collaboration and is extending many of its international partnerships to Artemis.
     Several items from other space agencies will be included in the flight kit. The Official Flight Kit, which contains about 120 pounds of mementos in total, augments important scientific research and technology demonstrations that will be aboard Orion.



Artemis I preps
NASA Picture of Artemis I  great picture  way to go NASA
A full Moon is in view from Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 14, 2022. The Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, atop the mobile launcher, are being prepared for a wet dress rehearsal to practice timelines and procedures for launch. The first in an increasingly complex series of missions, Artemis I will test SLS and Orion as an integrated system prior to crewed flights to the Moon. Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and using the Moon as a steppingstone on the way to Mars.
Photo By NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Information and Photo Provided
By the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
Published July 29, 2022 at 4:12 p.m.
All eyes will be on the historic Launch Complex 39B when the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket lift off for the first time from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's modernized Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
     Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to build a long-term human presence at the Moon for decades to come.
     The primary goals for Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II.
     To see the NASA website for Artemis I, click HERE.
     (To see the story, photos and video from an observation of the full Moon of July 2022 as seen from Levy County, click HERE.)


Region shows unemployment rate rise
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Director of Communications Citrus Levy Marion CareerSource
Published July 23, 2022 at 9:12 a.m.
     OCALA --
The June unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion (CLM) region inched up to 3.8 percent, a 0.7 percentage point increase over the month but 2.0 percentage points lower than the year ago rate.


66 of Florida’s 67 counties saw unemployment rates increase in June
     -- Florida Department of Economic Opportunity


     The slight increase is in line with what the region typically experiences moving into the summer months with seasonal shifts in education support and agriculture employment, as well as an influx of post-secondary students returning to the area looking for work before returning to school. Likewise, it tracks similar upticks statewide. According to today’s release of preliminary data by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 66 of Florida’s 67 counties saw unemployment rates increase in June; the lone outlier was Miami-Dade County which dropped 0.1 percentage point.
     Across the three-county region, the labor force in June was 209,650, up 1,995 for an increase of 1.0 percent over the year. There were 7,935 unemployed residents in the region and 201,715 employed.
     Levy County continued to hold the lowest unemployment rate (3.5 percent) in the region followed by Marion County (3.0 percent) and Citrus County (4.4 percent). The rates in all three counties rose by 0.2 percentage point.
     In the continuing effort to match job seekers with businesses with immediate hiring needs, CareerSource CLM will hold a Healthcare and Human Services Job Fair on July 26 from 4-6 p.m. at One Health Ocala as well as several hiring events, including a virtual one on Aug. 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the University of Florida Veterinarian Hospitals in Marion and Alachua counties.


County commission
rejects code enforcement complaint

Code Enforcement Schmode Enforcement
Holly Walker of Morriston speaks to the Levy County Commission about a neighbor that she sees as violating zoning regulations. The County Commission unanimously told her that it is not doing anything because it sees no violations of state law or county ordinances, or zoning regulations.

By Jeff M. Hardison © July 21, 2022 at 8:12 a.m.
     BRONSON –
Holly Walker spoke with the four members of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners – Chairman Rock Meeks, Vice Chairman John Meeks and county commissioners Matt Brooks and Lilly Rooks on Tuesday morning (July 19).


Randy Rutter
Levy County Assistant Property Appraiser Randy Rutter speaks with the County Commission about property designated as agricultural for certain exemptions from appraised taxable values versus zoning designations created by the County Commission. Rutter also found on July 19 that the County Commission approved his request to amend the budget for the Levy County Property Appraiser’s Office for the purpose of paying for the raise package for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Rutter, who has been leading the office since the untimely death of the late Levy County Property Appraiser Osborn Barker (Dec. 24, 1964-Aug. 29, 2021). Rutter said the Truth In Millage (TRIM) reports are to be mailed Aug. 17 or 18. He offered to provide a presentation to the commissioners to help people better understand all of the information in TRIM.

     Walker found that her husband’s and her complaints about a neighbor operating a business that they believe should not be allowed in the agricultural zoned area near their residence, is allowed as far as the Levy County Commission is concerned.
     Vice Chairman Meeks read chapter and verse of Florida Statute 559.955, which is titled “Home-based businesses; local government restrictions.”
     Levy County Attorney Nicolle M. Shalley did not indicate any problems or issues with the decisions by the code enforcement officer who reportedly investigated the complaint from the Walkers, where the code enforcement officer decided there was no action to be taken by the county.
     While Walker spoke during the three-minute limit of public comment period near the start of the meeting, by engaging the commissioners, the conversation went for about 400 percent longer with about 12 minutes. Even though Walker just wanted to confirm the County Commission was sticking with its choice on not going forward with any enforcement action as she sought an update, to consider the next steps by the couple, the County Commission was open to conversing about the matter.
     In Levy County, there are three-minute public comment sections near the beginning and near the end of those meetings. In Dixie County, the County Commission limits its public comment section to be three minutes – and only near the end of those meetings.
     After the conversation on July 19, it was clear that the Levy County Commission saw no reason to go further into the matter that the Walkers had brought to the attention of the code enforcement part of this county government. Now, the couple may look for some other remedy to what they find objectionable with a business operating in their part of the unincorporated part of Levy County that is known as Morriston.


Rodney Long speaks
to the Levy County Commission

Rodney Long
Rodney J. Long speaks to the Levy County Commission on July 19.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 20, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.
     BRONSON –
Rodney J. Long (D-Gainesville), a candidate for State Senate District 9, which includes Levy County, Marion County and part of Alachua County, introduced himself to the four members of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday morning (July 19).

     Long, who is set to face Keith W. Perry (R-Gainesville) in the Nov. 8 general election said many of the same things that he did at a political forum in Williston.
     To see that story and photos, click HERE.
     Beyond that, Long mentioned that he considers himself a consensus builder who can cross political lines to reach goals that will help all of the people in the district he will represent, as well as all of Florida.
     Among the strongest points he made were that he is going to battle against unfunded state mandates imposed on local government. In fact, Long stressed that he is a strong believer in home rule, especially having experienced the good that can come from municipal and county leaders.
     Another of the concepts he will bring to the forefront if elected is to have more affordable housing available in Florida.
     Long also let the County Commission know that the Florida Legislature gave a $2 billion bailout to insurance companies, but he believes the consumers saw no benefit from that, including some Floridians who are seeing their homeowner’s insurance being cancelled.
     And Long said he concurs with the Levy County Commission in regard to its choice to let the Florida Legislature know that it wants a “No Build” option to be exercised to a potentially proposed toll road through Levy County.


Six ways to save on school supplies 
school supplies
Photo Provided By UF/IFAS

Information Provided
By Lourdes Mederos, UF/IFAS Public Relations Manager  
and Samantha Murray, UF/IFAS
Published July 19, 2022 at 2:12 p.m.
 From July 25 through Aug. 7, Florida will hold its annual school sales tax holiday. 

     During that period, consumers can curb school supply costs with savings designated by the Florida legislature. 
      “Taking advantage of the Sales Tax Holiday is one way to make reductions in back-to-school supplies, as needed, purchasing only the essentials so that income equals expenses plus savings,” says Jenny Rodriguez, one of several UF/IFAS Extension agents through the state specializing in family and consumer sciences. “If you’re not sure where to begin, consider the following money management strategies to help manage your finances.”
Here, Rodriguez adds six strategies to keep costs down when shopping for school supplies throughout the summer. 
     • Take inventory of your stock supplies at home first. Often, you already have many of the school supplies your kids need at home. See if you have highlighters, pens, pencils, notebooks, and other school supplies saved up from prior years before buying more of the same. The savings may seem small, but it will add up and every little bit helps.
     • Look for weekly deals on select products. If purchasing supplies for more than one child, you can also seek out weekly deals that highlight a small handful of products each week, sometimes as low as 25 cents.
     • Avoid using store credit cards. If you are offered one while checking out, politely decline. While those sign-up bonuses can be great and tempting, if you carry a balance on one of these cards, the interest you pay with those high APRs (averaging 24.24 percent APR) will easily exceed what you saved with that initial discount the store offered you.
     • Swap school supplies and spread the savings. If done right, setting up a swap system of items with other families has plenty of perks. Start by trading items with other families like a surplus of supplies, kids’ clothing, shoes, and accessories. Here is how it works. Gather your friends and neighbors with kids around the same age and everyone bring gently used clothing, books, school supplies, toys, etc. Everyone receives a ticket for each item they bring. Each ticket entitles you to one item from the swap meet. If you contribute six books, you can leave with up to six new-to-you books. If you contribute seven items of clothing, you can leave with up to seven new-to-you items of clothing. All leftover items are donated. Giving is good.
     • Try secondhand shopping. Consider shopping second-hand through places like Offerup.com, Goodwill, Salvation Army and thrift stores. Don’t forget to look for deal and sign up for emails strategically.
     • Don’t forget UF/IFAS Extension has tools to help you save. Did you know that UF/IFAS Extension has money management class and tools to help you budget? Obtain a free money management calendar to help you track your expenses or sign up to take a money management class by reaching out to your local UF/IFAS Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent or email jennyarodriguez@ufl.edu.


NCBDC cancels monthly meeting
Next meeting set for Aug. 11

By Jeff M. Hardison © July 16, 2022 at 8:12 a.m.
The regular monthly meeting of the Nature Coast (Levy County) Business Development Council (NCBDC) Board of Directors for July has been canceled due to a calendar conflict with Executive Director Scott Osteen as well as a pending contract review not being completed yet, Osteen noted in a July 15 email.

     The next scheduled regular monthly meeting of the NCBDC is Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. in a conference room at the College of Central Florida Jack Wilkinson, Levy, Campus, 15390 U.S. Highway 19, Chiefland.
     Osteen’s current contract includes a $50,000 annual salary paid by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, and a leased vehicle with costs covered by the Levy County Board of County Commissioners.
     The Nature Coast Business Development Council Inc. is a Levy County organization to help improve the economy in Levy County.
     These meetings are open to the public.
     Any members of the public wishing to bring any matters before the board may do so by contacting Executive Director Osteen via email at director@naturecoast.org.
     The NCBDC is an entity that evolved from an original group formed in 1985, which was, is and is planned to be committed to fostering economic prosperity and the highest quality of life in the communities it serves, which are in Levy County. Previous action to potentially add Dixie County and Gilchrist County has essentially stopped for now, too.


ASA Kipp Vugteveen honored as
FWC 2022 Prosecutor of the Year

18th Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Kipp Vugteveen accepts the plaque and is seen with FWC commissioners in Jacksonville on Wednesday (July 13). Seen here (from left) are FWC Assistant Executive Director Thomas Eason, FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto, FWC Col. Roger Young, 18th Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Kipp Vugteveen, FWC Commissioner Gary Lester, FWC Commissioner Sonya Rood and FWC Vice Chairman Steven Hudson.
FWC Photo By Megan Mitchell

Story and Photo Provided
By Rob Klepper of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement
Published July 14, 2022 at 10:12 a.m.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) honored Assistant State Attorney Kipp Vugteveen with the agency’s Prosecutor of the Year Award during the Commission meeting in Jacksonville on July 13. 
     ASA Vugteveen represents the 18th Judicial Circuit comprising Brevard and Seminole counties. Over the years, he has taken an interest in the unique cases FWC officers bring to his office for prosecution. Because of his understanding of resource violations, he has become the primary intake attorney for all FWC cases in these counties. 
     ASA Vugteveen has participated in several ride-a-longs with FWC officers where he observed violations as they occurred in real time. He works with the FWC officers to identify repeat offenders and recommends enhanced penalties allowed by Florida Statutes. He also developed a system within his office to ensure FWC's cases are handled with the appropriate level of care and attention. 
      “I have immense respect and admiration for the men and women of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. Thanks to their willingness to familiarize me with conservation enforcement issues and contagious enthusiasm, I’ve been honored to work with them to protect our state’s natural resources and increase public safety on Florida waterways,” Assistant State Attorney Vugteveen said. 
     ASA Vugteveen works closely with FWC investigators to ensure search warrants and investigative methods are successful. His guidance and partnership with the FWC spans many years. His open-door policy and regular meetings with officers are a significant benefit to the division when questions arise on a case or filing decision. 
      “ASA Vugteveen provides excellent prosecutorial insight when reviewing resource-related cases. The FWC is fortunate to have a prosecutor like him working alongside officers to help protect Florida’s natural resources,” Col. Roger Young, director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement, said.


DEP names Chuck Hatcher as Director
of Division of Recreation and Parks  

By Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Published July 9, 2022 at 10:12 a.m.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton today announced Chuck Hatcher as the new director for the agency’s Division of Recreation and Parks (DRP).

     In this role, Hatcher will oversee the management of the award-winning Florida State Parks system. Hatcher has twice served as acting director (2017 and 2021-present) and has held leadership positions in DRP since 2016. 
      “Chuck has been an integral member of the DEP team and we are thrilled to welcome him as the new director of Florida State Parks,” DEP Secretary Hamilton said. “Our state parks are already the best in the nation, and his leadership will take them to even greater heights.” 
     Hatcher joined DEP in 2016 as the assistant director of field operations for Florida State Parks.  
     Since then, Florida State Parks has become the nation’s first four-time winner of the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management and has reached milestones in attendance, revenue and resource management. 
     Upon taking over as acting director in November 2021, Hatcher immediately guided Florida State Parks in opening two new properties in the Florida Panhandle – William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area and the Bluffs of St. Teresa. 
     As a native of Marianna, who has seen the devastation of storm impacts on his beloved community, Chuck has continued to champion major progress on hurricanes Michael and Irma recovery projects, including:  
     ● Reopening of phase 1 and 2 camping at St. Andrews State Park, while overseeing the completion of phase 3. 
     ● Reopening of camping at Bahia Honda State Park. 
     ● Continuous monitoring of the rehabilitation of T.H. Stone Memorial Saint Joseph Peninsula State Park. 
      “To serve as the director of Florida State Parks is the honor of a lifetime,” Hatcher said. “Florida’s state parks, trails and historic sites are made up of amazing natural and cultural resources, as well as amazing people. I am grateful to Secretary Hamilton for trusting me to lead this team.” 
     Before joining DEP, Hatcher served for several years as the director of the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department. He received the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Leadership Award in 2009 and was recognized as the county’s Conservationist Farmer of the Year in 2017.


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Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 7, 2022 at 9:12 p.m.
     OLD TOWN –
It is written on the wall.
     Actually, it’s words put on a broken clock, but the thought is very sweet. It is southern hospitality heralding kindness in its finest hour.
     “This moment in time brought to you by: HardisonInk.com,” was put on a clock on a wall.
     Somehow, with no prompting or request from Jeff M. Hardison, who is doing business as HardisonInk.com, a clock that has been published in the daily news website for the past month, with the clock’s time noting as not changing, served as the mantelpiece for some clever person to put the promotional phrase.
     “As I approached the former meeting room of the Dixie County School Board in Old Town,” Hardison said, “I saw Dixie County Manager Duane Cannon outside the meeting room. It was already 80-plus degrees Fahrenheit, but Duane greeted me and said it was cooler outside than inside the meeting room.”
     As it turned out, when the room was opened at about 9 a.m., it was as hot as a car that had been sitting in the sun. Some off-site location reportedly controls the air-conditioner, and no one turned it on for a meeting to start at 10 a.m. on July 7.
     “I walked in and was glad to know I was wearing a button-up short-sleeve shirt with dress shorts and my go-t0-town sneakers,” Hardison said. “I flitted around the room shooting the breeze with people. I looked up at the clock to see if it has been moved in time. I thought before that it just needed new batteries. I noticed the words from a distance, but I couldn’t believe it.”
     The former daily newspaper editor and daily reporter, weekly newspaper editor and weekly reporter who has earned several awards from the Florida Press Association since 1983 and the Florida Press Club since 1989, 2020 and in 2021, including most recently as a publisher, said he was very pleased with the phrase.
     “I thought it was very nice to see some person showing they had read the stories and looked at the pictures closely enough to notice that clock issue,” Hardison said. “I guess the clock is broken. Oh well, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.”
     The publisher said in a couple of weeks, the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners are slated to resume their regular meetings in the meeting room in Cross City.
     “I do have quite a collection of letters and trophies from individuals and organizations,” he said. “This little gift was a very nice way to help me get through a meeting that was truly uncomfortably hot.”
     The journalist said he answered telephone calls and received emails later that day from people in Inglis. 
     “As far as I can tell,” Hardison said, “from the northern coverage area I focus on in Dixie County through the southern coverage area I focus on in Levy County, there are people who want me to know they appreciate my work. It was a real day-brightener for me on Thursday. Of course, I go elsewhere on occasion beyond this part of Florida...”


Local balloon professional chosen
to create Balloon Wonderland
for Wish Kids in Orlando


Story and Photos Provided
By LaWanda Griffin Jones
Published July 5, 2022 at 2:11 p.m.
LaWanda Griffin Jones, owner of Wandafully Kreated by Mrs. L Jones, has been selected as part of a talented team of international Balloon Professionals, to create a giant immersive balloon wonderland sponsored by Qualatex and using over 300,000 balloons for the Give Kids the World charity in Orlando.


Lawanda Griffin Jones

     As part of one of the biggest most unique projects, Jones, leaving their business in Chiefland to join a select group of balloon artists in Orlando.
     Using her balloon skills she has developed over the last five years, Jones will be part of creating several fantastical themed areas such as Toyland, the Enchanted Forest and Under the Sea in an area of nearly 30,000 square feet, with displays towering as high as 24 feet high.
     This is all part of the effort to support the critically ill children from all over the United States, the world, and even including Levy County. This provides the families with joyful moments that can lead to lasting memories, transforming the happiness into hope.



     “What an amazing event this is,” said Pam Landwirth CEO of Give Kids the World. “LaWanda is going to be part of creating many iconic pieces from our Give Kids the World Village in this gigantic balloon display. We are so grateful for their support of ‘Give Kids the World,’ demonstrating how the joy of balloons can also make a difference to the lives of so many.”







July 2022 numbers


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