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Cross City celebrates MLK Day
Cross City on MLK Day HardisonInk.com
Dixie County High School Redcoat Regiment marches in the Martin Luther King parade held in Cross City on Jan. 20.

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Levy County Prevention Coalition HardisonInk.com


Cross City on MLK Day HardisonInk.com
Smokey Bear rides in the tractor with the Florida Forest Service and he waves to onlookers during Martin Luther King parade in Cross City.

Cross City on MLK Day HardisonInk.com
The need for training wheels didn’t prevent this young fellow from participating in the Martin Luther King parade.

MLK Day In Cross City HardisonInk.com
From infants to elders, the cold temperature didn’t stop these two from celebrating the life of Martin Luther King at Charlie Wilder parking lot in Cross City in front of the Dixie County Courthouse.

MLK Day In Cross City HardisonInk.com
Martin Luther King parade participant Gio gives schoolmate Connor an American flag as the Woody’s Barber Shop float approaches.

MLK Day In Cross City HardisonInk.com
Tiffany Braswell speaks about her experiences with peers regarding racial injustice.  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached about unity and peace, as well as equality for all people. Bob Leichner of Dixie County is seen at the left in this picture. Year after year, he has provided the sound system for this event. Leichner and his wife Dotti are the former owners of DIxie Music Center.

MLK Day In Cross City HardisonInk.com
Attendees at the Martin Luther King celebration in Cross City line up for free fried fish dinners.
Photos by C.L. Watson © Jan. 21, 2020 at 9:09 p.m.


Debra Jones to replace
Nancy Wininger on City Council;

Mayor and Charles Goodman reelected
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 17, 2020 at 1:19 p.m.
Only three people wanted to be elected to three open seats on Williston City Council, according to information provided Friday (Jan. 17) by Williston City Clerk Latricia Wright.
     Mayor Jerry Robinson was the only candidate for mayor.
     The only candidate interested in Seat D of City Council was incumbent City Councilman Charles Goodman, Wright noted.
     Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Nancy Wininger in Seat E, who is the current president of City Council, chose not to seek reelection, Wright noted.
     Debra Jones, however, qualified for election to Williston City Council Seat E, City Clerk Wright noted in an email announcement she sent. Therefore, Jones will accept those duties when the three candidates’ terms ends.
     As a result of the three candidates being the only people to qualify for the three pending vacancies, Wright noted, there will be no election required for the City of Williston on March 3.
     In municipal elections in Williston, the city clerk is the supervisor of elections, responsible for all duties related to candidates qualifying and voters having an opportunity to select the elected leaders in the municipality who will represent them.


Rotarians enjoy double-header;
FFA and biologist bring joy and insight
Gilchrist County Trenton FFA Rotary Sturgeon HardisonInk.com
Seen here (from left) are Heather Rucker, FFA Advisor, FFA students Wyatt Rodgers, Lois Bachle, Braley Hines, Noa Myer, Carsen McKenzie, Caroline Martin, Kinsey Colley, Sturgeon Expert Mike Randall, and Rotarian Charlie Smith.

Story and Photo
By Rotarian Holly Creel
Published Jan. 13, 2020 at 10:09 p.m.
     TRENTON --
Members of the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County enjoyed another fun and informative meeting on Monday, (Jan. 13) at the Woman's Club in Trenton.
     Rotarian Lindsey Lander introduced Heather Rucker, FFA Advisor and the team of FFA Officers who practiced their opening and closing preparations for an upcoming meeting and presentation. What a joy it was to see these young student leaders demonstrate their skills and leadership abilities! Their presentation was flawless and Rotarians enjoyed their presence and abilities.
     Rotarian Charlie Smith introduced our guest speaker, Mike Randall, Fish Biologist with the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center with the United States Government Survey (USGS). Mike, who lives in Gainesville with his wife and is a UF graduate, provided an educational and fun presentation about sturgeon in general, with special emphasis on our Gulf Sturgeon. There are 27 species of this ancient fish, 9 of which reside in the United States and 3 on our east Gulf Coast.
     Mike explained the habits of the sturgeon, how they spawn and amazed us with some fun facts. For example, did you know that a sturgeon only jumps one time a day? When you see lots of sturgeon jumping on an afternoon in our rivers, it is always a different fish doing the jumping! A sturgeon has a life span of 40 years. Sturgeon are often known for their roe, or caviar, but Mike told us that smoked sturgeon was also a culinary specialty. They spawn in the spring or fall and fast through the summer.
     They are bottom feeders who have a mouth that works like a vacuum cleaner and then the debris is filtered through their gills. Mike went on to explain that the jumping we see has nothing to do with spawning; they are jumping as a way to adjust their buoyancy. The sturgeon's main predator are sharks, with boat propeller strikes coming in as a second contributor to their mortality. Mike provided an astounding amount of information about these majestic creatures and the audience thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.
     Rotarians and FFA members dined on a delicious luncheon of chicken quesadillas, Spanish rice and beans, southwestern salad, chocolate layer cake, lemon mini cakes and sweet and unsweetened tea catered by Chef Jason Fuchs of Springwater Events.
     The Gilchrist County Rotary Club will not meet on Monday, Jan. 20, in observance of Dt. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and will re-convene on Jan. 27 for our Annual Gilchrist County School District Teacher and Staff of the Year Awards.


People petition
government with grievances;

Toll roads protested
Kim Wheeler No Toll Road in Levy County HardisonInk.com
Kim Wheeler explains why she believes there is fiscal ineptitude as well as bad planning in regard to the economy, the environment and the quality of life in North Florida demonstrated by people who want to build toll roads in this part of the state.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 9, 2020 at 11:08 a.m.
     BRONSON –
During the first of two points during the Tuesday (Jan. 7) meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, a few people spoke about the quality of life that exists now in Levy County, and how that may deteriorate if the state puts a toll road through this rural county.


Matt Brooks John Meeks Levy County HardisonInk.com
Levy County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks (left) is seen next to former Chairman John Meeks.

Mike Joyner Levy County HardisonInk.com
Levy County Commission Vice Chairman Mike Joyner is seen in action Tuesday in his position, which he accepted to replace former Vice Chairman Matt Brooks who became chairman.

     The County Commission provides two open forums for people to address it during its regular twice-monthly meetings, once at the beginning and once at the end of those public get-togethers.
     As for people looking toward the potential future in Levy County, residents Kim Wheeler, Harriett Jones and Robbie Blake shared their opinions that construction of toll roads through Levy County hurts the agriculture and tourism industries here, as well as damaging the environment – especially for water resources, killing wildlife, and changing the peace and tranquility of a rural lifestyle to become similar to the helter-skelter, noisy metropolis areas where population is increasing at higher rates than the government’s ability to provide services for sustainable, healthy living environments.
     Wheeler addressed the County Commission, which includes only Republicans, as “a fiscal conservative.”
     She said the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is supposed to have a long-range plan for development, supplemented by five-year workplans with new road construction being guided by the road corridor process.
     The plan for three Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) in Florida, she said, circumvents the previous guidelines for road development in the state.
     The three M-CORES are named the Suncoast Connector, the Northern Turnpike Corridor and the Southwest-Central Connector
     The proposed Suncoast Connector extends northbound from Citrus County to Jefferson County.
     The proposed Northern Turnpike Corridor shows that Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sumter counties are part of this M-CORES project. The proposed Northern Turnpike Connector extends southeast from the Suncoast Connector to the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike.
     The proposed Southwest-Central Connector extends 140 miles going from Polk County south to Collier County.  
     Corridor planning, Wheeler said, was first adopted by former Gov. Jeb Bush (in office Jan. 5, 1999 – Jan. 2, 2007) and was reaffirmed by former Gov. Rick Scott (in office Jan. 4, 2011 -Jan. 7, 2019).
     Corridor planning is to assure the need exists and that progress is consistent with statewide, regional and local policies related to growth, she said. This form of planning for future road construction, Wheeler continued, is to identify natural resources and develop a plan for moving forward.
     This process, she continued, is meant to include input from county commissioners to find their plans for future growth of transportation assets. Wheeler said FDOT’s M-CORE process has failed to involve the people of Florida.
     The three task forces, which include Levy County Commission Chairman Matt Brooks on the proposed Suncoast Connector and Commissioner Rock Meeks on the proposed Northern Turnpike Corridor, Wheeler said have set timelines for completion that are unreasonable.
     “Are the public task forces just for show?” she asked. “Why are they doing them?”
     She then asked the five members of the Levy County Commission if the people want deficit spending.
     Toll roads can take 30 years before the revenue from them covers the annual debt service, Wheeler said.
     “That means these toll roads won’t pay for themselves,” Wheeler said.
     She reminded the County Commission that there are many other infrastructure needs that must be met before building more roads. As part of her 10-minute speech, Wheeler told the County Commission that the FDOT building huge overpasses over farms is not a solution to allow.
     As part of her speech, Wheeler said “Progress is good, but think it through.”
     Counties willing to let the FDOT build huge toll roads through them based on a promise of broadband for better Internet service is not reasonable. She mentioned that this is the 21st Century. Just the night before this meeting, a rocket was launched to put another 30 small satellites above the Earth for improved Internet service that would have nothing to do with cable being laid next to a superhighway toll road that goes through wetlands.
     Impacting sensitive wetlands that feed into the aquifer, Wheeler said, is vital to consider as Levy County lets the state traverse it with a new highway. Protect and conserve land and water resources for agriculture, aquaculture and the tourist industries, Wheeler said.
     She urged the Levy County Commission to share with the FDOT that this county believes the state should use its previous well-vetted road development process to find the best long-term solutions to the state’s mass transportation needs.
     The taxpayers deserve something other than the currently proposed costly toll roads that are not sustainable from economic or environmental standpoints, she said. Wheeler is among the group that says the FDOT should choose the “no build option” in regard to toll roads through Levy County.

Harriett Jones No Toll Road in Levy County HardisonInk.com
Harriett Jones asks the Levy County Board of County Commissioners to oppose toll roads through the county.

     The next person to speak against M-CORES was Jones.
     She said she attended an M-CORES Task Force meeting in Ocala, where Commissioner Meeks is a member, where the cost for these roads was noted to be $64 million per mile. The big overpasses, Jones continued, to which Wheeler referred to as a means to cross farmland, where $85 million a mile.
     Jones said she has friends who lived in the Wekiva area where toll roads were built. They moved because it became so noisy that they could no longer stand to live there.
     “That’s what’s going to happen to us,” Jones said, if this type of road is built through Levy County.
     Another problem this speaker foresees if from the drivers who want to travel at 90 miles per hour as they go north on roads that would be like Interstate-75.
     Jones labeled the two M-CRES projects that may affect Levy County as “a crazy boondoggle.” She wondered about the state returning the rails to trails so that they would become trails to rails.
     Jones said that State Sen. William Saint "Bill" Galvano (R-Bradenton, Dist. 21) holds the purse-strings and if he does not get his way, it endangers hope for home rule.
     Florida Senate District 21 encompasses Manatee County and southern Hillsborough County in the Tampa Bay Area.
     Jones asked the Levy County Commission to draft a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis (Rep.) to withdraw his plan for the M-CORES running through Levy County.

Robbie Blake No Toll Road in Levy County HardisonInk.com
Robbie Blake of Bronson speaks from where she was seated in the audience Tuesday morning.

     Blake, who was granted permission to speak from where she sat rather than from the podium, was the next to address this issue.
     In a broader sweep, Blake said the people of Florida are suffering from “a top-down government” where the people cannot be heard by their elected leaders.
     She made reference primarily, though, to some complaint about items being put on one consent agenda for approval, where people were not permitted a chance to address the County Commission.
     For people who are interested in the M-CORES process of gathering information before shovels are put in the ground, there are websites listing meetings and other information.
     Those websites are M-CORES calendar -- https://floridamcores.com/calendar-of-events/, and the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program’s homepage at: https://floridamcores.com/.

Toni Collins Levy County HardisonInk.com
Another person speaking during the public comment part of the meeting was Toni Collins. She said a non-profit historical group bought the two-story brick building on Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Alt 27) in Bronson. That building's most previous owner was the White Foundation.

Tusha Whitehurst Levy County HardisonInk.com
Tisha Whitehurst receives approval of a request Tuesday in regard to her job as the grant coordinator for Levy County. Whitehurst also leads the county’s efforts in regard to tourist development, in her other position as director of the Levy County Tourist Development Council.


Rotarians For Dental Health
Holly Houghton Anne Hodges Cedar Key Steamer's HardisonInk.com
Dixie County Rotary Club Secretary Holly Houghton (left) and Dixie County Rotary Club President Anne Hodges are seen moments before walking down Dock Street and up the stairs to Steamer’s Clam Bar and Grill on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 12), where they were bound to enjoy lunch. Hodges and Houghton had just completed a Rotary mission by visiting Whispering Winds Charter School in Chiefland, Yankeetown School in Yankeetown and Cedar Key School in Cedar Key. Through the combined effort of every Rotary Club in Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy counties (Rotary District 6940) working together – Chiefland, Dixie County, Gilchrist County, Suwannee Valley and Williston -- the Rotarians raised $5,000 for dental health for children in the three counties last year. Last year, the Tooth Fairy visited schools in all three counties, and children received information about dental health providers. On Thursday, these two Rotarians visited children in kindergarten through second grade at those three aforementioned schools in Chiefland, Yankeetown and Cedar Key. They provided them with toothbrushes, toothpaste and information to take home to their parents. There was oral hygiene information, as well as facts about the dangers of mixing certain prescription medicines. The Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition provided that added insight about danger from prescriptions’ interaction with each other. Fatal overdoses in middle-aged to elderly people in the three counties has happened from mixing prescriptions for depression or antianxiety (tranquilizer or benzodiazepines) with prescriptions for pain management (opioids). By providing as many people as possible with the brand names of certain drugs not to mix like Valium (tranquilizer) and Lortab (opiate), the anti-drug coalition believes it can help reduce the odds of fatal overdoses resulting from prescriptions interacting with each other. Alcohol is a drug, and its interaction with some prescriptions can kill people too.

Photo By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 12, 2019 at 8:29 p.m.


Chiefland students honored
Paige Brookins Chiefland Florida
Chiefland Rotary Club President Paige Brookins starts the program to recognize Students of the Month in Chiefland.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 10, 2019 at 11:09 p.m.
President Paige Brookins of the Rotary Club of Chiefland presented certificates Monday evening (Dec. 9) to two students in recognition of their work.
     Kyndal Miller, a second grade student at Chiefland Elementary School, was the first to be called forward for recognition.
     CES Teacher Sherry McElroy nominated the student who is the daughter of Rosylin Tomberlin and Kevin Miller.
     “The character trait for this month’s Student of the Month award is kindness,” Brookins said as she read McElroy’s comments. Kyndal models this quality every day. She comes in each morning with a big smile on her face and ready to learn!”
     This second grader always is willing to help classmates by giving them a pencil or helping them with their work, McElroy noted and Brookins said.
     “Her sunny disposition has a way of rubbing off on other around her,” McElroy noted and Brookins said. “She is a very sweet little girl with a positive attitude. I love having Kyndal in my class!”
     When Brookins asked the little girl if she had anything to add or to say about the her class or about Chiefland Elementary School, she said, “I have a lot of friends.”
     The next student recognized was Kaitlyn Rickner, an 11th grader who is the daughter of Sharon Rickner. She was nominated by the Chiefland High School teachers.
     Kaithlyn was noted to be an outstanding student in class, who always tries her best, as well as being polite and friendly. It was noted that “She is eager to learn and participates in class discussions.”
     When Brookins asked her what her goals are after high school, Rickner said she planned to become a veterinarian.
     Both of the outstanding students also went home with a $20 Walmart gift certificate that was awarded to them by the Rotary Club of Chiefland.

Chiefland City Commission Florida HardisonInk.com
Providing photo opportunities for the press and parents, are (from left) Kyndal Miller, Paige Brookins and Kaitlyn Rickner. On the background (from left) are Chiefland Mayor Chris Jones, City Commissioner Lewrissa Mainwaring and City Manager Mary Ellzey.


GED grad set to start CF
CF Levy County GED HardisonInk.com
Three of the four GED graduates who earned honors in the most recent graduating class from the College of Central Florida’s Levy County campus are seen here. Standing at left is Shelby Eastman, the keynote speaker for the event Thursday night. Standing on the right is Roselyn Pelaez and in the front is Emilee Loy. Honor Graduate Rosalee Brown did not attend the ceremony.

Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 6, 2019 at 7:09 p.m.
All Copyrights Reserved
Not to be duplicated or copied to any other media
At least two people who graduated with a high school Graduation Equivalent Diploma on Thursday evening (Dec. 5) are continuing their education at the College of Central Florida’s Jack Wilkinson (Levy County) campus, CF Levy Campus Manager of Instruction Leah Gamble said.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
The 10 graduates attending the program Thursday night seen here are Clarissa Brown, Michael Dye, Shelby Eastman, Emilee Loy, Roselyn Pelaez, Devin Smith, Victoria Spearin, Mackenzie Story, Jessica Watson and Emily White.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
CF Levy Campus Manager of Instruction Leah Gamble welcomes people to the ceremony to honor GED graduates.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
Transition Specialist and Instructor Kimberly Cooper speaks at the podium as adult education instructors Paul Hord (left) and Bob Gentzel look on.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
Shelby Eastman, the keynote speaker for the evening, delivers her speech at the podium as Transition Specialist and Instructor Kimberly Cooper stand next to her and Enrollment – Student Services Coordinator Christine Dunn (seated and wearing gray) and CF Levy Campus Manager of Instruction Leah Gamble (seated and wearing red) listen.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
Shelby Eastman delivers her inspirational speech.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
The graduates are seen before moving their tassel.

CF GED Grads Dec. 5, 2019 HardisonInk.com
The graduates are seen before moving their tassel.

In this video, which is two clips, the graduates enter the auditorium with tassels on one side and then they exit with their tassels on the other side, signifying their completion of the graduation ceremony. Afterward, each graduate presented a carnation to the person who helped them the most through this educational process. Photo opportunities and refreshments were available after the ceremony as well.

     Shelby Eastman, the keynote speaker for the event Thursday night, clearly is one of those GED grads accepted for continuing her education at CF.
     Fourteen graduates were listed in the program that night, and 10 of them attended the ceremony, where they accepted their State of Florida high school diploma.
     Manager of Instruction Gamble served as the emcee for the night. She welcomed graduating students, their families and friends.
     The CF Adult Education Team at the Jack Wilkinson Campus made possible the successful graduation of most of these students, Gamble said as she recognized those educators.
     The team includes Enrollment – Student Services Coordinator Christine Dunn, Transition Specialist – Instructor Kimberly Cooper, and adult education instructors Bob Gentzel and Paul Hord.
     Gamble’s introduction for the night let the audience members know that most of the graduates in this program did not have pleasant experiences with their first round of public education.
     This is one of the many reasons, she said, that their decision to restart the learning process is so important. Gamble noted she is proud of all of the graduates who have family and friends that helped them reach this milestone.
     And as has been the custom in previous CF GED ceremonies, the graduates were each provided with a carnation to present to the person whom they felt helped them the most to attain this goal.
     Transition Specialist – Instructor Cooper introduced Eastman.
     The 19-year-old Eastman is from Old Town, Cooper said. This graduate has a goal of continuing her education through college and then to become a teacher, where she intends to actively be a positive influence in students’ lives, Cooper said of Eastman.
     As she opened her speech, Eastman congratulated her fellow classmates on their successful completion of study to earn a GED. She mentioned that each individual has his or her own story in this regard.
     No matter what adversity anyone faced, each person celebrates now with having mastered the tasks set before them, she said.
     Rather than what she had experienced in high school, Eastman said she found a safe and nurturing environment for learning and growth via the CF Adult Education program.
     Eastman’s classmates treated her with respect and her teachers reinforced her success, she said, to the extent that it was as if she had just earned the Noble Prize. Whenever a student did not accomplish a goal, they were gently urged to try again as well as receiving guidance and instruction to help them in that regard, Eastman said.
     Eastman said she begins her CF classes in January. After she completes coursework to be certified as a teacher, Eastman said her hope is that she can bring the same level of positivity and enthusiasm to her future classroom as a teacher, as she had experienced via this recently-completed curriculum.
     If she can mirror the undying support and care shown to all of the CF GED students by Dunn, Cooper, Gentzel and Hord, Eastman said, then she will be able to accomplish anything with students in her classes after she becomes a teacher.
     “No matter the path that any of us choose to take,” Eastman said to her classmates, “I know the lessons that we have learned by these role models will carry us forward into a life of fulfillment, and give us the strength to accomplish anything we set our mind to.”
     Eastman thanked the College of Central Florida for providing her and her classmates with this opportunity to succeed. She thanked Hord for helping her see sentences she wrote were run-on sentences. She expressed her gratitude to other members of the Adult Education Team for specific actions they took to assure success.

     “Thank you to all of my classmates,” Eastman said, “for making this an experience that was fun and exciting. Congratulations to the Class of 2019!”


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