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Mentors sought for
Take Stock in Children
Play is coming to Trenton High School
Estate planning at Akins BBQ
(from left) Gilchrist Prevention Coalition (GPC) Executive Director Robert Wells, GPC Chair Sheryl Brown and GPC Treasurer Alesha Smith sit at the front of the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office Conference Room on June 8 during the GPC meeting.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 9, 2023 at 5 p.m.
TRENTON – Leaders in the Gilchrist Prevention Coalition, the Florida Department of Health’s (FDOH) Tri-County Unit, and others involved in the FDOH, Another Way, the College of Central Florida, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare and others learned about a mentoring program to help certain students.
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The Gilchrist Prevention Coalition (GPC) met Thursday morning (June 8) and the keynote speaker of the day was Peggy Boston, program coordinator of Take Stock in Children.
In addition to her presentation, attendees were reminded of the upcoming Inaugural Annual Ship Regatta Cardboard Boat Race for the Seventh Annual Vet Fest at Otter Springs Park and Campground is set to be part of Vet Fest 2023 on Aug. 5. Additionally, GPC Executive Director Robert Wells told listeners again about a play that is upcoming.
GPC Treasurer Alesha Smith shared with people, too, information about GPC Co-Chair Sheila Smith, who was absent from the meeting to accept an award. The two GPC officers have the same last name, but they are not related.
GPC Chair Sheryl Brown, who is also a captain in the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, led the meeting with the style and grace for which she is known, and GPC Executive Director Wells let everyone know that Capt. Brown is among the actors who are set to be onstage for the play.
Take Stock in Children Program Coordinator Peggy Boston speaks about the rewards to mentors and mentees who are involved in this scholarship program.
Information about Take Stock in Children is on display during the meeting.
Domestic Violence Advocate Lauren Lee with Another Way (left) and Community Engagement Specialist Lesley Hersey of Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) Health Systems listen to information shared during the meeting.
(from left) Take Stock in Children Program Coordinator Peggy Boston, Community Engagement Specialist Lesley Hersey of Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) Health Systems and Florida Department of Health Tri-County Unit Administrator Natalie McKellips visit socially with each other immediately after the conclusion of the meeting Thursday.
GPC Secretary Beverly Goodman was absent and Director Wells took minutes in her stead.
Present at the meeting, in addition to GPC Chair Brown, Executive Director Wells, Treasurer Smith and Take Stock in Children Program Coordinator Boston; were FDOH Tri-County Unit Administrator Natalie McKellips; FDOH Tri-County Unit Health Educator Consultant Jan Gonthier; Tri-County Unit Health Educator Alex Santana; Tri-County Unit Health Educator Elizabeth “Beth” Dean; Jessica Tan, a healthcare navigator with Gainesville office of Meridian Behavioral Healthcare support services for veterans; Domestic Violence Advocate Lauren Lee with Another Way; Community Engagement Specialist Lesley Hersey of Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) Health Systems; and Transition Specialist Kimberly Cooper from the College of Central Florida’s Adult Education GED Program.
Praying To Ex-Hell
Back-To-School Rally Set For July 22
GPC Executive Director Wells is planning for the GPC to host a back-to-school rally for Trenton High School, and this will include the presentation of a stage play titled Praying To Ex-Hell.
Wells partners with the woman who wrote the play 20 years ago as they help people in the performing art of drama.
Wells, who was among the founders of the Levy County Prevention Coalition in 2002, and who has been active over the past many years with the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition, too.
The back-to-school rally will start at 5 p.m. in the cafeteria on July 22.
As students visit the various tables of vendors and information booths, they will collect stickers which the students will trade for backpacks and school supplies, Wells said.
At 6 p.m. the THS Fellowship of Christian Athletes, co-sponsors of the back-to-school rally, will provide an hourlong presentation that is slated to include music and perhaps some spoken things, Wells said.
The two-hour play – Praying To Ex-Hell – will have a 15-minute intermission. Wells is directing the play.
He told listeners Thursday that THS students are creating the sets with instruction from teachers at THS who involved with the construction academy at the high school. THS students involved in media studies are creating the tickets and marketing for the event, Wells said.
THS students will be in the stage crew and in the cast, Wells said.
He invited everyone to come see Capt. Brown in her acting debut as she steps out of her comfort zone and takes the stage.
Wells provided Gilchrist County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Surrency with the script to assure it does not affect the school district in a negative way.
While the play takes place in a church and it involves people connected with the church, Wells said, it is really about everyday life issues and how to deal with them.
The basic theme of the play, he said, is “forgiveness, restoration and moving on.” It shows how to restart and how to go forward to the next level, he added.
Take Stock in Children
Take Stock in Children Program Coordinator Boston invited everyone present at the meeting to spread the word about the need for mentors to be involved in this program.
There are 45 affiliates serving all 67 Florida counties, she said.
This is a mentor-based scholarship program, Boston said, and the mentors are the backbone of this effort to help students.
Her work through Florida Gateway College for Take Stock in Children serves students in Baker Columbia, Gilchrist Dixie and Union counties.
There are nine high schools in those five counties, and she has 122 students involved in this program now, Boston said.
The program tries to take in 30 new students each year, and there is an eligibility requirement related to financial standing of the family of the child, she said.
Students who meet the requirements to participate, including maintaining a certain grade point average, are matched with a mentor, Boston said.
Capt. Brown is among the people who have served as mentors in this program before. She had a Trenton High School student as her mentee. That person has switched career goals from being in the medical profession and is now among the teachers in the Gilchrist County School District.
Boston said she herself started mentoring in this program about five years. There is a workbook to help the mentor with their mentee.
Boston’s first mentee was in Suwannee County. The girl before graduating high school was declared homeless, as she did what is known as “couch surfing,” staying at different places with friends and family.
“Mentoring is tremendously fulfilling,” Boston said.
This program includes 15 one-on-one mentoring sessions a year, which is two a month for 30-minutes each.
Boston provided information to show more about the program.
To learn about Take Stock in Children, go to https://www.takestockinchildren.org/.
To contact Program Coordinator Boston call 386-754-4423 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
She mentioned that retirees make great mentors, but so do people who are still active in the workforce.
GPC Treasurer Alesha Smith shared information on behalf of Co-Chair Sheila Smith, who needed to be absent to accept awards being presented to her.
Edward Jones, where Sheila Smith serves as a financial advisor, is offering a presentation July 18 at 6 p.m. at Akins BBQ in Bell.
This presentation will be by an attorney who will explain what is needed now for estate planning. A dinner will be served, she said, and everyone knows how good the food at Akins BBQ is.
There is a need to RSVP to attend this presentation. To reserve a place, call the Edward Jones Office in Newberry at 352-472-2776.
Bronson Town Council meeting
Luis N. Serna of Calvin, Giordano & Associates of Clearwater, speaks to the Bronson Town Council on June 5 about an application to rezone just over eight acres on the south side of Thrasher Drive (State Road 24), east of East Main Street, to develop a 50-unit Recreational Vehicle park. There are a number of RV parks in Levy County. Serna spoke during a workshop before the regular twice-monthly meeting of the Town Council.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © June 6, 2023 at 7:45 p.m.
BRONSON – From rezoning of an 8.18-acre parcel to create a place for another recreational vehicle (RV) park to a resolution seeking more than a $100 million worth of grant funds, the five members of the Bronson Town Council – Mayor Robert Partin, Vice Mayor Virginia Phillips, Councilman Franklin Schuler, Councilwoman Sherrie Schuler and Councilman Tyler Vorhees took action to move Bronson forward on Monday night (June 5).
As usual for this Town Council “discussion” came from the audience with no decorum, where members of the public did not even let the mayor complete a sentence before chiming in, as they shouted from their seats.
Despite the lack of civility or structure for a meeting, the five-member Town Council completed plenty of actions within the first hour of the twice-monthly meeting that went on for some time after that first hour.
From the mayor saying the opening prayer without any invitation for let others join him in prayer, through the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as a casual roll call, approval of the agenda for the night and the approval of two sets of minutes from previous meetings, this meeting moved quickly.
There were no members of the public asking to address the Town Council during the “public participation” part of the agenda.
Vice Mayor Virginia Phillips (left) and Town Councilwoman Sherrie Schuler agree to a photo opportunity before the meeting June 5.
Town Councilman Tyler Vorhees (left) and Town Councilman Franklin Schuler agree to a photo opportunity before the meeting June 5.
Town Attorney Steven Warm (left) and Bronson Mayor Robert Partin confer before the start of the June 5 meeting.
All three graduates of Bronson High School who each received a $1,000 scholarship from the town government showed up for recognition. Seen here are (from left) Bronson Town Councilman Tyler Vorhees, who presented the awards, and recipients Christine Elaine Porter, Shelby Lynn Strickland and Ingrid Velasquez-Guadawama holding their certification of having earned the scholarship awards.
Only one of the four Students of the Month for April and May made it to the meeting, although it was mentioned that another one of the four had basketball practice right up to the point of the start of that meeting at 6 p.m. that night.
Mark Marrazo, who was nominated by Donna King to be the April 2023 Middle School Student of the Month, was present and accepted his certificate from Vice Mayor Phillips.
Although it was not verbalized during the meeting, the document leading to the seventh grader’s recognition noted that he is a very respectful and hardworking student.
Mark Marrazo stands with his certification of being honored with an academic achievement award as the April 2023 Middle School Student of the Month from Bronson Middle High School. Standing with the student is Vice Mayor Virginia Phillips.
The May 2023 Middle School Student of the Month was Jennyfer Martin, nominated by Kelby Barber.
The April High School Student of the Month was Sarah Taylor, nominated by Nancy Williams.
The May High School Student of the Month was Freddie Freeman, who had basketball practice right up to the starting point of the Town Council meeting.
The Town Council dealt with holidays and scheduling its meetings. With Bronson recognizing June 19 as a town government holiday for Juneteenth, Town Manager Sue Beaudet worked with the Town Council to set the dates for the second meeting of June and the two meetings in July.
On a motion by Vorhees, seconded by Sherrie Schuler, the Town Council voted unanimously to meet next starting at 6 p.m. on June 26 in the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building.
In July, with the same starting times and in the same place, the meetings are July 10 and July 24.
The Town Council chose to table acceptance of the only offer to provide construction engineering inspection services by the only engineering firm that submitted a packet to show its interest – North Florida Professional Services.
A grant from the Florida Department of Transportation fell short of the lowest bid for a paving project. Therefore, the construction engineering inspection services may have been a moot point.
The town leaders may consider this at their next meeting.
In other action during the first hour of that meeting, the Town Council approved the annexation into the town of property owned by Bernard and Candice Cox.
There were three liens imposed for delinquent utility payments at 667 Davis St., for $736.80; at 20 Ishie Ave., for $208.60; and at 535 N. Court. St., for $313. Water service from the town was stopped at all three locations, too.
One person yelled from the audience that perhaps the town should perform a wellness check, because there is an elder resident at one of those locations. Town Manager Sue Beaudet said she would check into that.
Fire assessment rates on property in the Town of Bronson unanimously were approved to be the same as in the previous year:
Residential - $129 per unit; and
Non-residential (commercial) - two-cents per square foot; and
Vacant Land - $8 per parcel.
The Town Council also unanimously adopted a resolution that will help it join with the Town of Otter Creek and the Town of Cedar Key to create a cooperative venture for regional municipal water and wastewater services.
This $100 million-plus project was discussed on Tuesday morning at the June 6 Levy County Board of County Commissioners meeting.
(A comprehensive story about those possible multimillion regional water and wastewater projects is planned for publication soon in HardisonInk.com as a result of information shared by the Suwannee River Water Management District at the June 6 Levy County Commission meeting.)
Flag ceremony is part of Memorial Day
service in Yankeetown
The Levy County Sheriff's department Color Guard (Deputy Dean MacIntyre, Corporal Tucker Gaffey, and Sgt. Jeremy Dean) fold the American flag.
Story and Photos
By Peter Weiss, HardisonInk.com correspondent
© May 30, 2023 at 2 p.m.
YANKEETOWN -- On a beautiful and untypically cool spring morning on May 29, the people of the picturesque town of Yankeetown held their annual Memorial Day event.
This year, it featured the replacement of both the flags for the United States of America and the State of Florida, which fly in front of Yankeetown City Hall.
The latter was given to a group of five officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement.
The American flag was to be retired and will be given to Inglis AmVets Post 447.
Yankeetown City Manager William Ary gives the prayer.
Dan Pearson retires the Florida state flag by presenting it to FWC members (from left) Officer Specialist London Smith, Officer Specialist Corrie Bell, Officer Specialist Hailey Carroll, Lt. Robert Johnson and Officer Specialist James Fox.
Local talent, Stephen T. McGovern, preforms God Bless America. McGovern, by the way, is a 20-year-old up-and-coming singer with a great voice can be reached via FaceBook or Instagram.
Mayor Eric Erkel and Danny Pearson
Thanks to the Yankeetown Parks and Recreation Committee for providing the decorations and refreshments.
These boots represent the Final March of the Last Battle and the flag symbolizes the patriotism of America’s fallen heroes.
Yankeetown Mayor Eric Erkel welcomed everyone to the Memorial Day ceremonies.
Yankeetown City Manager William Ary opened the event with a prayer.
Next, a color guard of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office had its members lowering the state and national flags, folding them ceremoniously, and replacing both of them with new ones.
Both of the old flags were handed to Dan Pearson, who in turn delivered the Florida flag to the FWC members. While the flags were being replaced, Stephen T. McGovern of Yankeetown, sang "God Bless America."
After the end of the flag ceremony, McGovern sang "The Star-Spangled Banner.”
After the poignant ceremony, people attending the event were treated to cookies and cupcakes, and coffee and other beverages. McGovern entertained the crowd with a medley of Elvis songs. He began with the tune, "Follow That Dream" which is dear to Yankeetown folks due to the fact that many years ago Elvis filmed parts of the movie of the same name here in Yankeetown.
People comment to County Commission
from imported horse manure to road safety
Rose Fant of Morriston explains some facts as she harkens back to another County Commission meeting from more than a decade ago.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 24, 2023 at 9 p.m.
BRONSON -- Everything from horse manure being imported from Marion County to funding for roads were among the topics during the first of two public comment points on the May 23 agenda for the Levy County Board of County Commissioners.
Rose Fant of Morriston asked the County Commission to take action related to alleged problems that exist as well as to potentially reduce issues from horse manure in Levy County in the future.
Morriston is a census-designated place in the unincorporated part of Levy County, southeast of the City of Williston.
She said Levy County has been abuzz recently in regard to it becoming a future home for horse manure deposits.
At the Dec. 4, 2012, meeting of the Levy County Commission she said, then-County Commissioner Danny Stevens said there is a family feud going on and “they need to solve it,” Fant said. Stevens was making reference to potential code violations from a composting operation in Morriston back then.
Fant said County Commissioner John Meeks, who was on the County Commission back then, alluded to Stevens’ comment from 10 years ago during the May 9 workshop on composting in Levy County.
Fant said the family members alleged to be in this “feud” were not present at the 2012 meeting, and they have not spoken to the County Commission about the matter in the past 11 years.
“We have publicly kept silent about this issue,” Fant said, “until the county found itself with this problem, and I felt it my duty to speak up.”
Fant Farm Organics, which has Samuel A. Fant as the agent, according to state records, should be reviewed by Levy County to see if it complies with current county ordinances, Rose Fant told the County Commission she feels.
Then, she addressed the broader issue.
“Levy County does not need horse manure brought in from Marion County,” Rose Fant said. “Marion County does not want their own waste left in their own county. So, why do they dump it in Levy County?”
She answered her question by saying this county lacks regulations related to dumping horse manure in large quantities, and as a result the county is wide open to unauthorized, unhealthy waste facilities. This scene endangers fresh water sources as well as leaving the county open for legal action, she said she believes.
When Commission Chairman Matt Brooks told her she had exceeded her three-minute limit for public comment, and he asked her to wrap it up, she cut to the chase.
She suggested using relevant Marion County codes as a template to bring this matter under control. Also, she asked the County Commission to take steps to close Fant Farm Organics. Chairman Brooks thanked her for her comments.
Next up was Amanda Handley, senior public information specialist III at Atkins – an independent contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Handley shared with the County Commission progress the FDOT is having working with an ad hoc group in Inglis to address any concerns as the state works to increase the free flow of traffic on U.S. Highway 19 from Red Level in Citrus County to an area north of Chiefland in Levy County.
The group met May 16 at the Inglis Community Center, she said. Some group members were ill and unable to attend. Eight of the 13 members were present and FDOT project staff worked with the group members present, who offered candid and helpful feedback, Handley said.
Levy County Road Department Administrative Coordinator Alice LaLonde and Ryan Asmus of North Florida Professional Services address the County Commission about a grant opportunity.
Levy County Road Department Administrative Coordinator Alice LaLonde and Ryan Asmus of North Florida Professional Services addressed the County Commission about a grant opportunity.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) established the new Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) discretionary program with $5 billion in appropriated funds over five years.
The SS4A program funds regional, local and Tribal initiatives through grants to prevent roadway deaths and serious injuries.
The SS4A program supports the United States Department of Transportation's National Roadway Safety Strategy and a goal of zero roadway deaths.
“When you apply for the grant funding,” Asmus said, “it comes directly to the county.”
The two steps to obtain grant funding are first – build a plan and second – implement the projects that come out of the plan. To build a plan, Asmus said, a program used by the Florida Department of Transportation to find areas for improving safety on roadways can be applied, he intimated.
Projects coming from the plan could be for new sidewalks, roadway widening, roadway lighting or to meet whatever needs are determined through the roadway safety improvement plan, he said.
July 10 is the deadline for funding applications to obtain part of the $5 billion set aside by the federal government, Asmus said.
Road Department Administrative Coordinator LaLonde said she suggested to Asmus to use the public comments part of the agenda to speak with the County Commission, because she only learned about this grant opportunity and the potential for North Florida Professional Services (NFPS) to help the county create a plan – after the deadline for submission of agenda matters.
LaLonde said she is unable to complete the plan and grant application without help from outside of the county’s workforce. She asked the County Commission to hire NFPS to write the grant application.
She said Levy County lacks a safety plan now, and it needs one, which will help the county with some funding issues to make the county safer for residents and visitors who travel on the roads here.
County Commissioner John Meeks said he endorses obtaining funding to improve road safety, and he mentioned an intersection where he would like to see safety improved.
He asked if it was proper to waive the process for selecting the engineering firm to help create the safety plan.
Levy County Attorney Nicolle M. Shalley provides the County Commission with advice about how to deal with a non-agenda item regarding hiring an engineering firm to create a safety plan in the road department.
Levy County Attorney Nicolle M. Shalley said this was the first time she had heard of the proposal. She suggested that she speak with Procurement Coordinator Alicia “Ali” Tretheway. The County Commission can give directions, and then staff can determine if it can be done.
Commission Chairman Matt Brooks said he doubts any member of the commission would oppose finding funding to have safe streets and sidewalks.
LaLonde said she would return to the County Commission after conferring with Coordinator Tretheway and Attorney Shalley.
Sheriff jails suspects
while saving tax dollars
New Rotarians take oath
Jason Fuchs, the chef from Springwater Events of High Springs, strikes a pose in the kitchen before the start of the meeting.
Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 22, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
TRENTON – Members and guests of the Rotary Club of Gilchrist County enjoyed another full meeting of fellowship, fun and unity on Monday afternoon (May 22) in Trenton. Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz provided listeners with a plethora of facts, which are bound to make all of the law-abiding taxpaying residents and visitors of Gilchrist County happy.
Not only that, but the Gilchrist County Rotarians carried through with all of the traditions to warm the hearts of members, including the ceremonial acceptance of two new members.
A pair of Rotarian doctors – Dr. John D. Frazier, D.C., (left), who is also the Secretary of the Gilchrist County Rotarians, and Dr. Andrew Ngeyen, M.D., is not paradoxical here. If a paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well-founded or true, then this pair of ‘docs’ enjoying lunch as Rotarians is not that. Still ‘pair a docs’ for two doctors in one picture is fun – meeting the fifth test of this club’s four-way test.
Speaking of traditions, this set of members of the Rotary Club International are active as they share responsibility to take action on the planet’s most persistent issues. As one of the 46,000-plus clubs around the world, this set of individuals work together to
* Promote peace;
* Fight disease;
* Provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene;
* Save mothers and children;
* Support education;
* Grow local economies; and
* Protect the environment.
Bringing the focus into the clubhouse of the Woman’s Club of Trenton, where these Rotarians meet each Monday afternoon, except on holidays – like the upcoming Memorial Day – this group exercised some of its established traditions.
For some years now, Jason Fuchs, the chef from Springwater Events of High Springs, has catered the lunches, always providing a delicious menu. On May 22, it was fried chicken with the side dishes and desserts being of a southern theme.
Rotarian John Anderson sells tickets to help fight polio and human trafficking.
The tradition of collecting money for tickets that are drawn in a 50-50 gamble, one person won 50 percent of the draw. Rotarian John Anderson was the Rotarian tasked with the duty of selling tickets.
The half of these funds that do not go to the lucky ticket-buyer are donated toward two causes – ending polio all over the world; and ending human trafficking all over the world.
Human trafficking provides the people for forced labor. Forced labor occurs when individuals are compelled against their will to provide work or service through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. This crime happens both in the United States and overseas.
The United States has declared it a national priority to end human trafficking and the importation of goods produced with forced labor. The United States Department of Homeland Security is on the frontlines of this fight, protecting the country and collaborating with partners to stop these crimes.
Human trafficking includes forcing individuals to perform sexual acts as well.
To report suspected human trafficking to federal law enforcement agents, call 1-866-347-2423.
On a lighter note, Gilchrist County Rotary Club Sergeant-At-Arms Marvin Weaver imposed and collected fines for people celebrating birthdays, having children graduating (including grandchildren graduating from preschool).
Weaver worked the room until he reached his goal of $20, which came from Rotarians announcing things and donating “happy dollars.” One Rotarian agreed to pay a fine for wearing very decorative socks, which Weaver jokingly said the man must not have had to chase the previous owner far to obtain them.
Rotarians prayed, pledged allegiance to the flag and recited The Four Way Test.
1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all?
Like some other Rotary Clubs, this group adds a fifth test –
5. Is it fun?
Rotarian John Greist speaks about progress at Otter Springs Park and Campground. Gilchrist County is famous for its springs. As for this park and campground, it is the home of Camp Valor.
Project Valor Progresses
Among the announcements of the day was that Otter Springs Park and Campground now has its new septic system in place to help in the continuing development of Project Valor by the ForVets organization.
John Greist shared that not only is this helping the veterans who will be there for occupational training, repairing recreational vehicles, but the significant reduction of nitrogen into the river will help the environment. Greist said the company making these improvements for the septic system at the park and campground are planning to offer the same opportunities to other septic tank owners in the area.
The Project Valor purpose is to provide a transitional living and learning community with recovery facilities and support services for empowering and enhancing rehabilitative outcome for military veterans with service-related disabilities.
Gilchrist County Rotary Club President John Rutledge starts the meeting after ringing the Rotary bell to gain everyone’s attention.
Gilchrist County Rotary Club President John Rutledge presided during the meeting.
His term of office ends June 30. The new Rotary Year, which begins July 1, shows incoming Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Donna Lee Brunson ready to take that leadership responsibility.
On Monday afternoon, Brunson also was the sponsor of two new members – Kody Latham and Lisa McNeil.
Gilchrist County Rotarian Dana Nicholson inducted Latham and McNeil with Brunson as their sponsor. Both of the new Rotarians heard they become full Rotarians not just by this acceptance but by their actions where they show participation in club meetings and activities, as they put service above self.
Rotarians posing after the induction ceremony for two new members are (from left) Gilchrist County Rotarian Dana Nicholson, who administered the induction to the new members; Gilchrist County Rotary Club President Elect and sponsor of these two new members -- Donna Lee Brunson; and new members Kody Latham and Lisa McNeil.
Sheriff Bobby Schultz Speaks
With all of the delicious food, fun (including a little bit of positive hijinks) and announcements completed, the keynote speaker of the day brought serious messages that herald progress from the past and a positive path going into the near future, and beyond.
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz, who was sponsored as a guest speaker by Rotarian Ryan Clemons, shared many thoughtful messages as he spoke off the cuff.
Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz speaks about his love for Gilchrist County.
(from left) The Honorable Gilchrist County Court Judge Sheree H. Lancaster, Chief Deputy of the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office – Col. Brad Smith and Gilchrist County Rotarian John Greist listen as Sheriff Bobby Schultz speaks. Chief Deputy Smith oversees law enforcement operations, corrections and media relations for the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. His counterpart in Gilchrist County is GCSO Chief Deputy Robert Willis.
I- Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Robert Willis (left) and Gilchrist County Commission Vice Chairman Darrell Smith are in the audience listening as Sheriff Bobby Schultz mentions his chief deputy, a former prosecuting attorney with 13 years’ experience before switching to be the chief deputy in July of 2019. Vice Chairman Smith is a member of the Gilchrist County Rotary Club, as well as being a member of the Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners.
In this one-minute video, the Honorable Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz on May 22 tells the members and guests of the Gilchrist County Rotary Club that he loves Gilchrist County. He is very happy to be able to give back to the county where he grew up. He speaks about the Honorable Gilchrist County Judge Sheree H. Lancaster who is an active member of the community, too, and who deserves credit for her work as a county judge who is helping keep Gilchrist County as a wonderful place to live, learn, work and play. Click on the PHOTO to see the video.
Video By Jeff M. Hardison © May 22, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
As Sheriff Schultz opened his presentation, he pointed out that Col. Brad Smith, who is the chief deputy for Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith was in the audience. The Bradford sheriff and his chief deputy have the same last name but are not related, Sheriff Schultz said.
Sheriff Schultz went on to tell the audience that Gilchrist County Undersheriff Robert Willis was present as well.
Undersheriff Willis was recruited away from the Eighth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, where he had served for 13 years. Willis accepted his position with the GCSO in July of 2019.
The keynote speaker said he is glad to be the sheriff in the county he loves, serving the people he loves.
“I have the best job in the State of Florida,” Sheriff Schultz said.
He is especially happy to be able to return to Gilchrist County to apply his professional experience in law enforcement there. Every day, he remembers the massive responsibilities he has the county’s sheriff.
“This county raised me,” he said.
Now that he has been given the chance to return to Gilchrist County to help the people who helped him, Schultz sees it as a special time.
The sheriff said the GCSO gets credit for its success in the community for increasing safety in Gilchrist County, Schultz said, but there is a very significant person who deserves recognition too.
“A lot of the success the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office has is a direct result of having a good judge – a good county judge,” Sheriff Schultz said. “She (Gilchrist County Judge Sheree H. Lancaster) is fair. She is everything you would want in a judge.”
Judge Lancaster loves Gilchrist County, he said, and she loves the rule of law. She looks at cases with impartiality, he added.
Judge Lancaster is an active member of the community as well, Schultz said.
The sheriff said the GCSO has a $6.6 million budget this fiscal year. It employs 74 employees, including deputies, correctional officers, communications specialists and support staff.
Since he last spoke with the Rotary Club three or four years ago, Schutz said the GCSO has accomplished several objectives.
The GCSO has enhanced its relationship with the Gilchrist County School Board, under the previous administration of previous Superintendent of Schools Rob Rankin, and current Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Surrency, Schultz said.
Gilchrist and Bradford counties, he said, were among the first Florida schools to enact the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.
This program was established in 2018 through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In its initial report, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission found that having guardians in schools is the best way to ensure highly trained personnel are in place to respond immediately in the event of a school shooting.
Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian. Guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings, and successfully complete a minimum of 144 hours of training.
Sheriff Schultz said he thinks this is a commonsense approach, and the guardians provide their service for free.
Dixie and Levy counties do not participate in this program.
The sheriff provided listeners with a lot of information to show his office is performing better now than 11 years ago when he started as sheriff.
“I feel like, from top to bottom, for the first time in 11 years, we have a very good Sheriff’s Office,” Schultz said. “I believe that with all my being. Are we perfect? No, we’re not.”
The sheriff said he knows the agency will never be perfect, however he feels very good that the GCSO is continuing to move forward, just as it has since he started as sheriff.
Property crimes, such as burglaries, are decreasing in Gilchrist County, he said.
The people violating drug laws in Gilchrist County, he said, continues to present a problem. The sheriff mentioned that the drug dealers are not the ones arrested for burglaries, however their customers who buy illegal drugs do so with ill-gotten gains on occasion.
Deputies cover about 385 square miles in Gilchrist County, the sheriff said, every day and every hour of every day.
Among the things instituted in the past 11 years, in addition to the Guardian Program, are the Ag Watch Program to help ranchers and farmers protect their property from rustlers and other thieves. This also helps people tell the GCSO about occasions when cows get out.
The sheriff said all of the employees of the GCSO are encouraged to be part of the community, in school sports, in civic clubs and elsewhere.
The sheriff also has taken time to help church leaders learn about methods to reduce fatalities in the event of a mass shooting incident.
He has held town hall meetings in every geographical area of the county.
The GCSO has reestablished its working relationships with state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The sheriff spoke about many other facets of the GCSO which show the agency is serving all of the residents and visitors.
The New Jail
The new jail was needed, Sheriff Schultz said, and with the efforts of the Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners, construction has started. This will save the taxpayers money.
This 94- to 100-bed facility is expected to open in March of 2024, Schultz said.
Currently, the people of Gilchrist County are paying Levy County and Dixie County about $350,000 a year to house the inmates who cannot be kept in the current jail, which holds 30 people.
The sheriff said he has been in the law enforcement business for 31 years, and this construction of the new jail is the best possible choice.
To see the May 3, 2022 story about the future jail, click HERE.
To see the Aug. 30, 2022 story, photo and video about the groundbreaking for the jail, click HERE.
Key To Crime Prevention
Sheriff Schultz shared with people the key to crime prevention near the conclusion of his presentation.
He said the key to crime prevention, and to solving crimes, is the people in the community.
That is the essence of the GCSO philosophy of “One Team – One Mission,” he said.
The concept is for all people working together to live, work and raise families in a safe community.
Sheriff Schultz said the people have risen to the challenge – giving the GCSO tips every day.
He reminded people of the limits.
If he gets a call from a person who tells him that the person who lives next door is selling drugs, the sheriff hears the tip.
“But that doesn’t mean I can just kick their door in,” Schultz said. “There’s a lot that goes into that. And I refuse to break the law to catch someone who is breaking the law.”
The sheriff will respect the rights of all people.
Tipsters help fight crime however, and while they may not see the door getting kicked in the next day, there are cases in the Tri-County Area where drug law violators and other criminals are put in jail, charged with crimes and then successfully convicted by the law enforcement personnel following the proper methods to reach that goal.
The sheriff spoke about personnel who were relieved of duty when they did not meet the standard he expected them to meet. He added that drug users who want to quit will be directed to people to help them, but if they keep violating drug laws, then they can anticipate being caught and tried in criminal court if they live or visit Gilchrist County when they choose to break those laws.
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