SATURDAY  FEB. 27  7:11 a.m.  Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties


Three trees are planted
in Manatee Springs State Park

Arbor Day In Levy County Florida 2021  HardisonInk.com
Seen here (from left) are Forester Joseph MacKenzie, Colleen Ward, Bryan Summerlin, Gary Bonestell, Tom Kinner, Park Manager Mebane Cory-Ogden and Administrative Assistant Azie Pickern prepare to plant three trees at Manatee Springs State Park on Friday (Feb. 19).

Story and Photos Provided
By Barbara L. Edmonds, Horticulture PA
Published Feb. 26, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.
Levy County and Gilchrist County Forester Joseph MacKenzie, Barbara L. Edmonds, Horticulture PA, UF/IFAS Extension Levy County, as well as Manatee Springs State Park staff and volunteers planted three trees during the 2021 Arbor Day celebration on Feb. 19.

Arbor Day In Levy County Florida 2021  HardisonInk.com
Levy County and Gilchrist County Forester Joseph MacKenzie (left) speaks to the other people planting trees in the state park.



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     Many holidays bring awareness to events of historical significance.
     Florida has celebrated Arbor Day since 1886 and has one of the first Arbor Day celebrations in the nation, on the third Friday in January, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). Over 200 communities in Florida celebrate Arbor Day, either as a stand-alone event or in conjunction with some other occasion, UF/IFAS has noted.
     “Arbor Day is a unique national holiday focusing on the future. As trees reach full potential, they provide social, environmental and economic benefits for future generations,” MacKenzie said.
     Budding “green thumbs” and experienced gardeners mentioned several benefits of trees, such as providing shade, creating oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, offering a food source, displaying seasonal beauty, capturing rainfall, providing wildlife with habitat and buffering sound.
     The celebration and planting of three trees in Manatee Springs State Park was on Feb. 19, which was the third Friday in February.
     “Using the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle, Right Plant, Right Place, native trees adapted to North Florida climate were identified,” Edmonds said. “We narrowed the list to those adapted to well-drained soils and tolerant of partial shade. Lastly, trees that provide seed, berry, pollen or nectar were given preference.”
     Edmonds worked with Park Manager Mebane Cory-Ogden, Park Services Specialist Bryan Summerlin, and Administrative Assistant Azie Pickern to identify site goals, as well as a “wish list” of tree attributes, and to coordinate with the Florida Forest Service for sourcing trees.
     This event was successful and fun because of the wonderful volunteers who helped plant the trees, Edmonds said.
     “These partnerships with UF/IFAS Extension and forestry adds another layer,” Park Manager Cory-Ogden said, “to the opportunity to educate.”
     Manatee Springs State Park welcomes more 174,000 visitors annually.
     To learn more about Manatee Springs State Park, please visit the website at https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/manatee-springs-state-park.


Yankeetown chooses
three leaders in municipal election

By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 24, 2021 at 2:11 p.m.
The reelection of three incumbents to Yankeetown Town Council was the result of the election Tuesday (Feb. 23), Town Clerk-Treasurer-Administrator Sherri MacDonald said Wednesday morning.
     Following are the unofficial results from this municipal election, where MacDonald served as the supervisor of elections.
     Danny Pearson 93 votes
     Buck Redd 68 votes
     Jeff St. John 71 votes
     Angela Tutino 60 votes
     Adam McNiece 33 votes

     Pearson, Redd and St. John remain on the Council with Mayor Jack Schofield and Vice Mayor Jean Holbrook.
     The audit to confirm these votes, which were counted by hand, is scheduled for Friday (Feb. 26), MacDonald said.
     There were 100 votes cast during the day and there were 17 ballots that were mailed in, MacDonald said.
     One candidate had withdrawn earlier from the race, but he still got votes – even though his choice to not run was extremely well publicized.
     Charles Staneck Jr. withdrew from the race, but 16 voters cast ballots for this candidate.
     One provisional ballot was not counted after it was disqualified, MacDonald said.
     Serving as Yankeetown’s Election Canvassing Board were County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, County Commission Chairman John Meeks and County Coordinator Wilbur Dean, MacDonald said.
     Yankeetown Clerk Dianne Cummings served as a poll worker. The Poll Deputy was Henry Quandt. Two inspectors were Steven Schwing and Janet Burnham.
     MacDonald noted that all of the people involved with the election have undergone the training required to assure it was properly conducted.


Rotarians learn about
tourism in Gilchrist County

Gilchrist County Rotary Club in Trenton Florida
Among the Rotarians at the meeting in Trenton on Monday (Feb. 22) are (from left) Gilchrist Rotary Membership Chair Todd Gray, Donna Creamer of the Gilchrist Tourism Development Council, and Rotarians John Rutledge and Gilchrist County Court Judge Sheree H. Lancaster.

Story By Rosemary McDaniel, Rotarian
Photo By Holly Creel, Rotarian
Sent Feb. 22, 2021
Published Feb. 23, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
     TRENTON --
Prior to hearing from the guest speaker at the regular weekly meeting of the Gilchrist County Rotary Club on Monday afternoon (Feb.22), an induction ceremony was held for the newest member of Rotary, John Rutledge.
     Congratulations, John, and welcome to Rotary!
     Donna Creamer with the Gilchrist County Tourist Development Council (TDC) spoke about the TDC’s early development 20 years ago and how it has grown to the present time.
     Overall sales from tourism in Gilchrist County last year resulted in $5 million to $6 million for local businesses with the tourism tax of 3 percent contributing $109,000 to the county. Tourists pay this tax when they spend money by spending nights in Gilchrist County.
     Donna provided handouts for Hart Springs, Gilchrist County Welcomes Your Business, The Gilchrist Blueway that consists of a large map containing historical information, boat ramps, rivers and a paddling guide. Another brochure advertised The Springs of the World.
     Donna announced that a Florida Barbeque Association Festival is scheduled to be held at Hart Springs on Saturday, Oct. 16 called “Barbeque From The Hart” with 3,000 to 4,000 people anticipated to be attending.
     For the lunch provided to members and guests on this Monday afternoon, Chef Jason offered his famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, garden salad, bread, dessert, and sweet and unsweet tea.


Dixie County Commission
hears bridge design-build proposal

Dixie County Tax Collector Michelle Cannon
Dixie County Tax Collector Michelle Cannon speaks with Dixie County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen about the Tax Collector’s Office issuing stickers to Dixie County residents so that those residents can easily prove their residency status when utilizing dump service, park service or county boat ramps and the like. The County Commission and Tax Collector have scheduled a workshop to discuss this concept.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 20, 2021 at 7:11 p.m.
     OLD TOWN –
The five-man Dixie County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday night (Feb. 18) heard information about a design-build project to replace a bridge, as well as conducted three public hearings, and they heard extensively from Dixie County Manager Duane Cannon.

Many people in one place without masks -- risking the spread of COVID-19
Before the start of the Dixie County Commission meeting on Thursday night, members of the audience are seen without face masks and they pushed chairs together that had been separated by six feet. Some people in the Tri-County Area of Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy counties are ignoring the Florida Department of Health’s (FDOH) Public Health Advisory – ‘Residents are advised to wear masks in public and to socially distance. Avoid crowds, closed spaces and close contact.’ As of Saturday (Feb. 20) 19 people from Dixie County had died and 65 people had to go to the hospital from COVID-19, according to medical examiners and other professionals involved with medical care. As of Feb. 20, there were 1,457 cases of COVID-19 detected in Dixie County, according to the Florida Department of Health.

     They also heard via teleconference from Holly Houghton of the Dixie County unit of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Cooperative Extension Service.
     Houghton said the Suwannee River Fair Youth Livestock Show and Sale (SRF) kicks off with the Dog Show. The SRF is for youths in Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy counties’ FFA and 4-H. Just like last year, Houghton said, there are only going to be essential people allowed because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
     The Dog Show is set for Feb. 27. The many other SRF activities are scheduled for March 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. To see details about the SRF, go to its website at https://mysrf.org/.
     By 5-0 votes of approval, the members of the Dixie County Commission – Chairman Mark Hatch, Vice Chairman Jamie Storey, Commissioner James Valentine, Commissioner W.C. Mills and Commissioner Jody Stephenson – approved the following actions after hearing no objections.
     * John and Heidi Frasca received a special exception to permit one recreational vehicle in an Agricultural (A-4) zoning district. That land is located at 44 N.E. 626 Ave., Old Town.
     * Donald L. and Sharon K. Force received a special exception to permit one recreational vehicle in an Agricultural (A-4) zoning district. That land is located at 251 N.E. 316 Ave., Old Town.
     * Scott and Sybil Smith were granted a variance for a 20-foot by 60-foot pole barn to be used as a recreational vehicle cover within a Residential, (Mixed) Single Family/Mobile Home (RSF/MH-2) zoning district. That land is located at 95 S.E. 234 St., Old Town, Garden Island Replat, Lot 17.
     On another zoning matter, Steve Fremen, who is the Dixie County Veterans Service Officer as well as being the Code Enforcement Director, was instructed to work with County Attorney M. Michael O’Steen to being the lien and foreclosure procedure on a person who has been ruled as violating codes to the point of accumulating fines. The fines as of that night were $4,000 on the property with an estimated appraised taxable value of $26,000.
     The fines are continuing through the legal process, adding up each day.
     In other news from the meeting, the county is accepting two road projects that the Florida Department of Transportation is helping the county with. One is for $1.6 million and another is for $2.3 million.
     Meanwhile, during the public comment part of the meeting, Caroline Walker asked why Northeast 95th Street is not yet improved. She was told that the County Commission anticipates hearing a report from Jered Lizotte of Locklear & Associates in October to potentially see that road improved more quickly than if it was put on the five-year road capital improvement list.

Anderson Columbia
Kevin Lamar of Anderson Columbia tells the County Commission about a bridge project and how the design-build method is the best method to seek bidders on this type of project.

     A significant presentation from Kevin Lamar, project manager/estimator-structures of Anderson Columbia Co. Inc. is leading to a potential replacement of the Dixie County Road 358 bridge that crosses Sandhill Creek.
     This bridge was first constructed in 1955, Lamar said. The current estimated daily traffic flow is 950 vehicles, he said.
     The posted weight limits are 22 tons for a single unit truck, 26 tons for a combination truck and 33 tons for a semi-tractor trailer tandem truck.
     The wooden pilings that hold the bridge up, Lamar said, are showing signs of decay. He sees reason for concern regarding the safety of the bridge. As it stands now, the bridge is very narrow with no room for pedestrians to cross. There is no concrete traffic rail, he said. The roadway leading up to the bridge is 24-feet wide, but the bridge is only 20-feet wide.
     The Jena community is growing, Lamar said. Traffic is increasing. Larger trucks, recreational vehicles, boats and other vehicles are being funneled through the Taylor County side. As a result, Dixie County is missing out on economic benefits from those motorists.
     Anderson Columbia Co. Inc., Lamar said, has resources to design and build a replacement bridge – including getting the needed permits, providing for utility relocations and other factors.
     Lamar shared with the County Commission how the design-build method to replace this bridge saves taxpayers from unknown cost overruns that the contractor will absorb.
     The new bridge will be built while allowing traffic to flow on the old bridge. After his presentation, Lamar was asked, and he agreed to provide a cost estimate for constructing a temporary bridge for use rather than asking motorists to use the old bridge during construction.
     The estimated construction cost at current market pricing is $1.5 million, Lamar said. That does not include on-site detour or if a temporary bridge was put in.
     Engineering, permits and other costs show a current estimate of another $250,000, Lamar said. Design and permitting is estimated to take no more than 12 months, and construction would be six months, he said.
     He also spoke about another road project that is a candidate for the design-build method.
     The County Commission scheduled a workshop to discuss the bridge over Sandhill Creek, as well as the design-build method to get this roadwork and other road projects completed. The $1.5 million (plus) price for the bridge replacement is a sticking point currently.
     Speaking of money Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham was given approval to add an independent contractor to help her resolve bookkeeping that is in bad condition. With the added help, Higginbotham foresees closing the 2020 books by June 30.
     On another matter dealing with records that are the responsibility of the Clerk to the County Commission, the County Commission was able to approve the minutes of meetings on Jan. 21, Dec. 17, Dec. 3 and Nov. 19. Some number of other minutes of previous meetings that are not yet approved are under review for approval in the relatively near future.
     Meanwhile, Clerk Higginbotham and her staff members are continuing to work diligently to keep the county government operating as smoothly as possible.


City plans electric infrastructure
improvement at municipal airport
Park Cleanup Day On Saturday

Williston Florida City Hall
Williston City Hall is where the City Council met Feb. 16 as it moved forward in matters to continue making the city an even better place to live, work and play. Williston is the only municipality in Levy County with a municipal airport. In other news from this most recent City Council meeting the city now has a new human resources director, and it is seeking an IT manager.

By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 18, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
The Williston City Council on Tuesday night (Feb. 16) agreed to approve an expense of up to $92,000 for the installation of primary electric infrastructure into and on the undeveloped properties of the Williston Municipal Airport
as budgeted in the 2020-2021 Capitol Improvement Budget.
     The request for this improvement came from Williston Deputy City Manager C.J. Zimoski.
     By installing city electric services into the airport property, Zimoski explained, it will allow for the servicing of future development inside of the security fence.
     On another city service matter, City Manager Jackie Gorman provided the City Council with information about the request for proposal process to continue garbage collection service in the city.
     Waste Pro, Waste Management, CFL Environmental and Jonathan Lewis have collected information to be involved for consideration. Proposals are due back to the City Manager’s Office by March 26 at 11 a.m., City Manager Gorman said.
     Given that all goes as anticipated, City Manager Gorman will present at the April 6 meeting her recommendation for the City Council to choose the next garbage service provider, or to continue with the current provider – Waste Pro.
     At some point in the summer, Gorman said, the transition should have been completed and the city will continue moving forward with that service provided to residents and business interests.
     In other news related to the City of Williston, Former Bronson Deputy Town Clerk Melisa Thompson was introduced as the new human resources director for Williston.
     In another matter involving city staff, the City Council reviewed and approved by a 5-0 vote an updated version of the duties and other aspects of the city clerk that was created by City Manager Gorman.
     Under the general direction of City Council and working in cooperation with the city manager, the city clerk plans, manages, oversees and directs the operations and services of the City Clerk's
Office, which includes the statutory responsibilities of city clerk such as, municipal elections and records management; provides responsible and complex staff support to the City Council and City
personnel; performs other related duties as required.
     City Council President Justin Head said he feels good about the revised job description, which after discussion is shown to not exclude current City Clerk Latricia Wright.

     In other action and information, the following was covered Tuesday night (Feb. 16) in Williston.
     * There is a park cleanup day at Cornelius Williams Park, located to the east of the city on U.S. Alt. 27. Cleanup starts at 8 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 20). The program is anticipated to be completed by 11 a.m. Volunteers are welcome.
     * Per the recommendation of City Planner Laura Jones, the City Council approved the appointment of Richard Merando to the Williston Planning and Zoning Commission for seat 4.
     * Approved for a future adoption of a resolution, VCS as the debt collection agency for unpaid debts to the city. The City of Williston, on an annual basis, generates approximately 21,000 invoices for various services with an approximate dollar value of $6.5 million. Of this total, approximately 276 customers and $185,000 are at a level of delinquency for payments due. VCS will now be involved in the collection of all utility billing accounts; airport lease and rental billing accounts; and all other city accounts receivable invoices that are 90-plus days delinquent. Of the three bidding interests for this service, VCS
(Valley Collection Service, LLC) had the highest score.
     * Approved a proclamation to recognize National FFA Week Feb. 20-27.
     * By a 5-0 vote, agreed to seek to hire a full-time IT manager. The City of Williston has been outsourcing all IT services since former City Clerk Fran Taylor's departure in 2019. Not only does the city need an IT manager for City Hall, but for all other city facilities including the airport that will deliver short-term and long-term visions for the city's technology needs and goals. Williston IT Consultant Aaron Mills helped City Manager Gorman draft a job description. Gorman explained how the improvement of the city’s involvement in the Internet will offer more services to the residents and visitors of Williston in the near and more distant future. Gorman worked with City Finance Director Stephen Bloom to determine the pay range and impact on the budget. Councilwoman Debra Jones confirmed this person will assure a continuation of meetings available to the public virtually via the Internet. Also, during this discussion, Gorman explained that the city will be saving money as well as providing more service to the people.


Levy County Commission proclaims
February as Black History Month

Levy County Florida Black History Month 2021
The Levy County Board of County Commissioners are seen in action Tuesday night (Feb. 15) in Bronson. Thar are (from left) County Commissioner Rock Meeks, County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Matt Brooks and County Commissioner Mike Joyner.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 16, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
By a 5-0 vote Tuesday night (Feb. 15), the Levy County Board of County Commissioners adopted a proclamation to recognize February as Black History Month.

Levy County Florida Black History Month 2021
County commissioners and some members of the Floyd family gather as Commissioner Matt Brooks presents the framed certificate of appreciation to D.C. Floyd Jr.

Levy County Florida Black History Month 2021
Matt Brooks and D.C. Floyd Jr. hug after having shaken hands after the presentation. Also seen here are members of the Floyd family.

Levy County Florida Black History Month 2021
Everyone pauses for a photo opportunity Tuesday night. Seen here are County Commissioner Mike Joyner, Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, Commissioner Rock Meeks, D.C. Floyd Jr., Phyllis Floyd (D.C.’s wife), (in the background) Danny C. Floyd Sr. (D.C.’s father), Virginia Floyd (D.C.’s mother), Lenora Folston (D.C.’s sister) and County Commissioner Matt Brooks.

     Beyond the countywide proclamation, County Commissioner Matt Brooks spoke about a particular entrepreneur from Williston, whose family Brooks has known for many years.
     The Levy County proclamation notes:
     ● National African American History Month origins began in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson who initiated the first Negro History Week in February of 1926. That grew out of the establishment of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History; and
     ● In 1975, President Gerald Ford issued a Message on the Observance of Black History Week, urging Americans to recognize the important contributions made to our nation's life and culture by Black Americans; and
     ● In 1986, Congress passed Public Law 99-244 designating February 1986 as "National Black (Afro-American) History Month"; and
     ● The 2021 national theme for the observance is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity"; and
     ● Levy County strives to close the equity and outcome gaps for its Black African American citizens through policies and practices that reflect the experiences of Black African Americans throughout our community; and
     ● Levy County is committed to equity and inclusion of all Black African Americans and recognizes the achievements of Black African Americans to our lifestyles and cultures; and
     ● Levy County recognizes that our community is better for the contributions made by our Black African American citizens and strives to ensure greater access and opportunity and to honor history, heritage and contributions of our Black African American citizens.
     Therefore, the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, recognizes the February 2021 as Black African American History Month.
     As for Commissioner Brooks, he took the opportunity after the countywide proclamation was adopted to honor Danny C. “D.C.” Floyd Jr., owner Country Boy Cutz & Salon.
     The commissioner said his friend had taught him how to perform a “fade” haircut, but that Brooks would not be abandoning his job as a sign-maker to become a barber.
     Brooks said his friend has a strong work ethic, and his barbershop has seen great success as a result.
     The county commissioner said he knows Isaac “Might Ike” Floyd inspired “D.C.” to continue being a charitable person, helping the community’s children with sports interests, as well as to have toy drives at Christmastime.
     Isaac “Mighty Ike” Floyd was a standout athlete at Williston High School, excelling in both basketball and football.
     In December of 2011, Isaac Jewade Floyd, then 20, died in an automobile accident, in which he was the driver. His passenger Dorian Taylor, then 18, was also killed, and two other passengers were taken to Shands for incapacitating injuries.
     Commissioner Brooks said “D.C.” and his five siblings are all continuing an honorable legacy of work and community involvement that his parents Danny C. Floyd Sr. and Virginia Floyd began. Having a strong parental unit in the family is something that American families need, Brooks said.
     Brooks asked for “D.C.” Floyd and his family members who were present that night to join with the entire County Commission as he presented the enterpriser and philanthropist with a framed certificate of appreciation.
     Brooks said that with the safety protocols resultant from the global COVID-19 pandemic, there were no celebrations in Levy County for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and there was not the traditional annual Black History Month program in the courthouse (sponsored by County Clerk Danny Shipp and presented by Carolyn Cohens of Chiefland). Nevertheless, Brooks said he was glad the County Commission was able to have this proclamation adopted, as well as to recognize D.C. Floyd Jr. and his family.
     To see a 2019 article about the annual event in Levy County, with that one being the 18th annual event, click HERE.


City leaders vote 3-2 to tag
Waste Pro as ‘Habitual Offender’

By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 10, 2021 at 10:11 p.m.
The Chiefland City Commission on Monday (Feb. 8) again discussed some days when Waste Pro did not pick up garbage.
     This service vendor has had employees absent due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This has caused a lack of drivers who are qualified to operate the garbage trucks.
     City Manager Mary Ellzey told the City Commission her recommendation is to enforce the provisions of the contract regarding the vendor failing to provide service that is expected and to rule it is an habitual offender.
     City Commissioner Robert Norman “Norm” Weaver complained about the garbage service at his residence. Weaver said it has been picked up on different days and at different times of day.
     Howell E. “Trip” Lancaster III, manager of the Fanning Springs office of Waste Pro, explained that “It’s been an issue of manpower.”
     On one day, four drivers did not show up. Two of them never returned, he said.
     Last Monday, three men did not show up as Lancaster had expected. This caused a cascading effect due to trying to catch up with missed collections while continuing the normal schedule as well, Lancaster said.
     Due to the Levy County Landfill being closed on Presidents Day (Feb. 15), commercial pickups that day will suffer, he explained.
     Weaver made a motion to find Waste Pro an habitual violator, as noted in the contract. That motion was seconded by Commissioner Lance Hayes. It passed 3-2 with Commissioner Rollin Hudson and Commissioner Mainwaring voting “No” to that motion. Mayor Chris Jones joined Hayes and Weaver in voting in favor of deeming Waste Pro an habitual offender.
     That habitual offender status means the next time Waste Pro fails to pick up garbage, the City Commission can give it a 90-day notice to end the contract, The current contract expires on Dec. 31.
     There are very few companies that provide this service. There were a few sentences spoken about the city buying its own garbage truck, but that discussion seemed to disappear like fog when the sun comes out and burns it away.
     Nate Albano, representing the Tri-County Cruisers, was granted his request for road closure from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 27, a Saturday, of Northwest Fifth Street, between U.S. Highway 19 and Northwest 11th Drive near to the NAPA automotive parts shop – on the east side of the highway.
     This is for the annual car show by the Tri-County Cruisers.
     This was passed on a motion by City Commissioner Lewrissa Mainwaring.
     The Chiefland City Commission again invited students to be recognized in City Hall as being the Student of the Month. One student accepted the certificate and a monetary gift certificate to a chain store in the area. The others were absent.


Dixie County strives
to overcome bad bookkeeping
County commissioner
cusses at chairman

Chuck Elton one of the chiefs at Dixie County Emergency Services
Dixie County Emergency Services Division Chief of 9-1-1 Chuck Elton is seen just before the start of the meeting Thursday. Notice he is holding a camera. Chief Elton is known for taking pictures, including as the top photographer at the Suwannee River Fair Youth Livestock Show and Sale.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 5, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
     OLD TOWN –
One of the threads running through the Thursday meeting (Feb. 4) of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners is one that holds many things together – money.

Members of the Dixie County Commission - February 2021
Members of the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners agreed to provide a photo opportunity before the meeting Thursday. Seen here (from left) are Vice Chairman Jamie Storey, Commissioner James Valentine, Chairman Mark Hatch, Commissioner W.C. Mills and Commissioner Jody Stephenson. Although the members had some heated discussions and at times disagreed with one another over finer points of some matters, they voted 5-0 on every motion made that day.

Mike Osteen and Barbie Higginbotham
County Attorney M. Michael O'Steen and Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham strike a pose quickly before the start of the meeting.

     Apparently, former Dixie County Clerk Dana Johnson left Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham and her staff with a lot of unraveling to do regarding the books that reflect money in and money out. The situation is so severely damaged now that Deputy Clerk Jacki Johnson told the County Commission that the accounting records are “all over the place” and, as of Thursday she cannot tell how much revenue came in during 2020 or so far in 2021.
     Commission Chairman Mark Hatch urged Dixie County Clerk Higginbotham and her staff members to first close out 2020. The clerk is expected to return to the County Commission with a request for assistance from a private firm to augment the staff members in their work at resolving the books, because this task is too daunting while attempting to keep the county running daily.
     Chairman Hatch, Commission Vice Chairman Jamie Storey, Commissioner W.C. Mills, Commissioner Jody Stephenson and Commissioner James Valentine all voted in unanimity throughout the meeting Thursday, including on the motion to freeze the hiring of people in positions not already in the budget.
     As a guideline in this “hiring freeze,” as each department head seeks to hire a new person, there will be a more thorough review to see if they meet the concept of being “essential.”

Dixie County Manager Duane Cannon
County Manager Duane Cannon

     County Attorney M. Michael O'Steen was the first to ask for a definition of “essential” workers, and County Manager Duane Cannon let his five bosses know that he needs to be certain about what the commission wants when it comes to replacing people or filling vacant slots that are in the budget.
     The motion for a “freeze” on non-essential employees being hired initiated by Commissioner Stephenson and seconded by Commissioner Valentine to not hire any non-essential workers passed 5-0. Stephenson said he wants to know the available funds before planning to pay any new workers.

County Commissioner W.C. Mills
County Commissioner W.C. Mills tells his colleagues that he believes money that is budgeted exists where it should, which will allow for the hiring of any person in the budget now.

    There was a long discussion about the budget after Commissioner Mills asserted the money exists to fill currently vacant positions, and that to rehire persons is budgeted now as well. Mills suggested that rather than the word “non-essential” the word “non-budgeted” would better.
      Vice Chairman Storey said there are posts that must be filled to provide the people with the services by the county. The Commission, he said, must find that funding when the time comes.
      Chairman Hatch said in no uncertain terms that he sees every single county employee as being essential right now. There is “no fat to trim,” Hatch said.
     The County Commission chose to return to the Clerk’s Office funding for the financial duties the Clerk’s Office is required by law to complete. The clerk to the County Commission is the comptroller for the County Commission. Somehow, for some number of years, that truth became relatively obscured, according to what was said Thursday.
     Another absolute fact is that funding records are public records. There seemed to be an intimation Thursday that County Commission members previously were unable to go into the Clerk’s Office and see where money existed in different accounts.

Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham and Deputy Clerk Jacki Johnson
Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham speaks at the podium as Deputy Clerk Jacki Johnson prepares to provide even more details about the dire situation from having books that reflect improper recording methods being applied.

     Clerk Higginbotham, who just started in her elected position a few weeks ago, is working diligently to make the Dixie County Clerk’s Office on the same footing in that manner as the other 66 counties’ clerks’ offices in Florida. Higginbotham has an extensive background as a deputy clerk in Gilchrist County.
      “We are your finance department,” Deputy Clerk Johnson said. “I work with the clerk. But we are your finance department. Any information I have, it’s yours.”
     Attorney O'Steen asserted that the previous clerk’s office did not have a staff member who could tell the County Commission where the funding was at when they were asked for information. O'Steen recommended a process established to assure county staff can find answers when they need them.
     In one part of the discussion, County Clerk Higginbotham explained that she was given an invoice from an insurance company for payment of a bill with a due date of Jan. 1. That invoice was given to her by the insurance company on Jan. 2. She is working with that company to get invoices in a timelier manner for February, March and onward.
     Paying for jail inmate medical expenses is another topic lightly broached on Thursday.
     To get a better handle on that, a workshop is scheduled with Sheriff Darby Butler, the County Commission and County Clerk Higginbotham starting at 11 a.m. on Feb. 18 in the Dixie County School Board Meeting Room that used to be the Old Town Elementary School Cafeteria years ago.

     The meeting Thursday opened with Chairman Hatch welcoming everyone. It ended with Commissioner Mills yelling and cussing at the chairman for Hatch allegedly speaking harshly to County Manager Cannon. That lambasting came at the end of the meeting during the time for commissioners' comments.
     That tirade was almost funny as Mills very purposely used a vulgar word to emphasize his point as he expressed his opinion, which was that yelling, and cursing are not proper means of expressing a thought to any employee of the county.
     Hatch asked Cannon if there was some time when the new county manager could say that Hatch did not support him. Cannon did not answer. Hatch then conceded that he has stated publicly his questioning Cannon being hired at the rate of a veteran county manager when he was an assistant and not a full-fledged county manager before his point of being hired.
     County Attorney O'Steen had said at the start of the meeting, and then repeated during the Mills-Hatch conversation, that personnel matters are better left for discussion out of the public view.
     Mills said he saw this as a good time for him to express his opinion to Chairman Hatch. O'Steen said he offers advice, and any commissioner can accept or reject that advice. Mills said he often follows O'Steen’s advice, but this is not one of those times.
     While some of the most troublesome aspects of county business were relatively well into the two and a half-hour meeting, the start of the day went smoothly, with civil discussion, consideration and action – reflecting that Dixie County is “the Heart of the Nature Coast.”
     As the meeting began, County Attorney O'Steen said personnel issues cannot be discussed in an open meeting.
     The Florida Association of Counties (FAC), O'Steen said, handles personnel issues for Dixie County, including this one involving a department head where an investigation may be required.
     Since County Manager Cannon is reportedly somehow involved, O'Steen said, he will not be the person taking the matter to the FAC to initiate action. On a motion and second, the County Commission voted to seek assistance from the FAC to start a procedure to resolve this alleged issue.
     On other matters, two of the three requests for a special exception to be granted to allow a recreational vehicle on property that requires a special exception were granted.
     The one that was tabled is in Commissioner Stephenson’s district. The commissioner said he intends to speak with all of the neighbors, after one person in the subdivision objected to the exception being granted.
     Three other variances from zoning requirements were accepted as well.
     Of those three, a variance sought by Marvin and Phyllis Hunt to build a 40-foot by 60-foot enclosed storage barn brought a neighbor to voice her opinion, while not objecting to the request outright.
     That neighbor mentioned there are eight property owners who own the 27 lots in the Suwannee River Oaks unrecorded subdivision. Her concerns were about property values because there are no other storage barns in the neighborhood. She also wondered if Mr. Hunt’s business equipment would be stored in the barn, since it is being construction on a lot that is not adjacent to the Hunts’ residence.
     In the end for that exception, on a Mills-Story motion, it was approved 5-0.

Building Department Director Leon Wright explains how much the county spent as the result of a cable company not complying with building rules, and then contesting that in court.

     Building Department Director Leon Wright said the only reason an exception was needed for this structure was it being built on a lot not contiguous to the residence.
     The County Commission heard reports from Code Enforcement Officer Steve Freman.
     A $100-a-day fine is being assessed against a stone crab fisherman because his traps cause such a level of stench that they are deemed a nuisance. County Attorney O'Steen said this crab trapper has hired counsel who will appeal the ruling.
     Until an appeals court stays the fine, O'Steen explained, that man must pay the $100 a day fine. Once the appeals court accepts the case, he added, it may take years to resolve.
    On another matter where a fine has been assessed for a code violator, there is a $100 a day fee.
     Chairman Hatch brought the County Commission to reach agreement on how to handle these scenarios. The Commission will not wait until there is a $100,000 fine on property worth $10,000.
     The rule to follow now will be that when the fines equal the amount of the appraised taxable value of the property, that is when the county takes the next step. That is when the county attorney will file a lien to begin foreclosure. That will lead to the county government owning the property, and then it will be sold or used for some county purpose.
     Building Department Director Wright provided an update for the County Commission too.
     A cable company failed to get the proper permits. That resulted in fines. The case went to court and the county won the case.
     The cable company caused the county to spend $72,661.94 in this action. On a motion by Stephenson, seconded by Valentine, with Commissioner Mills almost speaking quickly enough to second that motion, the county will now seek that almost $73,000 from the cable company.
     Commissioner Mills said that when a company does something that is not lawful, they can expect to have to pay for it.
     Commissioner Stephenson mentioned that the County Commission had asked Wright to find the actual cost to the county caused by this matter, and with that being done, now the county is seeking to recoup from that loss.


Chief Scott Pendarvis of Dixie County February 2021
Division Chief of Emergency Medical Services Scott Pendarvis is slated to leave Feb. 22 for a job in Taylor County.

     Division Chief of Emergency Medical Services Scott Pendarvis let the County Commission know that he is accepting a job in Taylor County and will be leaving as of Feb. 22.
     Chairman Hatch mentioned to Pendarvis that he has known the chief since Pendarvis was born, as he thanked the first responder for his valiant service to the residents and visitors of Dixie County.
     Pendarvis has been the single man over communications equipment for Dixie County Emergency Services, for the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office and other entities since 2015.
     Pendarvis offered to come back on an as-needed basis for maintenance or repairs, with help from the subcontractors who he normally hires for those jobs.
     The Commission unanimously chose to wait before agreeing to that offer.

Dixie County Emergency Services Division Chief Chuch Elton
Division Chief of 9-1-1 Chuck Elton explains how the 9-1-1 system works very well in Dixie County now. Chief Elton currently plans to retire in June.

     On another aspect of Dixie County Emergency Services, Division Chief of 9-1-1 Chuck Elton gave an update on the 9-1-1 system.
     Chief Elton’s report showed the county has improved its ability to locate people on cell phones – to the point of being able to pinpoint that call to within five feet. He also said the 9-1-1 dispatchers can now text to a caller, who can text to them.

Commission considers
roads and Santa Fe Park
Progress continues
on Gilchrist County Jail

Gilchrist County Florida
Listening to Gilchrist County Administrator Bobby Crosby on Monday (Feb. 1) are (from left) County Commissioner Kenrick Thomas, County Commissioner Marion Poitevint, County Commission Chairman Sharon A. Langford, County Commissioner Darrell Smith and County Commissioner Bill Martin.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Feb. 3, 2021 at 5:11 p.m.
     TRENTON –
The five-member Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners worked with the county administrator, county attorney and county clerk late Monday afternoon (Feb. 1) as they considered several road issues and started forming more guidelines for Santa Fe Park, as well as completing other important county business.
     Those five commissioners are Sharon A. Langford (District 1), William “Bill” Martin (District 2), Darrell Smith (District 3), Marion Poitevint (District 4) and Kenrick Thomas (District 5).
     Passing a resolution to tell Gov. Ron DeSantis that Gilchrist County wants the state to exercise the “No Build” option regarding the M-CORES projects is one road-oriented issue.
     Dealing with the sale of one road grader and the lease of three other graders is another road issue.
     Requesting qualifications from companies for consideration as being contractors for road-striping projects is another matter with which the five people reached agreement. All votes on Monday were unanimous.
     Sending the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) requests for two road projects to be paid for by the FDOT Small County Road Assistance Program (SCRAP) and FDOT Small County Outreach Program (SCOP) state grants is road-oriented.
     And the five-person county board listened to the first draft of rules regarding Santa Fe Park.
     Still another issue relates to Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz and the Gilchrist County Jail. County Administrator Bobby Crosby and County Commissioner Thomas plan to meet with Sheriff Schultz regarding discussion of the county funding construction of a new jail or for staffing it, as best as could be understood from the conversation at the County Commission meeting Monday.
     Like many of the counties potentially affecting by building a toll road through it, Gilchrist County does not want the road built.
     Commissioner Thomas was the lone member who said anything other than not wanting it built, and he voted with the other four to send a resolution to Gov. DeSantis.
     Thomas mentioned his recognition of the population growth in Florida causing a need for another significant north-south throughway, especially in the event of the need for evacuation due to hurricanes.
     Nevertheless, adopted 5-0 on Feb. 1, Gilchrist County resolution Number 2021-02 opposes the FDOT’ M-CORES
Suncoast Connector proposed by the Florida Legislature (Florida Senate Bill 7068) and signed into law by DeSantis.
     Gilchrist County requests acceptance of the “No Build to, or through Gilchrist County.
     The noted reasons for the choice include that:
Gilchrist County places great value on the community’s cultural, historical, agricultural and environmental resources and the role these attributes play in sustaining the community’s rural lifestyle and heritage; and
The Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners support economic development and job creation that is invested in the community’s lifestyle, culture and heritage; that grows “organically”; that creates sustainable, non-minimum wage jobs, and that builds wealth over time; and
Gilchrist County is among the counties included in the proposed Suncoast Connector Toll Road; and
Gilchrist County is known worldwide for its beautiful, pristine, crystal clear springs and promotes itself through its Tourist Development Council as the “Springs Capital of the World”; and
Gilchrist County is bordered on the west by the world famous Suwannee River and on the north by the beautiful Santa Fe River; and
Both the springs and rivers are natural treasures which Gilchrist County promotes both for eco-tourism and for the enjoyment of all of its citizens and the citizens of the State of Florida and nationally; and
The residents of Gilchrist County and the Board of County Commissioners value the environmental assets in the county, including the springs along the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, such as Fanning Springs across the county line in neighboring Levy County, and Otter Springs, Hart Springs, Sun Springs, Rock Bluff Springs, Ginnie Springs, and Blue Springs, to name just a few of the numerous other springs all located in Gilchrist County, all of which provide valuable habitat for wildlife and ecological resources; and
The residents of Gilchrist County and the County Commission value the agricultural assets in the county, including the rural land put to work in the agriculture industry, which land has for generations been worked hard by farmers and ranchers in the timber, peanut, watermelon, cattle, and other agricultural commodities industries, which could be seriously degraded and a valuable part of the culture and heritage of Gilchrist County detrimentally affected by the Suncoast Connector Toll Road project through Gilchrist County; and
U.S. Highway 19 runs along a portion of the border between Gilchrist County and Levy County through the Town of Fanning Springs, near and across the Suwannee River into Dixie County, where the three counties share the Suwannee River as a common boundary, and U.S. 19 is located very near to Fanning Springs and the Suwannee River, and it is believed that further expansion, transition, or utilization of U.S. 19 as a part of the Suncoast Connector Toll Road would have a serious and detrimental effect upon these water bodies at this location; and
The established route of U.S. 19 exceeds current traffic flow needs and is well within acceptance levels of service standards to provide anticipated future needs for many years to come, such that the proposed Suncoast Connector Toll Road is not supported by the needs of the State of Florida; and
The Gilchrist County Commission has received substantial input expressing the desire of a “No Build” option for the Suncoast Connector Toll Road.
     Therefore, the County Commission resolved that to protect Gilchrist County’s historical, agricultural, environmental, ecological, and rural lifestyle and heritage, and the quality of life of its residents, the commissioners support adoption of a “No Build” option.
     Furthermore, the Gilchrist County Commission requests DeSantis, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Florida Legislature to avoid proposing or funding any new limited access roadways or turnpikes to or through Gilchrist County without adequate consideration of the public’s wishes, gathered through adequate public input and without a properly identified route early in the process.
     While the County Commission opposes the governor’s pet project in this part of Florida, the county commissioners spoke at length about various roads that may be resurfaced or paved with help from FDOT SCRAP and SCOP.
     Finalization on which roads to prioritize to the state this year is anticipated at the next meeting, because the state needs the request by March.
     During the first of two periods for open public comment, one woman from the Wannee Boat Ramp area of the county said she lives next to the Suwannee River. Southwest 10th Street for a two-mile stretch going to Gilchrist County Road 232 needs to be paved due to safety, she said. The lime rock road has poor drainage and ingress and egress into and out of the area is not adequate, she said.
     Commissioners acknowledged hearing her statements.
     The County Commission agreed to accept sealed bids from local bidders as the County Commission sells a 2006 Caterpillar model 135H road grader it owns. The minimum starting bid is $30,000. When it was brand new 14 years ago, it cost about $143,000, according to records.
     Gilchrist County Road Department Director Lou Leone recommended the sale via bid or auction because the county replaced it with a newer model.
     In another 5-0 positive vote, the County Commission agreed to renew leases on three Caterpillar road graders for $107,629.98 a year from Ring Investment LLC.
     County Administrator Crosby told the Commission that he has conducted the research and it is cheaper to lease rather than buy road graders. He is pleased to see in the renewal contracts that the mathematics show leasing as the best option.
     Reviewing the first draft of some rules for Santa Fe Park, the commissioners spoke with County Administrator Crosby.
     The tentative opening time will be 6 a.m. and the park will close one half-hour before sunset each day.
     There are some ideas about fees to use the park by people who are not Gilchrist County residents. There was discussion, too, about commercial use of the park potentially by a few outfitters other than the county’s franchisee – Anderson Outdoor Adventures.
     If other commercial users were allowed, they would be limited and they would pay a certain annual fee, regardless of whether they used the facility for the full year or just part of the year.
     Dogs will be on leashes, according to the first draft.
     There was discussion about qualifications of a person or couple and the quality of RV they would need to be resident attendants for the park.
     Crosby’s first draft included parking rules, too, that would call for no more allowing of vehicles to park on right-of-way, and that violating vehicles would be towed at owners’ expense.
     The county administrator accepted input from the commissioners and plans to return with a revised draft for more discussion and possible approval.
     The Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners are lax about exercising methods to reduce people catching or spreading COVID-19, in contrast even with county commissions in Dixie County and Levy County.
     In Dixie County and Levy County, members of the audience are shown places that are designated as six feet apart. In Levy County tape is on the back of certain chairs to indicate that is where to sit.
     In Dixie County, the chairs are actually six feet apart and a person cannot sit in one not designated for that purpose, even if they were so inclined.
     Free masks are available at a desk before the entrance to the County Commission meeting room. Audience members are not using them, and neither is county staff, the county commission the clerk or his deputy clerk.
     All three counties’ leaders are ignoring for the most part the guidelines to help reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 on the health and economy of the county, the state, the nation and the world.
     Those guidelines are to wear masks in public, adhere to social distancing, practice proper hand hygiene, and avoid indoor gatherings whenever possible.
     One western Levy County resident said she recently heard COVID-19 affects only the elderly.
     This is not correct. While the odds for hospitalization and death increase with age, infants, children, teens and middle-aged people are all suffering adverse effects – including death.
     So far, very few infants have died with COVID-19 in the United States. Strict hospital protocol is cited as a leading cause for there being fewer infant deaths, according to published reports based on research by doctors and medical examiners.

Rotarians honor
Gilchrist County’s
public education team

Trenton Florida
Rotarian and Gilchrist County Superintendent of Schools Jim Surrency is seen here with Cindy Driggers - Gilchrist County School District Employee of  the Year. She teaches students at Trenton High School.

Story By Rosemary McDaniel, Rotarian
Photos By Holly Creel, Rotarian
Submitted Jan. 25, 2021
Published Jan. 26, 2021 at 10:10 a.m.
     TRENTON --
Monday’s (Jan. 25) program honored Gilchrist County teachers and staff.

Gilchrist County Rotary Club Florida
Dr. Jim Surrency is seen here with Brad Surrency, Gilchrist County School District Teacher of the Year from Bell High School.


Gilchrist County Rotary Club Florida
Teachers of the Year from Gilchrist County schools are seen here.


Gilchrist County Rotary Club Florida
Employees of the Year from Gilchrist County schools are seen here.

     Gilchrist County Superintendent of Schools Jim Surrency (a Rotarian) introduced Gilchrist County Assistant Superintendent of Schools Darby Allen.
     She explained how the awards’ recipients are chosen by their peers, students, and administrators.
     The principals from each elementary and high school in Gilchrist County introduced the teacher of the year and employee of the year from their respective schools.
     Superintendent Surrency then introduced the Gilchrist County School District Employee of the Year who received a plaque and a check for $350.  The Gilchrist County School District Teacher of the Year was awarded a plaque and $500.
     Chef Jason served his famous fried chicken, cheesy broccoli, potato wedges, garden salad, bread banana pudding, and the members and guests enjoyed sweet and unsweet tea as well as part of the lunch served by the chef.


New Dixie County Sheriff
strives to serve the people

Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler sits at his desk Friday afternoon (Jan. 22) during an interview.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 23, 2021 at 3:10 p.m.
Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler wants to provide the residents and visitors or Dixie County with a law enforcement agency that is respectful and fair, to help make the county an even better place to raise families, to work at jobs, to enjoy the many recreational opportunities there and to live.
     Sheriff Butler began his first term this month as one of the 66 high sheriffs in Florida after winning the election in November. Sixty-six of Florida's 67 counties have elected sheriffs as their chief law enforcement officers. Dade County (Miami) has an appointed chief law enforcement officer whose title is director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. Sheriffs serve four-year terms and have countywide jurisdiction that includes incorporated as well as unincorporated areas.
     Sheriff Butler has accepted the duties that were most recently those of retired Sheriff Dewey Hatcher Sr.
     Butler ran for election on a promise of change in the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office.
     One difference Sheriff Butler is making, he said, will be to update the software in the DCSO’s computer system. Putting newer software into the hands of deputies, in their cruisers, Butler said, will improve safety for them and for the people they serve.
     Looking at the human element, Butler said he plans to work with his deputies on the way they engage members of the community – all the way from the elder members of the county’s population down to the youngest children.
     For the older members of Dixie County’s youthful population, Sheriff Butler said he intends to reinstitute the DCSO Explorers Program.
     Regarding the adults, Sheriff Butler envisions creating a Citizens Advisory Committee with representatives from all five of the county’s geopolitical districts, which are drawn to show the five parts of the county where County Commission members and School Board members live.
     He wants input from residents from the entire county and from people from different generations.
     In his first few weeks, the new sheriff said he has not enjoyed an easy transition of power from the previous administration as he would have preferred. Sheriff Darby said between the time he was elected to when he took office, there could have been a couple of months of moving in with the new leadership sharing its insight on the budget and other aspects of the DCSO as it exists.
     From day one, Butler has compartmentalized the administration and is working through the law enforcement aspects of the DCSO. After that, he said he will be focusing on the detention, or jail, aspects of his duties. Currently, he sees the jail as operating properly.
     While the transition was not as smooth as he would have preferred, criminals saw no slack. The sheriff said he has “boots in the field” – deputies and sergeants – where they should be. He would like to add one more deputy per shift, and he would like to increase the number of investigators.
     Right now, 20 deputies are funneling information to three investigators.
     Adding three more deputies and increasing investigators takes money. As for the budget, Sheriff Butler is reviewing it in every aspect of the DCSO and the Dixie County Jail. He is delaying any major purchase or new ongoing operational expenses until the dust settles on the books.
     For now, the sheriff said, the DCSO is in “survival mode” as far as expenditures. He looks forward to Oct. 1, when he will have a budget that he created rather than coming in after the first quarter already has passed.
     Sheriff Butler is aware of the problems caused by illegal drugs, including methamphetamine and opioids. Drugs are at the root of causing a significant amount of property theft, as well as fueling violence and heartache within families -- including hurting children.
     By revising the current operations with the expansion of the investigative unit and adding a few more deputies, Sheriff Butler foresees resolving issues in a timelier manner for the victims of crimes than now.
     After being elected, Sheriff Butler went to the Sheriffs Academy in Tallahassee through the Florida Sheriff’s Association. There he networked with other new sheriffs and had an opportunity to learn from more seasoned sheriff.
     Sheriff Butler said the neighboring counties’ sheriffs have expressed their willingness to help the DCSO if needed.
     The sheriff has started his first term and he is changing the DCSO as he promised the voters.


Cross City Leaders
Cross City Florida leaders 2021
Leaders of the Town of Cross City took their oath of office on Monday (Jan. 11). Seen here (from left) are Councilwoman Angela Carter, Councilman Ryan Fulford, Mayor Tank Lee, Councilman Kirk Marhefka, Town Clerk Brenda Royal and Vice Mayor Jovante' Teague.
Published Jan. 16, 2021 at 11:10 a.m.

Photo Provided


Commissioners ask
Dixie County Clerk
Barbie Higginbotham for help

Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham
Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham and Deputy Clerk Della Rhymes attend the County Commission meeting on Thursday in Old Town. As the county clerk, Higginbotham is the comptroller for the County Commission, as well as being the clerk of the Dixie County Court and the clerk of the court for the Dixie County part of the Third Judicial Circuit. The Third Judicial Circuit includes Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 8, 2021 at 9:10 a.m.
     OLD TOWN –
The four Dixie County Commission members present physically Thursday morning (Jan. 7) at the regular twice-monthly meeting and the one present via telephone asked Dixie County Clerk Barbie Higginbotham for help.
     Serving in her recently elected office for just a few days at that point, Clerk Higginbotham promised to help the County Commission get its books in better order. For some period of time in the coming weeks, the level of chaos at the clerk’s office is anticipated by people trying to work with obtaining records and information from that office to continue. As for the vendors who have complained about late payments, that probably will continue for some time as well.
     Since the departure of former Clerk Dana Johnson before her term normally would have ended, there has been a degree of chaos with payments and other matters from the clerk’s office.
     Clerk Higginbotham assured the commissioners that she will bring order back to the clerk’s office.
     On Monday (Jan. 4) Gilchrist County Clerk Todd Newton mentioned that he is looking forward to seeing his former deputy clerk succeed in her new role in Dixie County. On Wednesday, Levy County Clerk Danny Shipp mentioned that he knew a new clerk was starting her duties in Dixie County.
     Meanwhile on Thursday, the County Commission moved relatively quickly and easily through its duties of the day.
     Present at the dais were Commissioner James Valentine, Commissioner Jamie Storey, Commissioner W.C. Mills and Commissioner Jody Stephenson. Commission Chairman Mark Hatch was attending via teleconference.
     Various contractors with the county government as well as many department heads also were present and active to keep Dixie County move forward in 2021.


Levy County Leaders
Take The Oath Of Office

Judge Browning prepares to administer the oath of office
Click on the photo above to see the video. This video is a compilation five videos of the following Levy County constitutional officers taking the oath of office, as administered by Levy County Judge Tim Browning, except for the final oath administered by Levy County Clerk Danny Shipp. In the first video, Levy County Property Appraiser Oz Barker takes the oath, as he holds a bible with his left hand. Some people had others available to hold the bible for them. Then, Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum takes the oath with Kandy McCallum holding the bible as 8-year-old Mighty Hinote stand with his guardians. Next Levy County Supervisor Tammy Jones takes the oath as her husband Jimmy Jones Sr. holds the bible. Joining the couple at the event are their children Jimmy Jones Jr. and Cassidy Barber. The fourth person to take the oath administered by County Court Judge Browning is Clerk Shipp. He is holding the bible himself rather than it being held by his lovely and talented wife Donna Shipp, Danny explained, because he told her the incorrect time to start the procedure. She arrived after he had been sworn in. The in final of these five elected officials to be ‘sworn in’ is Levy County Tax Collector Michele Langford. Holding the bible for her is former Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate, who retired. The other levy County elected officials who were chosen in the most recent round of elections, some chosen because no one else ran for the offices, are Levy County Superintendent of Schools Chris Cowart, Levy County School Board members Tammy Boyle and Paige Brookins, and Levy County commissioners Matt Brooks, Mike Joyner and John Meeks.

Levy County Oath Of Office
Levy County Court Judge Tom Browning prepares to administer the oath of office to some Levy County elected officials.

Video and Photos By Jeff M. Hardison © Jan. 5, 2021 at 12:10 p.m.
All Copyrights Reserved.
* Upated Jan. 6, 2021 at 9:10 a.m. with photo provided that was requested

Levy County Oath Of Office
Levy County Property Appraiser Oz Barker seeks a bible for his oath ceremony.

Levy County Oath Of Office
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum takes the oath of office with Kandy McCallum holding the bible as 8-year-old Mighty Hinote standing between his guardians.

Levy County Oath Of Office
Levy County Supervisor Tammy Jones takes the oath of office as her husband Jimmy Jones Sr. holds the bible. Joining the couple at the event are their children Jimmy Jones Jr. and Cassidy Barber.

Levy County Oath Of Office
Levy County Clerk Danny Shipp takes the oath of office.

Levy County Oath Of Office
Levy County Clerk Danny Shipp administers the oath of office to Levy County Tax Collector Michele Langford as now-retired Levy County Tax Collector Linda Fugate holds the bible.

Donna Shipp and Danny Shipp, two of the many wonderful people in Levy County
Donna Shipp and Danny Shipp pause for a photo opportunity after the event.

Photo Provided By Clerk's Office Staff After Being Requested By HardisonInk.com

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