THURSDAY JULY 29 8:11 a.m. Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties
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Chiefland is first to move
toward revising municipal elections
Ready to think, speak and vote on matters to benefit residents of, and visitors to, Chiefland, the five members of the Chiefland City Commission are seen above. In the top photo are Commissioner Rollin Hudson (left) and Commissioner Lance Hayes. In the bottom photo (from left) are Mayor Chris Jones, Commissioner Lewrissa Mainwaring and Vice Mayor Norm Weaver.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 27, 2021 at 10:11 a.m.
CHIEFLAND – The five members of the Chiefland City Commission unanimously acted Monday night (July 26) to become the first of eight municipalities to move forward on improving the election and qualifying dates for city elections in Levy County.
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones has visited at least a few of all eight municipalities in Levy County – Bronson, Cedar Key, Chiefland, Fanning Springs, Inglis, Otter Creek, Williston and Yankeetown.
In time, she will see all of the local leaders to tell them about her hope for the first Tuesday in April each year to serve as when the qualified voters in those municipalities will choose from among the qualified candidates to become leaders by the votes of the people.
Currently, there are elections every month of the year in Levy County.
Levy County Supervisor of Elections Jones started with the county seat of Levy County – Bronson. She spoke to that Town Council and laid out her proposal. As noted in the story published in June (click HERE to see the archived story), Jones sees the first Tuesday in April each year as being the best day in Levy County for municipal elections.
Her speech, modified only slightly for each governmental entity, shows how this will help the county as well as the cities, and all of the residents and visitors of Levy County.
On Monday, the Chiefland City Commission, comprised of Mayor Chris Jones, Vice Mayor Norm Weaver and commissioners Lance Hayes, Rollin Hudson Lewrissa Mainwaring voted 5-0 to have Chiefland City Attorney Norman D. Fugate to draft the necessary documents.
On a motion by Weaver, seconded by Mainwaring, the revisions will show the four-day qualifying period to start 71-days before the election, and that city election will be the first Tuesday of April.
There was some discussion about what to do in the event of a tie.
As shown in the August 2018 story, saved in the archives with the story, photo and video available to see by clicking HERE, the Florida law to decide the winner is a drawing by lot. In the case of Tim West versus Teresa Barron, both candidates agreed, and West won that gamble.
There was some short discussion about making terms of office longer.
Changing the length of terms of office and some other matters related to ruling Chiefland must come from a vote by the people.
As for the qualifying date and the election date for city elections in Chiefland, City Attorney Fugate made it clear that the City Commission has the power to change that via ordinance and amendments, rather than requiring a ballot to be cast by city voters.
Fugate promised to return to the next regular City Commission meeting with a draft of what may be approved for the first and then the final reading of the new version of dates for qualifying to run and for the actual elections in Chiefland.
These revisions currently are seen as becoming effective in the near-future years, however, to avoid shortening a sitting candidate’s term of office, it will be phased in. Therefore, people seeking election during the relevant term before the new dates take place will know of the revision for the next election to be on the first Tuesday in April rather than as it is now – the first Tuesday in August.
When Commissioner Hudson brought up a question about other municipalities adopting the new election dates, there was some discussion. Eventually Fugate said that regardless of what other cities or towns do, the leaders in Chiefland need to think about what is best for this city.
Candidate mingles in the park
Xavier Macon, 47, of Chiefland puts hamburgers on a big grill at Eddie Buie Park on Saturday (July 17). People who came to speak with Chiefland City Commission candidate LaWanda Jones were treated to free hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and drinks for lunch. There was music before the event started. It appeared as if a good time was had by all.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 17, 2021 at 9:11 p.m.
CHIEFLAND – Saturday (July 17) in the park was a time for socializing, conversing, music and a free lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and drinks.
(from left) Levy County Democratic Party Chair Gussie Boatright, State Rep. Yvonne Hinson (D-Gainesville, Dist. 20) and candidate for Chiefland City Commission Lawanda Jones pause for a photo opportunity at the get-together.
Levy County Democratic State Committeewoman Stacey Peters (wearing her Democracy Defenders tee-shirt) stands behind her husband and volunteer Brandon Peters, an attorney, at the event. Brandon was able to register at least one voter during the get-together, although that Chiefland resident will not be able to vote in the upcoming municipal election due to her not registering before the 30-day deadline before that Aug. 3 election.
This sign at Eddie Buie Park shows on Sept. 9, 2006, Teresa Barron was mayor, Betty Walker was vice mayor, and among the city commissioners were Alice Monyei, Teal Pomeroy and Rollin Hudson. (Some of the letters may need to be replaced to make it more legible for people who are not familiar with that particular set of five municipal leaders back then. Only one journalist who covered those meetings back then remains in the area today. By the way, there is still no hospital in Chiefland and the one in Williston shut down.)
LaWanda Jones, one of the two candidates for Chiefland City Commission (Seat 3), met with plenty of people Saturday afternoon in Eddie Buie Park. There were photo ops as well.
Incumbent City Commissioner Rollin Hudson is the other candidate in this race.
Jones said she wanted to have the get-together at the park to let people meet with her one-on-one to learn more about her.
“If we have a gathering,” Jones said, “then everybody will have a chance to get to know me.”
Born in Chiefland, Jones said she grew up here and spent most of her life in the apartment complex across the street from Eddie Buie Park.
The 42-year-old woman is married to Tarris Jones, and they have three children. Andrea and Taryn Jones are their two daughters. They are both attending college at Santa Fe College. This is Taryn’s first year and Andrea just transferred from the College of Central Florida to Santa Fe College, their mother said.
The two daughters are moving into Gainesville in mid-August, Jones said.
The couple’s son Tarris Jones Jr. attends Chiefland Middle High School in the seventh grade starting in the fall.
The couple also cares for their nephew Jaiden Coleman, 17, who has been part of their nuclear family for four years now. He will be in 11th grade this year at CMHS.
“I love my family,” she said, “and I love my hometown, which is Chiefland. I love the youth in this community, and I spend a lot of my time volunteering with the youth.”
Jones said she loves the senior citizens in Chiefland, and really, she loves everyone.
“If you ask people,” Jones said, “They will tell you that. I am a very loving person. I try to get along with everyone. That’s why I try to make it clear, this is nothing personal against my opponent. I wish him the best. I really do.”
When asked a more pointed question, Jones answered directly. Her answer may reflect why love is a big part of her essence of being.
“They say to leave your religion out of it,” Jones said, “but I love Christ. He’s first in my life. He is my everything. So, I can’t take Him out of it. If it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be here.”
Another tough question after religion was politics.
Jones said she knows the city race is non-partisan. The Levy County Democratic Party, she said, has been very helpful to her nonetheless.
Levy County Democratic State Committeewoman Stacey Peters has been very helpful, as have many volunteers from throughout the community, Jones said. State Committeewoman Peters and her husband Brandon Peters, attorney at law, were among the more than a dozen active members of the local Democratic Party at the get-together in Eddie Buie Park on Saturday.
Among the tangible results of local Democrats helping Jones was a visit to the get-together by State Rep. Yvonne Hinson (D-Gainesville, Dist. 20). Rep. Hinson assumed office on Nov. 3, 2020. Her current term ends on Nov. 8, 2022.
Rep. Hinson, who is 73 years old, was assigned to the following committees -- State Affairs Committee and Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. District 20 includes part of Alachua County and part of Marion County.
Hinson is an educator and an alumnus of the University of Florida.
Like many of the people at the get-together, this was Hinson’s first chance to meet Jones in person.
Asked for a comment about this candidate for Chiefland City Commission, Rep. Hinson said Jones is “brave and courageous.”
For this candidate to enter a political race with this kind of faith, Hinson said, shows Jones is indeed fearless.
“It is going to take people like LaWanda to make the changes that are needed,” Hinson said.
Hinson, the winning candidate in the race for Florida House of Representatives District 20, said any candidate in a political race puts a lot on the line. And even their family and friends sacrifice as the candidate seeks to become an elected public servant.
As for Jones, she is all about unity rather than division.
Jones stressed that every single person was welcomed to the event Saturday, not just the voters in Chiefland, but any residents or visitors to the area were invited to enjoy the afternoon there as well.
Jones said that if she is elected, she will be representing all people – not just the ones of any particular party, or even just the constituents who voted for her. Instead, she will be in office to serve every single resident of Chiefland, as well as every single visitor to Chiefland as she strives to keep the city as the "Gem of The Suwanee Valley."
When asked how she feels about the race so far, Jones said “It looks good.”
What really matters, she said, is not putting signs in yards or wearing tee-shirts, which she does appreciate. The single most important action she hopes all registered voters in Chiefland will do is to vote on Aug. 3, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., at Chiefland City Hall, 214 E. Park Ave.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: LaWanda Jones and Rollin Hudson were given the same set of questions for people to see how they answer them, and they will both be published at the same time, in the relatively near future before the Aug. 3 election. Those stories will be on HardisonInk.com – Florida Press Club’s 2020 Second Place Winner Statewide for Online Independent News Site.
Gilchrist County unites
to reduce problems from drug abuse
Members of the Gilchrist Prevention Coalition’s Student Ambassador Program include these students (front row, from left) Kenadee Langford, Lila Walker, Abigail Dunn, (back row, from left) Bri Becker, Zekeil Lewis and Makylei Miller.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © July 16, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.
TRENTON -- The Gilchrist Prevention Coalition (GPC) showed progress Thursday morning (July 15) during a one-hour session held in Trenton Middle High School Auditorium.
(from left) Gilchrist Prevention Coalition Treasurer Debbie Destin, GPC Chair Sheryl Brown and GPC Executive Director Robert Wells are among the leaders in this organization. Destin also is the manager at the Otter Springs Park and Campground as well as being among the leaders in the Camp Valor Project of ForVets, and she owns and operates a dance studio in Bell. Brown is a captain in the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office. Wells, a veteran, a former insurance professional and a leader in the Tri-County Area in the drug-prevention field, is well respected for his success in this effort.
Among the highlights were an announcement of the recently established set of student ambassadors in Bell and Trenton; a vacancy for secretary of the GPC; and progress on securing a grant to fund the GPC.
GPC Executive Director Robert Wells and GPC Chair Sheryl Brown led the meeting. GPC Treasurer Debbie Destin was the third of four directors present, but Secretary Beverly Goodman was absent and the secretary’s vacancy was announced.
Goodman, who has been with the coalition since it first formed, has accepted a new position in her profession, Executive Director Wells said, and therefore she is leaving as the manager of the Tri-County Community Resource Center as well as having to depart from her volunteering as a member of the GPC officers, although she is still part of the coalition.
Wells called for a volunteer from the small crowd at the meeting Thursday, and a person younger than 18 years old raised her hand to become the secretary, but this position is for a person 18 or older. The executive director said he will continue to seek a volunteer. In necessary, he said, there will be a “volun-told” person rather than a volunteer, intimating that he may need to help an individual understand that he or she is the person who is called to volunteer for this service in the community.
A new secretary is anticipated to be announced at the set for Aug. 12. Like this meeting, the August meeting of the GPC is slated to be from 10 to 11 a.m. As for the location for the next meeting, that is to be determined.
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, told listeners Thursday that his vision for the Gilchrist (County) Prevention Coalition is to have it be the organization to which others look as a template for success.
While the coalitions in Levy County and Dixie County are successful and have great programs, he sees the future of the Gilchrist Prevention Coalition as being the best in North Central Florida, especially with its ambassador program.
When other coalitions ask how the GPC had such success, he said he will tell them it is from the close working relationship with schools in Gilchrist County.
“We love our schools,” Wells said.
The GPC anticipates working well with educators and professionals in the local law enforcement community for the betterment of the residents and visitors in Gilchrist County, Wells said.
Among the many positive words associated with the GPC are “Caring,” “Hope” and “Health.”
Wells told people in the audience that he has funding to hire a part-time worker for 20 to 30-hours per week. He is seeking a college student who may need some extra income and have available time to dedicate toward the GPC’s mission. Another type of person who may fit in this job, he said, is a retired teacher or another retiree who will pass a background check.
This person will be working in the schools, Wells said, and that is why he or she must pass a background check.
Lauren Cabeza, the care coordinator for the Meridian Mobile Response Team (MRT). The MRT program is designed to respond to those experiencing crisis at your locations within Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, and Union counties, who are in need of 24/7 crisis intervention services. The program’s goals are to lessen the trauma of crisis situations, particularly, diverting individuals away from emergency rooms and-or jails, and stabilizing them in the most conducive setting possible. Cabeza also is serving as the vendor coordinator for the Aug. 7 Vet Fest at Otter Springs Park and Campground.
In addition to Capt. Brown, Wells, Destin and Cabeza, other professional adults at the event included (from left) Trenton High School Principal Cheri Langford, Christine Dunn, representing the College of Central Florida, Melody LaFlam of Meridian, Gilchrist County Schools Director of Mental Health Services Terri Crawford, and Lorrie van Voorthuijsen, a prevention coordinator with the Hanley Foundation. (THS Assistant Devin Colley was present up to 11 a.m., but then she appears to have been called away and was not available for the photo. Also not pictured from among the adult professionals present is a member of the Florida Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco Law Enforcement community, because he or she goes undercover on occasion.)
The six members of the GPC Ambassadors Club present Thursday are Kenadee Langford, Lila Walker, Abigail Dunn, Bri Becker, Zekeil Lewis and Makylei Miller.
These ambassadors will be the peer leaders at Bell and Trenton middle and high schools, Wells said. These young leaders will recruit other students to be part of the youth prevention coalition.
Wells said that by engaging in conversations with young people, the adult members of the GPC can better understand what activities young people enjoy today, versus when he was that age and played kick-the-can or sandlot football, etc.
Three caveats he puts on possible activities for the youth are: it is legal; it is safe; and the coalition can afford to fund it.
NATURAL HIGH CLUBS
This fall, middle and high students at schools in Trenton and Bell are anticipated to be participating in the Natural High Club, Wells said.
In the Natural High Club, the mission is to inspire and empower youngsters to find their natural high and develop the skills and courage to live life well.
While that program is for middle and high school students, Wells mentioned the Too Good For Drugs and the Too Good For Violence programs that are foreseen as being activated in Gilchrist County’s elementary schools in Bell and Trenton this fall.
Gilchrist County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jim Surrency has agreed to incorporate the Gilchrist Prevention Coalition’s resources to help students learn about reasons to not use illegal drugs, according to what was shared Thursday at the GPC meeting.
FRIDAY NIGHTS DONE RIGHT
The first GPC Friday Nights Done Right event was at the Trenton Train Depot just before 2020 Spring Break.
The next one was a Drive-in Movie Night, Wells said, where Bell High School students took the lead. They chose the move Grease, which was watched at Otter Creek Park and Campground.
People could tune their vehicle radios in to hear the audio while watching the movie on the big screen. There was free popcorn and everyone enjoyed the event.
The next Drive-In Movie Night is set for Friday, Aug. 13, at Otter Creek Park and Campground. People can arrive at 7 p.m. and mingle. The movie, which will be selected soon by Trenton students, will start being show when it gets dark enough to see the movie, Wells said.
Vet Fest is scheduled to happen on Friday, Aug. 6, and Saturday, Aug 7.
The big part of the event will be that Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Otter Springs Park and Campground. Destin said this event will happen rain or shine.
“It is a free day at the park for the families,” she said. “Come out. You can enjoy the vendors that we have there. You can learn more about the Camp Valor Project.”
She invited people to bring their own picnic items, or get food from the vendors and enjoy activities there.
Williston Celebrates Independence Day
Photos by Diane M. Price
Golf carts come from the parade Williston.
Children enjoy the bounce houses. at Horsemen's Park
Butch Batts and other musicians perform for the crowd at Horsemen's Park.
The City of Williston provided residents and visitors with plenty of opportunities Saturday (July 3) to celebrate Independence Day. While July 4 is Independence Day, Williston for several years has celebrated on July 3 to let other municipalities have their events on the Fourth of July. Here is one shot of the fireworks seen there that night.
Among the festivities in Williston this year were the traditional parade and fireworks, and there was an added attraction of a laser light show at the end of the fireworks.
Published July 5, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.
Photos by Diane M. Price
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