Gilchrist County Commission
candidates share insight

By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 23, 2014
     GILCHRIST COUNTY – Four candidates in two races for Gilchrist County Commission shared insight into their perspectives about why voters should choose them to be on the Gilchrist County Board of County Commissioners.

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County Commission, Dist. 2
* D. Ray Harrison Jr. (Rep.)
     Harrison said voters should choose to re-elect him because he is experienced in Gilchrist County government and wants to continue to lead the county on its successful path forward. His top priority is to create jobs to help people stay in Gilchrist County.
     To attain this goal, Harrison notes that he recognizes there is a need for the economy to improve; however, the county is taking steps to assist in this effort. For instance the Gilchrist County Economic Development Committee has been reactivated, he said.
     Harrison said he is voting “Yes” on the amendment, which will allow Gilchrist County Commissioners to provide an ad valorem tax break to business interests considering placing their companies in Gilchrist County. He understands the idea of making the county attractive to business development, as well as the competitive market for new business to locate in North Central Florida, and he wants Gilchrist County to be the victor.
     He noted the county is on the move in this regard, with the addition of a McDonald’s in Trenton and the proposed addition of a Holiday Inn Express in the Fanning Springs area of Gilchrist County, which he supports as a county commissioner. Harrison reminds voters that he has consistently been a conservative voice on the Gilchrist County Commission, having never voted in favor of an ad valorem property tax increase.
     To see another story that shows more about Harrison, please click HERE.
* John Yencho (Dem.)
     Yencho said his experience as a developer of communities in Ashland, Ohio, from 1976 to 1993, as well as his experience as a Trenton High School teacher of architectural design and construction are reasons to vote for him.
     That experience includes planning and handling large budgets, as well as planning and executing methods to teach young people about design and construction.
     One priority Yencho sees is providing for high speed Internet access. A broadband connection with the Internet, he said, will help people involved with business, as well as students and residential users. The choice by the County Commission to forego connecting with a previous proposed provider, he said, should have been followed by finding a different connection after the previous proposer was nixed.
     Life is filled with opportunities, he said. It is up to the leaders to choose the best ones to accept. If a proposal was not good, then it should not have stopped there, he continued. The county should have sought other providers.
     Yencho said he believes Harrison is a good man who has served the people during his terms. However, Yencho said, he is a career politician and he believes it is time for a change. The Democrat said there are 300 subdivision platted in Gilchrist County and he wants the County Commission and the Chamber of Commerce to work together to attract new homeowners.
     By developing the land from agricultural use to residential use, it will increase the tax base, he said. The construction of those houses will provide jobs for the carpenters who are leaving the county each year after learning their profession at Trenton High School.
     New residents will create a need for more services, which will attract business, he added, and therefore encouraging residential housing growth can be the seed for building a stronger local economy.
     “I believe I can do more for this county than is being done,” Yencho said. “I promise this and only this. I will never make a promise I cannot keep. I will never lie to you for any reason. My ear will be open to everyone who has something to say and bring to the commission.
     “I will consider it,” he continued. “I will pray about it. And based on how I feel at that time, after my prayer, I will make a decision. And I will tell you, I will not always agree with you. But I will listen to you and give you due consideration.”   
County Commission, Dist. 4
* Marion Poitevant (Rep.)
     Poitevant said voters should choose her because of her extensive experience with the telephone company that was known as Southern Bell, where she worked for 44 years. She also worked for a lawn care company where she was the night supervisor and arranged jobs for the workers to complete each day.
     Among her many duties with the phone company, Poitevant was a customer service representative and in that job she was involved with sales. She said she wants to “sell” or promote the county, especially for eco-tourism.
     The candidate conceded that she had not yet heard of the Pure Water Wilderness, but that she would like to see the County Commission work more closely with the Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce.
     As for the option to allow county commissioners to be able to offer ad valorem property tax relief to prospective companies that might locate in Gilchrist County, she said she is 100 percent in favor of that option.
     In addition to wanting to increase the eco-tourism industry in Gilchrist County, Poitevant said she wants to see more input from the public to the county leaders. She would propose evening “Town Hall Meetings” to allow the people who work during the day to have an opportunity to voice their opinion on matters of public concern.
     Poitevant said she would not be opposed, either, to having regular County Commission meetings at night to make it easier for the public to partake in the process leading to decisions at the county level.
     Poitevant said she considers herself to be very conservative and fiscally responsible. As for expenses, though, she thinks there is a need to focus on road repair. One point in this aspect, she said, would be to improve the drainage and culverts so that the lime rock roads do not develop ruts from erosion after a rainstorm.
* John Rance Thomas (Dem.)
     Thomas said voters should re-elect him because he is experienced as a county commissioner, having served on the County Commission in 1998-2003 to complete the term that was vacated, and he was elected in 2012 and is serving now.
     Beyond that experience, he also has taught school in the past. He currently operates a small business with his farm of 2,500 acres where watermelon and feed cattle are the main crop and livestock.
     Attracting new small business and industry as well as helping the existing business interests are among his top priorities, he said. He is in favor of large industry such as the Holiday Inn Express, which is planning to locate in the Fanning Springs area of Gilchrist County, he said.
     Another general area he sees for focus is on a continuation of improving the infrastructure. He favors four-laning State Road 26; however he would recommend a route around downtown Trenton rather than trying to widen it there.

Meeks leads with
thoughtful motion;
Scores 3-2 vote

Levy County Commissioner John Meeks explains to his colleagues (from left) Danny Stevens, Ryan Bell, Mike Joyner and Chad Johnson why he believes the county should help the city if the study shows the ALS option for Chiefland will not affect the funding method for Levy County in regard to EMS. Johnson had mentioned this previously, and he is the commissioner who voted against rejecting the city's plea for help a couple of weeks prior to this meeting on Oct. 21.

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 22, 2014

     BRONSON – In the evolution of a positive relationship between Levy County and the city of Chiefland in regard to public safety, County Commissioner John Meeks took the lead Tuesday (Oct. 21).
     It was on a motion by Meeks, seconded by County Commissioner Chad Johnson, that the majority of the current County Commission agreed to potentially reimburse the city up to $11,000 for a study that is going to be conducted by Nabors, Giblin and Nickerson, and Government Services Group to determine if the city’s proposal to add the Advanced Life Support level of service by Chiefland Fire Rescue paramedics.
CntCom102114E     That 3-2 vote showed Meeks, Johnson and Commission Chairman Ryan Bell voting in favor of it, while county commissioners Danny Stevens and Mike Joyner voting against it.

Chiefland City Manager Mary Elley (left) and Vice Mayor Betty Walker appear before the County Commission.

     Before Meeks made his motion, Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey and Vice Mayor Betty Walker appeared at the podium.
     Ellzey told the County Commission that the city would fund the whole study, per the direction of the Chiefland City Commission’s unanimous vote, which followed the county’s 4-1 vote earlier against helping the city. Commissioner Johnson was the lone dissenter back then.
     Ellzey and Walker thanked the County Commission for continuing to work with the city on this endeavor. Walker invited everyone to enjoy $10-a-plate all-you-can-eat fish dinners at the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens campus in the town of Otter Creek.
     The Ride To Provide is Saturday, Walker said, and everyone is invited for this event. Motorcyclists are anticipated to be arriving in the afternoon for the lunch that wraps up their fundraising ride.
    After Ellzey and Walker had completed their expressions of gratitude and the invitation to buy fish dinners, Meeks started making his statements.
     Meeks reminded the other commissioner that this ALS proposal by Chiefland could become a countywide practice, where municipal fire departments that have paramedics would help keep people alive with ALS rather than just basic first aid, as the patients await the arrival of an ambulance.
     If Chiefland completes what is needed for this practice to come to fruition, then the county should reimburse the city for the study, Meeks said. The research is being conducted to assure there is no negative impact on the county’s special EMS and Fire Taxing methods.
     The motion shows a reimbursement of up to $11,000 for the study. However, out-of-pocket expenses by the researchers would not be covered for reimbursement. Also, if the study shows the ALS advantage would endanger the taxing methods, then the city would have to simply pay for the study and that is the end of it.
     “Thank you,” Ellzey and Walker said.

Voting goes strong in Levy County
Published Oct. 21, 2014
     BRONSON -- Early voting is under way in Levy County, having started on Oct. 20, and early voting is an option through Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day, including Saturday and Sunday, Levy County Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones noted in an Oct. 21 media alert.    
    Early voters must bring identification (such as a Florida driver license) that includes a photo and signature. Other forms of ID can be found at Voters who do not have proper identfcation will be required to vote a provisional ballot.

     Sample ballots were mailed to every active registered voter who did not request a mail ballot for the upcoming election. Voters are encouraged to review the ballot, and even bring it to the polls, with pre-determined choices marked, to expedite the voting process. Voters may also visit to download a sample ballot.
     Voters may exercise the option to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to them. Absentee ballots cannot be forwarded. So any voter who is not going to be at their Levy County address will need to provide, in writing, the address where they want the ballot mailed.
     Requests for absentee ballots can be completed at or by calling the Elections Office at 352-486-5163. The deadline for voters to request an absentee ballot to be mailed to them is the close of business on Oct. 29.
     Voters who wait until Election Day – Nov. 4 – must go to their assigned polling locations. Voters can confirm their polling location by clicking “Find Your Precinct” on the website or by calling the Elections Office.
     Save time by planning ahead. Voters may view voter turnout from the Elections Office homepage under “What’s New.” For more information call 352-486-5163 or send an email to

Jamie Griffin wants
economic development

Photo and Story
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 20, 2014
Griffin101714     LEVY COUNTY -- Jamie Griffin, the Democrat seeking the Levy County Commission District 4 seat, said he wants economic development and a countywide youth facility when he was asked why he wants to be a county commission.

Jamie Griffin stands in front of the door of Bett’s Big T Restaurant on the north end of Chiefland.

     "I want to be able to give my expertise in business to help with the future of economic development and tourism for Levy County," Griffin said. "Another one of my top goals is to build a youth-oriented countywide program like Boys and Girls Clubs or the YMCA for the youth in Levy County. I want a permanent countywide facility for kids, and we might even use the springs, the Gulf of Mexico and the Suwannee River."
     Griffin endorses increasing jobs in Levy County. As for the local option being offered voters to allow the County Commission to give incoming business interests a short-term ad valorem property tax break, Griffin said he favors that.

     "For Levy County to attract a larger, serious business, we need this competitive edge," Griffin said. "We are in a competitive market for businesses and I want to add this potential to bring jobs to the county. I want to build our economy and jobs."

     Griffin mentioned that he has been attending the County Commission meetings and other government meetings and functions, and has participated in some as a candidate for the office.
     Another improvement Griffin wants to see for Levy County would start in the Chiefland area, and relates to what he has seen in the County Commission meetings and the Chiefland City Commission meetings.
     He favors the county helping the city more with funding the effort for Chiefland Fire Rescue to have the ability for its paramedics to provide Advance Life Support (ALS) non-transport. In a recent Levy County Commission vote, that issue went 4-1 against the county paying any of the cost for a study.
     "I would have voted to split the cost of the study by half," Griffin said. "ALS is something the people have expressed that they want. I would have voted to split the cost because this study will benefit future decisions that will help the entire county. This will help Chiefland and its surrounding area today, and in the future it will help the whole county."
     Griffin knows that some people may want to focus on errors in judgment he made before, which resulted in him having to spend time in the Florida Department of Corrections. Griffin has seen the error of his ways, served his sentence, and will not do that again, he said.
     "I will not let my past determine my future," he said.
     As for his heavy duties as an owner of three restaurants, Griffin said this also lets him have an active finger on the pulse of the community. With restaurants in Bronson, Cedar Key and Chiefland, he hears from patrons and workers.
     “I have been on a commission and worked in the restaurant before,” he said. “I plan to give my attention to the duties of being a county commissioner. I am conditioned and accustomed to working many hours a day.”
     Griffin stressed that he is ready, willing and able to serve the people of Levy County on the commission.
     “I am prepared physically and mentally on Nov. 18 to begin the job from day one,” Griffin said.

Lilly Rooks wants to help
Photo and Story
By Jeff M. Hardison © Oct. 20, 2014

Rooks102014     LEVY COUNTY -- Lilly Rooks, the Republican candidate for Levy County Commission District 4, said she is running for office because she loves helping people.

Lilly Rooks sits at Burger King in Chiefland on Monday morning (Oct. 20).

     Rooks said she tries to be a problem-solver. During the past three years, since she lost the previous election to County Commissioner Ryan Bell, Rooks said she was getting calls from people.

     "I told them they needed to call Ryan," Rooks said.
     She said the callers told her that they were not getting return calls. Rooks said she was able to help them, even though she is not a county commissioner, because she knows what it takes, and she knows how to get through.
     Rooks said she wants to return to being a county commissioner, because she loves Levy County and she loves doing her job as a county commissioner.
     "When you love a job," she said, "you pour everything into it. You do better at it when it is something you love doing."
     Rooks said she wants to look at all of the roads in Levy County, because roads are very important. They affect people's lives every day, she said.
     She preferred to take care of a road problem before a person had to call to report it, Rooks said.
     "I would be out walking on a road and looking at it," she said, "and people would stop. 'Are you broken down?' they would ask. I would say, 'No. I am just looking at the road.' They would be tickled when I said that."
     Rooks said another reason voters should vote for her is because she is experienced as a county commissioner. She was in office the year that the area was impacted by hurricanes.
     "I've done it," she said. "I got water, ice and food into Levy County. And I got the National Guard in here."
     Rooks was the chair of the County Commission and she worked with then Sheriff Johnny Smith as well as County Coordinator Freddie Moody, Emergency Management Director Mark Johnson and the whole Emergency Operations Center staff. Rooks and the other leaders did decide policy during the emergency, and as chair of the County Commission, she was a significant part in making everything happen.
     She mentioned, too, that she is familiar with the procedures for emergency issues with what was Progress Energy and is now Duke Energy if there were a nuclear incident at the reactor in Crystal River. Since then, it has been shut down, but there is still spent fuel stored there.
     As for economic development, Rooks said having adequate fire, police, water and sewer facilities are important to attract clean, good business to the county.
     Rooks said she loves Levy County and this is where she raised her four children - Jo-Anne Osteen, James Hathcox, Kalanu Helton and Logan Rooks, who are all in Levy County. And she has six grandchildren.

FRI.  OCT. 24   11:47 p.m.
Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties

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