Ethan Spain, 12, fishes on Saturday. Here he is seen just a little bit after the biggest fish he had ever reeled in escaped.
Often a full day of fun, the rain was something to deal with earlier in the day for some activities. Yet the evening of an amazing banquet and the presentation of awards on Saturday (Aug. 1) was once again epic.
Fanning Springs firefighters at the awards banquet Saturday night are Chief Ron McQueen, Deputy Chief Elania Spain, Firefighter of the Year Chris Anderson, Firefighter Brett Boyce, Firefighter Roy Spain, Firefighter Quinn Lesher, Firefighter Steven Edgell and Firefighter Mike MacKenzie.
This celebration of the community-oriented fire department heralds the 35th year since the annual event first started in 1980. Synchronizing schedules of volunteers who work many different shifts as regular firefighters and in other lines of work was a key factor in timing the yearly festivity again this year. City Council Chairman Paul Chase, and City Council members Jane Nogaki and Ron Queen attended the event. The Suwannee River provided a backdrop for the event, as usual. One young fisherman almost caught the biggest bass of his life in the early evening, but it got away. The tale of 12-year-old Ethan Spain’s fish, however, is not just a fisherman spinning a yarn. The water was clear enough for several firefighters to see the big fish that got away. Firefighters accepted recognition for their work from the previous year. This volunteer fire department responds to calls in Levy and Gilchrist counties, and has a mutual aid agreement with Dixie County to help when needed. The team of volunteers has learned to rely on each other, Fire Chief Ron McQueen has said. This is something that is vital in fire service.
Chief Ron McQueen (left) presents the Firefighter of the Year certificate to Chris Anderson as Deputy Chief Elania Spain watches.
The chief presented the Firefighter of the Year certificate and an Outback Steakhouse gift certificate to Firefighter Chris Anderson.
Firefighter Chella Decker is noted for her accomplishment of earning the Firefighter I certification.
Anderson earned the award by having “gone beyond the call of duty and distinguished himself by his actions and conduct representing the Fanning Springs Fire Department,” Chief McQueen said. Anderson worked very hard to attain things that were difficult for him, the chief said. On his first attempt to take the state and national EMT test, Anderson passed it. The chief reminded Anderson that he should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Firefighter Quinn Lesher shakes hands with Chief Ron McQueen as he accepts his certificate of appreciation.
The chief said this advice is from James 1:19, which in the King James Version of the Bible says “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” As is the tradition, appreciation certificates went to every firefighter. Accepting certificates for their annual service were Fanning Springs firefighters Chief McQueen, Deputy Chief Elania Spain, Firefighter Anderson, Firefighter Brett Boyce, Firefighter Roy Spain, Firefighter Quinn Lesher, Firefighter Steven Edgell, Firefighter Mike MacKenzie and Firefighter Chella Decker. Missing from the event were Firefighter Chris Carlson and Firefighter Will May.
The chief opened the presentation by welcoming the esteemed guests Chase, Nogaki, Queen and their spouses.
Firefighter Brett Boyce prepares to sit down after accepting his certificate of appreciation.
Fanning Springs Mayor Howell “Trip” Lancaster took his son to Comic Con in Tampa. So, he was unable to attend. However, Mayor Lancaster signed all of the certificates of appreciation. There will be a Fanning Springs Movie Night at Fort Fanning on Aug. 14, McQueen mentioned on Saturday night, and the Fire Department will be helping. Decker is the newest member of Fanning Springs Fire Rescue.
Firefighter Steven Edgell shakes hands after accepting his certificate.
This volunteer just completed requirements to be certified by the state as Firefighter I, McQueen said as he presented her with her certificate of appreciation. She had to handle a 24-foot ladder rated to hold 500 pounds of weight as part of the test of her qualifications. This was the most difficult part of the qualification process, she said. The chief explained that in this exercise, the firefighter candidate must remove the ladder from a simulated truck, carry it, and put it down on the ground properly.
Firefighter Chris Anderson accepts his certificate of appreciation.
Then the person must raise it, turn it sideways without touching the ladder, except with a shoulder. As the skill demonstration continues for the candidate, she had to raise this 24-foot extension ladder. However the candidate cannot watch as it is raised, but they must instead count the clicks as the latch goes by each rung. The ladder goes straight up. Once it is fully extended, the firefighter trainee must lean it on the building at the proper flight angle. They must tie it with a lanyard (rope) and fasten it using the proper knot, McQueen said.
Firefighter-Paramedic Roy Spain (left) accepts his certificate of appreciation.
“She worked harder than anybody else there in doing the ladder,” McQueen said. “So we are proud of her.” Qualified as a Firefighter II and EMT, Lesher also works for the Levy County Department of Public Safety.
Boyce works in the Levy County Jail as well as volunteering.
Firefighter Mike MacKenzie accepts his certificate.
He took Firefighter I courses online and worked in class all day Saturdays to earn his rank, McQueen said. Boyce has wildland firefighter certification. He completed his first-responder course. “He is red light certified,” the chief said, and the other firefighters laughed. Boyce is always willing to volunteer to help take care of the fire trucks, including to fuel them up, McQueen said. “We’ve come to depend on Brett quite a bit,” McQueen said. “At this time next year, we are going to call him Firefighter I certified.” Before making the next award certificate presentation, Chief McQueen said one firefighter has started running to stay in shape and others have joined him.
Chief Ron McQueen (left) presents Deputy Chief Elania Spain with her 'That’s Unacceptable Award.'
When a firefighter puts on heavy bunker gear, he or she will last about 15 minutes in an activity before having to rest, McQueen said. When everyone is at a scene and they are seen taking a breather after that 15-minutes of fighting fires while wearing bunker gear, but the job has to be finished, that is when they realized they need to stay in shape, he said. Breaks were lasting too long.
Chief Ron McQueen (left) accepts from Deputy Chief Elania Spain a card signed by the department.
Edgell and Decker are both going to EMT school, McQueen said. Edgell has inspired other firefighters to run with him as exercise, and the chief said he appreciates it because it helps everyone be better able to serve people. When McQueen gave Anderson his annual certificate of appreciation, it was before Anderson was named as Firefighter of the Year. McQueen said Anderson has found a niche in the Chiefland Fire Rescue Department as a part-time paid firefighter. “We laugh about that,” McQueen said, “but we work very well with Chiefland. The fact of the matter is, he is going to be a better fireman because of it. He’s doing a good job and we support it.” Anderson just completed his EMT certification, McQueen said. When he accepted his certificate, Anderson asked if he could write “Chiefland” on his Fanning Springs helmet. “Chief (James) Harris calls me every night and tells me what you did,” McQueen responded. The next award recipient completed Firefighter II certification and is a full-time fireman. He is in the Paramedic Training Program, McQueen said. He works full-time, and goes to school five days a week. Roy Spain has completed his Paramedic training. He works part-time for Chiefland Fire Rescue and full-time for Dixie County Fire Rescue – as well as volunteering whenever possible for Fanning Springs Fire Rescue. The next firefighter recognized for service this past year, has not shown up as often as before. Since last year, MacKenzie accepted a full-tome job in Gainesville, McQueen said. So he is not able to be at every call. Now he is “our weekend guy.” MacKenzie’s regular job, however, serves a vital need. He works for the Bread of the Mighty and provides food for needy children. The chief said that the department is proud of MacKenzie for his work in Gainesville. Lt. Ken Missell, who was the Firefighter of the Year last year, was unable to attend. He works full-time at Lancaster Correctional Institution. He is dedicated to keeping the fire bay clean at the end of his volunteer shift.
Chief Ron McQueen and Deputy Chief Elania Spain say ‘Surprise’ after she mentioned the gift cards the firefighters bought for the chief are back at the station in a drawer.
Firefighter Will May was unable to be present for the awards. He is a former public safety director for Alachua County for 20-some years. He retired from Alachua County but still wanted to remain certified and active. So he volunteers with Fanning Springs Fire Rescue. May works as a consultant with the university as an independent contractor who is among the people involved with emergency management at the home games – to make sure everyone is safe. He is also on the coordinating committee for national wildland fires, McQueen said. Firefighter Chris Carlson also was absent due to his shift schedule with the Florida Department of Corrections in Starke. The chief said Carlson is a joy to have on the department. And, as usual, there were a number of humorous certificates, which were signed by Chief McQueen and Deputy Chief Spain. The highlight of the night is the naming of the Firefighter of the Year, and Anderson earned that. Before this moment, though, everyone enjoyed the banquet meal. The banquet, which preceded the awards ceremony, was held in the Helen Usher River House on the Dixie County side of the Suwannee River. The house is just upstream from the Joe H. Anderson Sr. Bridge, which crosses the river between Levy and Dixie counties. Chief McQueen is known for his excellent cooking skills and the ribeye steaks were superb again this year. They were very tender and perfectly seasoned. The old iron cooker-smoker he used was made from an LP tank by J&M Welding of Wilcox for the fire department. Not only were there delicious, tender, juicy, tasty steaks cooked on the grill, but many of the perfectly heated baked potatoes were prepared there as well. There was plenty of butter and sour cream available for the potatoes too. Delicious fresh green beans with bacon flavoring were on the menu, as was beautiful, sweet corn-on-the-cob. Deviled eggs were among the appetizers. Lemon pound cake was among the desserts. Freshly churned, homemade ice cream with real peaches added for flavoring was so wonderfully creamy and fresh that it goes beyond any store-bought versions. This dessert was enjoyed by everyone who ate it. Many members of the firefighting team helped with the banquet, too, by bringing food, preparing food, carrying hot containers and assisting wherever needed. One added item that was enjoyed by some tea drinkers was freshly cut limes to put in the tea. Some people prefer lime to lemons in tea. Despite the rain of Saturday, which many readers must remember, the chief had a large tent-like structure over the grill and the big portable oven for potatoes, and the propane-fired water-boiling kettle. It was like a pole barn made from a tent. The cooking area was kept dry. And it was safe. The chief said the distance between the heat source and the top of the open “tent” allowed enough air to let the heat out and not create a fire hazard. The highest award presented during the annual event is the Fanning Springs Firefighter of the Year Award. The chief gave a gag award to every firefighter, including himself. He even read the ones for people who were absent. Among the many funny awards was the “Pain In The Neck Award.” This went to Carlson, because he created a spreadsheet that has to be used and viewed sideways on the computer screen. This creates a pain in the neck. Boyce was given the “Fourth of July Award” for having more emergency lights to keep his car lit up like a firecracker all year long. “The Osmosis Award” went to Decker. She earned the award for believing she will build muscle just by looking at the exercises. The chief said he went to the firehouse and Anderson, Edgell and Decker were all getting ready to run for exercise. They were going to run all the way to the steps of the floating dock at Fanning Springs State Park. They were going to run up and down the many steps 10 times. “The pager goes off,” he said. “Beep. Beep. Beep. We have to go to Trenton. ‘I’ll go chief,’ she says.” McQueen said it gets better. They completed the Trenton run and he told her that he could drop her off so she could join the run for exercise with her fellow firefighters. “She said, ‘Why don’t you just drive me there? And I can run back,’” McQueen reported the newest firefighter said to him. Roy Spain earned the “I’ve Gotta’ Get In Shape Award.” No matter how much he works out, he cannot accept that round is a shape. Chris Anderson was awarded the “Mini DC (Deputy Chief) Award” for his highly developed skill of being able to search for endless hours through buildings, nooks and crannies and up and down roads, in a failing attempt to find radios and pagers – just like deputy chief. “The Morse Code Award” went to MacKenzie for his ability to use the most unknown descriptions for fire reports. The “That’s Unacceptable Award” went to Deputy Chief Spain. No matter what it is, or how it is done, on any day of the week, some things are just not totally unacceptable to the deputy chief, McQueen said as he presented her with the award. The “Telephone Telegraph Tell-A-Quinn Award” went to Lesher, because he knows about who’s who and what is going on in Levy County. The “Rip Van Winkle Award” was given to Edgell. Even when he is spending the night at the station, he must be physically awakened to respond to a call. The “Mirror Award” was given to the chief by himself. He said there are multiple mirrors on the truck, but he is not able to use them. “Thank you for shopping at Walmart,” he said, and everyone laughed. There was a special award for a non-member of the fire department. The “I’ve Got You Covered Award” was given to Jeff Hardison. No matter what the scene may be or obstacles he may have to overcome, McQueen said before making the certificate presentation, “HardisonInk will be there to get the story.” All of the firefighters signed a card, too, which they gave to the chief in honor of his service with them as the evening of presentations wrapped up. Deputy Chief Spain said she bought it. It had a drawing of a hunk of cheese with two eyes on it. It was noted to be a “cheesy” card. Deputy Chief Spain said the firefighters each donate some of their own money each year to get the chief a gift, as well as to sign a card. He means a lot to each firefighter, she said, and to the department. “We can’t get a better chief, no matter where you go,” she said.
City commissioner finds missing truck By Jeff M. Hardison CHIEFLAND -- Chiefland City Commissioner Rollin Hudson found a missing truck Friday (July 24), Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas said Monday night (July 27) at the regular City Commission meeting. The truck had been reported stolen from Chiefland Tire on Wednesday night (July 22). CPD Officer Scott Anderson took that report. Hudson found the three-quarter ton 2007 Ford F-250 in a field near the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) just off of U.S. Alt. 27, the chief said. It had fruit in it from the fruit stand that had been burglarized. When Hudson found the abandoned truck parked on his field, he called the CPD, Douglas said. That truck theft case remained open as of Tuesday afternoon.
Alligator bumps mayor’s boat; Mayor honors Dr. Kenneth Wise ~ City manager is recovering The elected leaders of Williston -- (from left) City Councilman Danny Etheridge, City Councilman Matt Brooks, Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat, City Council President Jason Cason, City Council Vice President Charles Goodman, and City Councilman Elihu Ross prepare to start the meeting on Tuesday night (July 21).
Dr. Kenneth Wise (left) looks out to the audience, which at the moment was mostly his family, staff and friends, as Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat directs him and City Clerk Fran Taylor holds the framed proclamation to be presented by the mayor.
As always, this was another classic presentation by the mayor. Hethcoat’s unique method of allocution has made many Williston Students of the Month (and parents, guardians and other family and friends) happy. Likewise, when he bestows awards upon other honorees, it is always a cherished moment.
Dr. Kenneth Wise (left) shakes hands with his long-time friend Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat. And the mayor’s heartfelt proclamation on Tuesday was no exception to his rule of “that special something” that goes beyond the actual verbiage on any proclamation. Before reading the proclamation, the mayor shared a story about a particular fishing trip the two men went on some time ago. They both agreed that this was the last time the doctor went fishing with Hethcoat. They even worked at the hospital in Williston – back when. “The only thing that came to mind (as a story that could be shared) was how I broke you from fishin’,” Hethcoat said. The mayor said that back in the day, he had a relatively small, lightweight, flat-bottomed johnboat with an electric motor that went fishing. “One afternoon, or one day, we decided we were going to go out to Johnson’s Lake to go fishin’. We were just going to go tear ‘em up.” The mayor said they threw the lightweight boat in the back of the pickup truck and made their way to the lake. They unloaded the boat at the lake. They put a battery on the floor of the boat for the electric motor. They cranked up the electric trolling motor. “And he was ready to go,” Hethcoat said about Dr. Wise. “I got that little trolling motor to go just as fast as it would go. All of the sudden, there was a bump. Do you remember that?” “Yeah,” Dr. Wise said “…Vividly.” The two fishermen tried to figure out what could have caused the bump. They were in the middle of the lake. A johnboat (or jon boat) does not have much in the way of surface below the water. So hitting bottom was not an option to consider. “An alligator had come off of the bank to our left,” Hethcoat said. “And came all the way across to the middle of the boat and hit up under the boat. It raised the boat up a little bit, as best as I remember. “He (Wise) wanted to go home and I wanted to go fishin’,” Hethcoat continued. “We watched that alligator. He went back down and went all the way to the other side. We sat there and watched him go up on the other bank. And (we were) glad he didn’t hit us any harder than he did.” Hethcoat reported that Wise told him if he ever got him home that Wise would not fish anymore. And this is a true fish story, the mayor said.
In this video, Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat reads the proclamation. He substituted “2012” instead of “2015” as the year of Dr. Kenneth Wise’s retirement. The mayor said he makes verbal mistakes on occasion, including how to pronounce some students’ names. This is part of the special honor from having the honorable Mayor Hethcoat make a proclamation or present an award.
Dr. Kenneth Wise (left) and Williston Mayor R. Gerald Hethcoat agree to pose for a photo opportunity after the presentation of the proclamation.
Then, he read the proclamation. The proclamation noted that Dr. Wise graduated in 1964 from the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, to begin a half-century long period in the profession of medicine. The proclamation went on to note that Dr. Wise provided medical care in the Chiefland area, served on staff at Monroe Memorial Hospital, North Florida Regional Hospital and Williston Memorial Hospital and even provided house calls during his 50-year career as a family practitioner. Dr. Wise has been highly respected in the field of medicine, serving as chief of staff during his tenure with Williston Memorial Hospital, and he established his service in the Williston area in 1976 at Williston Medical Center. He continued to serve the families in this community up to the time of his retirement in 2015. Now while the proclamation noted "2015," Mayor Hethcoat said "2012," and there was a bit of a laugh from the audience that knew better than what had been verbally recited. The mayor went on to read that "Dr. Wise, throughout his medical practice, has become part of the fabric of this community, reflecting the highest ideals of service and commitment to others." And so it was proclaimed that the Williston City Council, in recognition of Dr. Wise's "contributions to this community and to the families of this city, hereby offers special recognition and gratitude" to him in appreciation for his years of service and friendship. The proclamation notes that with the retirement of Dr. Wise from his medical practice, the city of Williston, his patients and this community "will miss him dearly. We wish him a healthy and happy retirement and offer our sincere gratitude for caring for us all for so many years." IN OTHER NEWS In other news from the meeting, it was mentioned that City Manager Scott Lippmann is recovering from a health issue. As he recovers, he will be out of the office for some period of time. In the meantime, while he is getting better, the city staff has expressed its belief that it can keep the city going. City Clerk Fran Taylor is in charge of day-to-day operations in Williston during the absence of City Manager Lippmann. She has completed the acceptance of applications for the city planner who will be replacing Adam Hall, the former planner for the city of Williston who left the city's full-time employment on June 19 to join the planning department in the city of Alachua. Vice President Charles Goodman has mentioned that when former City Planner Hall was leaving, he had advised City Council that he would be available to assist on a regular basis. Goodman has confirmed with City Council President Jason Cason that this previous plan has gone by the wayside. City planner rules and codes of conduct precluded Hall from being able to help Williston, because as a planner for the city of Alachua he can be employed only by that one city at a time. This rule is due to the potential of a possible conflict. For instance, if a business venture was looking to locate in either Alachua or Williston, the city planner would have some level of influence on that decision. City Clerk Taylor advised that she had been in touch with the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and was directed to two of the planners that would be assigned to Williston to assist with issues if the need arose. On Wednesday morning (July 22), Taylor said she is in communication with Lippmann about who will be the next city planner. He will advise her when interviews of the narrowed list of applicants can happen. City Council President Cason had previously given City Manager Lippmann direction to continue negotiating with the Levy County School Board regarding the cafeteria facility at the future Williston Middle High School. Cason has stated that he was able to verify with Levy County Superintendent of Schools Robert Hastings that the main focus with the School Board is ensuring that the city has the utility structure going in as planned. Councilman Elihu Ross has asked if there were any issues concerning the airport because Lippmann is the key manager in that regard. President Cason has said that there were leases ongoing, of which City Attorney Frederick Laurence Koberlein Jr. - was aware -- including a potential change with A&N’s lease, a potential change with Williston Peanut and a new lease with Severn Peanut. Lippmann had been approving those in his capacity as Airport Manager with legal review and Koberlein said that they would come before City Council as a regular lease. The attorney has stated he will work with City Clerk Taylor to get them on the agenda once the provisions are worked out. Essentially, all city operations are believed to be under control until the city manager is recovered enough to return to active duty.