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Published Dec. 14, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.
* UPDATED Dec. 14, 2018 at 4:48 p.m.
U.S. Highway 19 Southbound just north of Lebanon Station is beginning to see water covering the right-hand lane, according to Levy County Emergency Management Assistant Director David Peaton, FPEM.


    Use extra caution when driving through that area.
  *   Levy County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Scott Tummond noted another road is closed.
     The Florida Highway Patrol closed a section of U.S. Highway 41 south of Morriston at the intersection of Southeast 47th Place because water has covered the road.
      Driving conditions at this intersection are too dangerous and motorist should avoid this area. Please find an alternate route.
     Detour signs and marked LCSO units are on scene to warn motorists of the closure.

     The rain has been here all day, and we still have a long way to go before it is over. Some areas in Levy County have seen an amazing 5 inches of rainfall today alone!
     Report flooded roadways to the Levy County Sheriff's Office at 352-486-5111. Never try to cross flooded roadways if you don't know how deep they are. You can view local weather stations by visiting


4 No Wake Zones Activated Now


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Gilchrist County Tourist Development

South Levy Christmas Parade
promoters help visitors enjoy it;

Parade is set to start
at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 15

South Levy County Christmas Parade
To see other events, visit the community calendar of the CALENDAR PAGE and visit the Your Holiday Events section on the COMMUNITY PAGE. To submit events for the public to see, email them in a Word format to

By Jeff M Hardison © Dec. 14, 2018 at 10:08 a.m.
People who want to help the Christmas parade scheduled for south Levy County tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 15) sent an email with tips for others to best enjoy this event.
     Among the things that hosts want guests to know is that the parade begins at 4:30 p.m. starting at the Withlacoochee Gulf Area Chamber of Commerce building on Levy County Road 40 West – 167 CR 40 W.
     From there, the parade is scheduled to proceed west to the Yankeetown Town Hall, 6241 Harmony Lane, in Yankeetown.
     Other points that the promoters want people to know follow:
     • Christmas Tree lighting and refreshments at the pavilion behind the Yankeetown Town Hall at the conclusion of the parade.
     • The Blackwater Grill will have a tent serving Chili and Chowder for $4 a serving, and beer at $3 and wine @$4
     • Cajun Dave is scheduled to play live music at the end of the parade for two hours.
     • Spectators can park on the south side of Riverside Drive and use the Yankeetown side streets for overflow. (Please be respectful of residential homeowners and don't block driveways or home access.)
     • CR 40 will be closed at 4:20 PM to accommodate the parade.
     • Everyone is invited to bring your neighbors, kids, chairs and cameras to enjoy this community Christmas Parade.


Chiefland Chamber
brings Christmas downtown

Chiefland Christmas
#130 Michelle Porter and #131 Cindy Lawn dressed in a festive manner while participating in the Rudolf Run at the Chiefland Christmas Festival.

Story and Photos
By C.L. Watson © Dec. 12, 2018 at 4:08 p.m.
The Greater Chiefland Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a successful Christmas Festival on Saturday (Dec. 8).

Chiefland Christmas
Members of the Chiefland Police Department along deputies and COP volunteers from the Levy County Sheriff’s Department put in long hours to ensure the safety of all patrons attending the Chiefland Christmas Festival.

Chiefland Christmas
Simon Hernandez placed 1st in the adult division as well as 1st runner in for the Rudolph Run at the Chiefland Christmas Festival.

Chiefland Christmas
Local vendor Jimmy Swilley had a booth of handmade knives at the 2018 Chiefland Christmas Festival. He offered an assortment of hardware using antlers, wood, metal and bone. Each leather sheath was custom made per knife. 

Chiefland Christmas
Miss Dean performed several classic Christmas songs during the earlier part of the Chiefland Christmas Festival on Dec 8.

Chiefland Christmas
Jason Hurst of Hurst Hives is at the Chiefland Christmas Festival. Hurst Hives has a unique product of raw honey that is aged in a bourbon barrel giving the honey a slight hint of bourbon without being overpowering in taste. This business has ventured outside of the Tri-County Area and can be found at the St. Augustine Distillery (source for the bourbon barrels).

Chiefland Christmas
Long Pond Baptist Church put a lot of work into creating a traditional style nativity scene float for the Chiefland Christmas Festival parade.

Chiefland Christmas
What’s a Christmas parade without a tradition old red truck? Dolphin Golf Carts is captured giving Jeff Hardison the thumbs up during the Chiefland Christmas Festival parade.

Chiefland Christmas
Santa and Mrs. Claus happily waived to the patrons attending the Chiefland Christmas Festival parade.  The covered wagon was loaned from Manatee Springs State Park and worked as a suitable ride for this iconic couple.

Chiefland Christmas
John Skelly prepares the bonfire at the Chiefland Christmas Festival. Patrons trickled down to the festival site after the parade. Visitors enjoyed a toasty bonfire, marshmallow-roasting, live entertainment and lighting of the tree.

     The day started off with 20 runners participating in a Rudolf Run in two separate divisions. Simon Hernandez placed first in the adult division with Nate Geerson coming in second and Nicholas Knopp at third.
     The children’s placement was Luke Stockman in first, Hunter Boyd in second and J.T. Richards in third. Winners received a ribbon for placement as well as a goodie bag from the Chamber. 
     Just as the race finished, vendors bustled around to set up booths as patrons trickled about, in hopes to find that one-of-a-kind treasure. The variety of vendors attending the festival ranged from bounce houses, homemade edibles, woodwork, jewelry, décor, ornaments and much more.
   Local businesses had information booths and networked with the community.  Entertainment was provided throughout the day to enhance the Christmas spirit – bringing smiles and joy to the masses.
     Later in the evening, the Christmas Parade attracted thousands of guests that lined Main Street (U.S. Highway 19), including children with hopes of getting a few pieces of candy and to be marveled by lighted floats.
     The parade included local politicians, businesses, churches and students. Following the parade, patrons were welcomed to enjoy a bonfire with marsh mellows, live entertainment, carriage rides and the lighting of the Christmas tree.
     In all, it was a wonderful day in downtown Chiefland as the Chamber provided an attraction for everyone.


City Commissioner Tim West
inspires CF GED grads

CF GED December 2018
CF Levy Campus Manager Leah Gamble and Keynote Speaker Tim West pause for a photo opportunity after the program Thursday evening.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 6, 2018 at 8:48 p.m.
* Updated Dec. 7, 2018 at 3:18 p.m.
with a photo courtesy of the College of Central Florida (scroll down)

     LEVY COUNTY -- Graduates who received Thursday evening (Dec. 6) the State of Florida high school diploma they earned via the Adult Education GED program at the College of Central Florida heard from keynote speaker Chiefland City Commissioner Tim West.


CF GED Grads Dec of 2018
* This photo provided by the College of Central Florida shows the graduates before the ceremony began, in a group next to the Christmas tree in the front lobby of the beautiful, relatively-new main building on the College of Central Florida Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus, located just south of the City of Fanning Springs on the west side of U.S. Highway 19.

CF GED December 2018
The graduates face the audience after accepting their GEDs and a carnation each.

CF GED December 2018
The graduates move their tassels from one side to the other to demonstrate their moment of graduation.

CF GED December 2018
CF Levy Campus Manager Leah Gamble (at the podium, left) and Enrollment/Student Services Coordinator Christine Dunn watch as the graduates move their tassels. Dunn presented each graduate with their GED, and each graduate shook hands with instructors and the keynote speaker.

     West's strong speech came from the heart and he certainly captured the minds of the young men and women, who like him earned a Graduation Equivalent Diploma (GED).
     Parading into the auditorium single-file as graduate-candidates and again leaving with the sound of the song Pomp and Circumstance were 15 of the 17 graduates. Two people, although they earned their GED did not participate in the ceremony. Elizabeth Botton and John Kyler did not attend the event.
     The 15 graduates who accepted their diplomas, and each who accepted a carnation as well, were Leigha Blocker, Matthew Chapman, Dalton Deavitt, Alyssa Gallion, Cheyanne Hall, Zachary Hill, Taylor Hudson, Charles Keebler, Tyler Lenfestey, Phillip Marks, Shondotta McFall, Kristina Miller, Lynette Rodgers, Megan Walkers and Dusty Wilson.
     Lenfestey and Miller earned special recognition as Adult Education Honor Graduates.
     College of Central Florida Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus Manager Leah Gamble served as the emcee. Gamble welcomed everyone and introduced CF Levy staff members Enrollment/Student Services Coordinator Christine Dunn, Transition Specialist/Instructor Deanna Sheppard, Adult Education Instructor Will Rucker and Adult Education Instructor Richard Anderson.
     City Commissioner West is a 2005 GED recipient. Not only is he one of the five members of the Chiefland City Commission, but he is also a key member of the development, ownership and management team of Strawberry Fields for RV’ers RV Park (1034 N.E. Fourth St., Chiefland).
    West shared with listeners that he understands hardships presenting obstacles in life. His parents separated and that can lead some students to have a reduced likelihood for graduation.
     As a teen, West said he lashed out. The reason he stood before the auditorium that was jam-packed with people that evening, though, is not to try to justify or glorify any bad behavior of years gone by.
     Instead, West came to join the graduates in the celebration of good behavior and making good choices.
     As a builder, West shared with listeners a metaphor from a keystone. He was quick to let the people know he was not speaking about the Keystone brand of beer, but instead he told about the keystone that is the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of an arch. It is the final piece placed during construction, and it locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight.
     “For me,” West said, “my GED was my keystone. It made the bridge crossable; so, I was able to unlock my true potential and accomplish so much more with my life.
     “After I received by GED,” West continued, “I quit smoking. Shortly after that, I started to eat healthier and to work out. I took up flying lessons. It was one accomplishment after another.”
     Now at the age of 37, West is a business owner and an elected official.
     “It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It takes hard work and a good work ethic. You have to be not just a hard worker, but a good employee.”
     He explained what he meant by being a “good employee.”
     While a hard worker does the job well while they are at work, he said, they might come in late. That hard worker might be a chronic complainer, or he or she might worry about what everyone else is doing rather than focusing on their own shortcomings.
     Meanwhile, a good employee comes in early and stays late, West said. That person is the man or woman on the crew who everyone would fight to keep in their position on the team.
     Any person who does their job gets paid, West said.
     “If you want that raise or promotion,” he continued, “or to be appreciated – You’ve got to do extra to get extra.
     West held a dollar bill in the air.
     “We all what this is,” he said.” We all know how this works. But do we know why? It’s because of belief.”
     Without belief in the value and the power represented by a dollar bill, West explained, it is just like any other piece of paper.
     “Your GED is the same,” West said. “You gotta’ believe in it!”
    West told this most recent set of GED graduates that if they believe in what they just earned, and if they believe in themselves., then they will accomplish great things.
     “Thank you and congratulations,” West said in conclusion.
     After the speech, Dunn told the grads to move their tassel from one side of the mortarboard they wore on their heads to the other side.
     As part of her closing remarks, Gamble told the graduates that they each had been given a carnation with a purpose in mind. She asked each graduate to take that flower and to give it to the person they felt had moved them the most to complete their course of study to earn their GED.
     There was punch and cake afterward, as well as plenty of time for photographs by family and friends.
    The vision statement for the College of Central Florida, which has campuses in Ocala and Lecanto as well as in Levy County, is “To be the first choice of quality higher education in our community.”

Santa Accepts Letters
Santa Claus accepts letters Chiefland
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec.6, 2018 at 10:48 a.m.
Every child who lives in the 32626 or 32644 Zip Code area and wants to send Santa Claus a letter, and potentially have him write back, is asked to send him a letter in care of the Chiefland Post Office, 222 W. Park Ave., Chiefland, FL 32626.

Santa Claus accepts letters at Chiefland

     Another method to get the letter to Santa is to put it in the mailbox that is located in the lobby of the Chiefland Post Office. There is a table with crayons and material for parents to have their children enjoy as they visit the United State Postal Service facility in Chiefland.
     No postage is required on the letters to Santa Claus if they are sent from a mailbox that serves a Chiefland address. A helper of Santa Claus said that the jolly old elf knows every language, but for the letters coming to the Chiefland Post Office, he requests that they be limited to either English or Spanish. Here is how the letter should be addressed:
Santa Claus
in care of Chiefland Post Office
222. W. Park Ave.
Chiefland, FL 32626

     Santa Claus stressed that he sincerely wants to reply to children as best as he can. And while Santa knows everyone's address and whether they are on one of the lists he keeps, he requires a RETURN ADDRESS so that he may respond to the young letter writers.
     Please remember, Santa Claus is accepting letters from children with Chiefland postal addresses via the mail, and no postage stamp is required on that letter; however any child can deliver a letter to Santa Claus by going into the lobby of the Chiefland Post Office and placing the letter in the mailbox that is in the lobby.
     Also Santa Claus can read letters written in Spanish! And he will write back in Spanish too. (¡También Santa Claus puede leer cartas escritas en Español! Y también va a escribir en Español.)
     All Letters Must Be Submitted By Dec. 19 For Santa Claus To See Them.


Coast Guard issues
safety broadcast after
SpaceX rocket lands in water

U.S. Coast Guard stock photo

A successful Falcon 9 landing during SpaceX’s 13th cargo resupply mission in December of 2017. The rocket's missed landing on Dec. 5 was the first time it did not work. The cargo it was sending to the International Space Station achieved its goal.

Image: SpaceX

U.S. Coast Guard 7th District PA Detachment Jacksonville
Published Dec. 5, 2018 at 5:08 p.m.
The United States Coast Guard issued a Safety Marine Information Broadcast (SMIB) Wednesday after the SpaceX rocket "Falcon 9" landed in the water off the coast of Cape Canaveral at about 2:30 p.m.
     The SMIB instructs all mariners to remain a minimum of two nautical miles away from the rocket.
     The press release about the SMIB was issued at 4:31 p.m.
     A Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral 45-foot Response Boat – Medium crew is on scene monitoring while SpaceX is implementing their response plan.
     There are no reports of pollution.

Hospital leader announces
temporary changes
and long-term plans;

Urgent care still available
at RGH 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 3, 2018 at 7:38 p.m.
* Updated Dec. 4, 2018 at 11:28 a.m.
Effective immediately (Monday, Dec. 3) Regional General Hospital (RGH) is closing its Emergency Room services, while the hospital upgrades select programs and establishes new ones, according to a 4:30 p.m. email from
RGH Senior Vice President of Operations Raj Ravi, MBA, on Dec. 3.
*     Urgent care medical services are still available at RGH from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
     In his email on Monday, the senior vice president of operations shared information to show the long-term plan for the hospital in Williston.
     "Over the last two years," Ravi noted, "it has been an honor to work with the dedicated staff of Regional General Hospital. Everyone, to a person, has made sacrifices beyond what has been asked of them. Moving our facility toward long-term sustainability has been the sole objective, and our commitment to that goal has not wavered."
     He noted that the owner of the hospital has have invested in upgrades, completed some remodeling, and new introduced programs.
     It has become evident during the last several months, Ravi noted, that drastic efforts must be undertaken to maintain a hospital for the Williston community.
        That is why RGH immediately is implementing this strategic plan.
     "These changes will require remodeling and retrofitting," Ravi noted, "and this construction would not be conducive to patient safety. Therefore, our plans warrant the temporary closing of the Emergency Room services while we upgrade select programs and establish new ones."
     RGH continues on its progressive path for positive development.
     "We are poised to invest in improvements to the ER and establish others such as a cardiac Cath lab," Ravi noted.
     Another upcoming improvement, he noted is the expansion of behavioral health programs at RGH.
     He explained how some factors affect the plans at RGH.
     "As we all are aware," Ravi said, "RGH’s location presents it with greater challenges than most other rural hospitals. These enhancements are needed to allow it to compete for patients and EMS services who might otherwise opt to make the long trip to Gainesville or Ocala."
     The hospital is currently working to finalize partnerships with medical professionals in the surrounding region from a variety of practice areas to provide specialty care at RGH, he added.
     "Further, we are in negotiations with other healthcare institutions to bring services not heretofore available to our community," Ravi noted.
     The plan now is to have all services up and running within 45 to 60 days.
     All necessary parties have notified, including EMS services, and RGH has been working with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to ensure that the transition to a new era at RGH goes smoothly and quickly, he said
    Some RGH workers are being laid off.
    "It is unfortunate that this will also require a reduction-in-force at the hospital while these investments are being made," Ravi noted. "However, it is impossible to maintain payroll at such levels during a time while revenue has been interrupted. We understand these modifications will have a short-term burden on the community and staff. However, we are in it for the long-term; our only goal is to save the hospital, and we are left with no other choice than to take these measures.
     The future for employment at RGH is bright. Ravi noted that after all of the services are relaunched, the number one priority will be to attract the same high-quality staff that the hospital has enjoyed throughout its history to date.


Levy County DEC starts rolling
toward reestablishment;

DNC leader -- start the resistance
Levy County Democrats
Alma R. Gonzalez, Esq., a member of the Democratic National Committee, and Brandon Peters, Esq., a former Democratic candidate for Congress, welcome people to the first of two sessions held Saturday (Dec. 1) to reestablish the Levy County Democratic Executive Committee (DEC).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Dec. 2, 2018 at 10:48 p.m.
Two sessions Saturday (Dec. 1) showed the potential for the reestablishment of the Levy County Democratic Executive Committee (DEC).

Levy County Democrats
Franklin Schuler, former mayor of Bronson, is among the Democrats at one of the meetings on Saturday.

Levy County Democrats
In the foreground is Ministerial Faith Alliance Inc. Pastor Johnnie Jones III, the last active Levy County DEC chairman. Sitting in the background is Jim Robertson, who with his wife Ann Robertson allowed people to use their home for the first two meetings to kickoff the effort to restart the Levy County DEC.

Levy County Democrats
Dushyant Gosai, one of three candidates in the Democratic primary for United States House of Representatives, Florida District 3, is seen here. He was among the many Democrats giving their time Saturday to help Levy County have a DEC again.

     Hosted by Brandon and Stacey Peters at the home of Ann and Jim Robertson (Stacey Peters’ mother and father) in the Williston area, the event attracted Levy County Democrats who are interested in dedicating their resources to revive the Democratic Party leadership organization that faded from existence in Levy County in 2012.
     Brandon Peters is a recent Democratic candidate who sought to unseat U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn (R-District 2, Fla.).
     Bob Rackleff (D-Tallahassee) won the Democratic primary for the United States House of Representatives, Florida District 2, race that was decided on Aug. 28.
     Dunn won reelected to the United States House of Representatives on Nov. 6, when he defeated Rackleff.
     The morning session included several significant Democrats from the area, including former Bronson Mayor Franklin Schuler, who also was a candidate in the Democratic primary, where Peters and Rackleff ran. A health issue cut Schuler’s bid short, even before the primary.
     Ministerial Faith Alliance Inc. Pastor Johnnie Jones III, who was the last Levy County DEC chairman in 2012, was present. Now living in Alachua County, Pastor Jones said he enjoys serving the church in Williston, where his heart is, but the physical address where he lives precludes him from voting in Levy County or from being a member of this county’s DEC.
     Also present for the first session to reestablish the Levy County DEC on Saturday was Dushyant Gosai, one of three candidates in the Democratic primary for United States House of Representatives, Florida District 3.
     Gosai, Tom Wells and Yvonne Hayes Hinson were in a three-way race in that Democratic primary for Congress on Aug. 28.
     Heading into the general election, was incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Gainesville), who was first elected in 2012.
     Yoho won reelection on Nov. 6 in the race against Hinson. That final vote ended where Yoho obtained 58.1 percent of the vote and Hinson had 41.9 percent.
     As he opened the first session to restart the Levy County DEC, Peters said he believes Democrats need to unite. Whether individuals consider themselves to be more inclined toward working on the campaigns for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or as a “Beto Democrat,” all Democrats must see a vision for the nation that is in contrast with the stark reality of today.
    Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke is an American politician and businessman serving in the United States House of Representative for the 16th congressional district of Texas since 2013. In 2018, O'Rourke was the nominee of the Democratic Party in a United States Senate race, running against Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R). O'Rourke was defeated by Cruz by 2.6 percentage points on Nov. 6.
     Peters thanked all of the attendees for taking the time and using their other resources to attend the first pre-organizational meeting to reestablish the Levy County Democratic Executive Committee. He mentioned his appreciation for the grace and kindness shown by his father-in-law and mother-in-law who provided their home as a first point to restart the Levy County DEC.
     Peters shared with listeners that it is vital to have a local DEC for candidates who are Democrats. Congressional District 2, which includes 19 counties, Peters said, is the poorest and most rural district in Florida.
     Nine of those 19 counties – including Levy County – do not have their own DEC, he said. In that Aug. 28 Democratic primary, Peters won 15 of the 19 counties, but it was not enough to overwhelm the Leon County Democrats who pushed Rackleff to win that race.
      “In counties where there is a DEC,” Peters said, “you stand a much better chance of organizing your own campaign and making your case to the people, because there is the fabric of an organism on which you can hang the details of your race, your opinions and your beliefs.
     “And so, in this strange era of history in which we currently live, we thought that reestablishing the Democratic Executive Committee, the arm of the Florida Democratic Party, in Levy County, is particularly important as we look ahead to the future,” Peters said.
     Some Democrats may not be content to only complain about the current state of the politics in the nation on Facebook or Twitter, Peters said.
     Instead, Peters explained, Democrats in Levy County are here to organize in the very serious business of helping bring to fruition a different vision for the United States of America – in contrast with what has come to be in the past couple of years.
     Peters said he invited interested Democrats to reestablish the Levy County DEC, and although he is not going to chair the committee, he and his wife (“his better half”) Stacey Peters will work on the sidelines of support.
     The new bylaws are not yet written for the group. There are plenty of openings for leadership in the Levy County DEC, nonetheless. With 13 precincts, there can be 26 people serving as precinct captains. That would be one male and one female in each voting precinct of the county.
     The minimal number of officers would be four – chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer.

     Alma R. Gonzalez, Esq., of Tampa was the keynote speaker in Levy County on Saturday. Gonzalez is one of nine members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from Florida. In addition to the nine Florida DNC members, the Florida officers of the DNC are Chair Terry Rizzo, Vice Chair Judy Mount, Secretary Casmore A. Shaw and Treasurer Francesca Menes.
     Gonzalez shared her background as well as what individuals would need to do for the Levy County DEC to thrive again.
     She opened her presentation by thanking the many people who chose to give of their time on Saturday to work toward the reestablishment of the Levy County DEC. She especially thanked the Peters and Robertsons for hosting the event.
     The keynote speaker shared insight about herself with the crowd, because she wanted them to know who was speaking with them.
     Gonzalez was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. Her parents were migrant farmworkers, where her father worked on a Christmas tree farm and her mother worked on a mink ranch (or farm).
     When she was 3 years old, the family moved to where her grandparents lived on the southern tip of Texas, about a half-hour trip north of the border with Mexico. She graduated high school in that Texas town, which is a “sundown town.”
     A “sundown town” is a place where people who are not white, Gonzalez explained, “… when the sun goes down, you better be on your side of town. And if you’re not on your side of town, you’re subject to arrest.”
     As recently as 2006, there were small Texas municipalities that were infamous for racism, as noted by a national TV network that used the phrase “sundown town.” And these places existed in other states in addition to Texas.
     Gonzalez mentioned that she had lived in a place where segregation existed even after “Brown versus Board of Education.”
     In the 1954 case of Brown versus (Topeka, Kansas) Board of Education, the majority of the United States Supreme Court Justices ruled that the Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) case where the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled previously that “separate but equal” was an accepted practice, was not fair.
     Plessy v. Ferguson was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. It upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality – a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal."
     That 1896 case legitimized state laws reestablishing racial segregation, which had been passed in the American South after the end of the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877).
     In Brown v. Board of Education, the start of school integration began.
     Gonzalez’s high school graduating class in 1976 in Texas was the first to be integrated there, she said. This reflects how reticent that part of the United States was in regard to integration, she said.
     To have an equal opportunity in this country, Gonzalez said her parents knew, required a good education. Her parents “fought with a passion to educate themselves, and to educate their children,” Gonzalez said.
     Her parents as migrant farm workers did not have easy access to a quality education, she said. Her mother crossed the river from Mexico to the United States as an immigrant. Her mother became a United States citizen when her mother was 21 years old, Gonzalez said.
     Her mother crossed the river with her family with only the clothes on their backs. Her mother had no shoes, slept in the dirt, up until Gonzalez’s maternal grandmother became a maid at a Texas ranch, and they lived in a small cottage on the property.
     The woman who owned the house taught her mother English. Gonzalez spoke only Spanish until she was 7 years old.
     Gonzalez said she feels blessed by God to have been awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She earned her undergraduate degree, her master’s degree and completed her first year of law school at UW in Madison.
     She completed her second year of law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She completed her third year of law school at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She lived in Tallahassee for 35 years.
     Gonzalez is the only Hispanic female elected to the DNC in Florida. Gonzalez is the only Hispanic female ever elected as the treasurer for the DNC in Florida.
     “That tells you how far we have come,” she said, “and how much farther we have to go.”
     Gonzalez is now in her third term on the DNC.
     She reminded people of her age group that during the Vietnam War (Nov. 1, 1955-April 30, 1975), there was a time when 18-year-old American men could be drafted and they could die for American freedom, but it was not until June 22, 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when the voting age became 18 in all federal, state and local elections.
     Her cousins were among the young Americans petitioning to give 18-year-olds the right to vote. As an 8-year-old, she said, she would join them when they knocked on doors and told people “We will be responsible voters. We promise.”
     Gonzalez also reminded listeners that during part of the Vietnam War, at the end of his news program, broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite would run the names of American soldiers killed in action in Vietnam.
     Gonzalez said now is the time for Democrats to stand up.
     “It’s not enough to be angry,” she said. “It’s not enough to be disappointed. My mother used to say, ‘Feel the feeling and move on.’”
     She said the people must take action and do something. Seeing the turnout in Levy County on Saturday, Gonzalez said, was inspirational to her, because the people see they don’t have a DEC and they see that they need this organization.
     The whole DNC is led by DNC Chair Tom Perez. He is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. He grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service and perseverance.
     Gonzalez said that Perez told the Florida delegates that no longer is the Democratic Party only going to focus on urban counties, but it will equally involve rural counties.
     “We will leave no Zip Code behind,” she said.
     The core of America, she said, is rural America. As part of her duties when she worked in the Florida Association of Counties, Gonzalez visited all 67 counties.
     Small counties are the most productive of things that Florida has to offer the world, Gonzalez said, not just the rest of the state or to the other states—but to the entire planet.
     Gonzalez said she drove two and a half hours to share this message with the people of Levy County. She grew up in rural Wisconsin and rural Texas, she said, so she has no fear of driving on an unpaved country road – such as the one leading to the Robertsons’ house.
     “I’m impressed that you guys have street signs,” she said. “Where I grew up, it was like you go to the oak tree – not that oak tree, but the one with the mesquite by it. That’s the one where you turn left.”
     Perez also told the other DNC leaders like Gonzalez that local issues matter. The national platform is important, however the local issues are critical elements of Democrats where they live. Issues related to local education, the local environment and the local economy are important to address.
     The DNC also shared a message of increased action.

     “He (Perez) said ‘We have to resist. We must be resistant,’” Gonzalez told the Levy County Democrats. “We are so wonderful as Democrats, particularly those of use who grew up in a pragmatic community. Okay. You can’t be super partisan, because you sit in a church next to a person who is all the way farther to the right than you. And I don’t mean just on the pew.”
     Pragmatic means “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.”
     For instance, a pragmatic approach to politics could mean that rather than risking hurting a person’s feeling, an individual may not express his or her actual opinion about certain matters.
     Conducting business with people of a different party affiliation and living in neighborhoods where they have a different party affiliation is something Democrats do.
     Perez told the DNC leaders that Democrats must resist the temptation to always be nice, Gonzalez said.
      “It doesn’t mean we have to be mean,” she explained. “It means we have to resist the temptation to always bite our tongues, and being so pragmatic that we don’t tell people the truth.”
     For instance, she continued, people must share the truth that “hatred is imbuing itself into our vernacular.” Division and racism are alive and well in America, she said.
     “If we don’t stand up and say, ‘I don’t believe in that! I don’t agree with that!’,” Gonzalez said, continuing, “If millions of women don’t descend on Washington, D.C. and march on our Capitol and say ‘This is my body, and I will decide what I will do with it! I may be in consultation with my doctor or my pastor, but that’s up to me.’       
     “If we don’t do that,” she said, “then we are doing a disservice to our country – what being an American means is that people of a like mind come together and decide what our vision is and what we’re going to do.”
     Gonzalez reminded listeners that the United States of America was founded on this proposition.
     Perez said what will Democrats do when people ask them “What are you going to do about someone who is feeding my child hate every day?”
     This is a moment in America, she said, where the people are very divided.
     She said the people of the country are in the middle of a type of civil war, where the people are not dying on the battlefields.
     “But when 10,000 votes separate the winner and loser in a United States Senate race {Rick Scott (R) over Bill Nelson (D)}; 30,000 votes separate the winner and the loser in a gubernatorial race (Ron DeSantis (R) over that Andrew Gillum(D)}… When 5,000 votes separate the winner and the loser in the race for our agricultural commissioner {Nikki Fried (D) over Matt Caldwell (R)}, we have to face the facts folks. We are in the middle of a civil war.”
     Gonzalez said Democrats must have the courage to stand up and say “I am a Democrat and this is what I believe – That this country is better than the voice that is being heard around the world.”
     She said the people of Levy County can create a DEC so that they will have a voice that will be heard.
    Gonzalez reminds Democrats that the most powerful voice is love. She said don’t succumb to hatred, anger and fear.
     She also provided some initial advice about starting to seek candidates who are Democrats to run for offices in 2020.~




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107th Jingle Singer

Lory Larochelle, 20, sang the jingle on Dec. 10 in a hospital room on the seventh floor of North Florida Regional Medical Center. Jeff M. Hardison was being released from the hospital after surgery on his wrist, and a two-night stay. She had come to the room as a volunteer who helped patients. She asked if the patient wanted to try a word puzzle or to try a Sudokuma math puzzle. Instead, she wound up singing the jingle. If you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
Published Dec 12, 2018 at 9:48 a.m.
© Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved

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