Region sees job growth,
more needed to address
‘tightness’ of labor market

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published March 22, 2019 at 3:09 p.m.
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 4.4 percent in February, 0.6 percentage point lower than January’s rate and 0.4 percentage point lower than the region’s year ago rate.



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CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion

     According to the preliminary employment summary released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 8,964 unemployed in the region, 1,130 fewer than the previous month and 609 less than in February 2018.
     In addition to the drop in the jobless rate, along with fewer unemployed, the region’s labor force expanded by 870 over the month to 201,928, an increase of 2,146 compared to a year ago when the jobless rate was 4.8 percent. Also, there were 192,964 employed in February, an increase of 2,000 over the month and 2,755 more than February 2018. 
     Rusty Skinner, CareerSource CLM’s CEO, said that employment grew faster than the labor force, resulting in reductions of the number and percentage of those unemployed.
The report, he said, shows “positive employment growth over last month and, looking over the past year, a more stable indicator, offers a positive yearly movement.”
Skinner noted, however, that while the expanding labor force is “favorable” and growth remains positive, it is “still insufficient to meet all the needs of employers, resulting in employer concerns about the “tightness” of the labor market.”
     Levy County continued to hold the lowest unemployment rate at 4.0, down 0.5 percentage point over the month, but the same rate as February 2018. Marion County’s rate was 4.2 percent, a drop of 0.8 percentage point over the month and down 0.4 percentage point percent over the year. Citrus County’s rate dropped 0.6 percentage point to 5.3 percent, down from 5.6 percent in February 2018.
     Florida’s not seasonally adjusted rate – a rate that matches how the region’s numbers are measured – was 3.4 percent in February, down 0.5 percentage point over the month and 0.4 percentage point less than February 2018. The state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 3.5 percent, down 0.1 percentage point over the month and 0.4 percentage point less than a year ago.
Here’s how each county compares to the January 2019 employment numbers:
· Citrus County’s labor force grew by 411 to 48,020, the number of employed increased by 711 to 45,497 and the number of unemployed fell by 300 to 2,523. Over the year, the labor force has grown by 386, the number of employed rose by 529 and the unemployed dropped by 142. 

     · Levy County’s labor force increased by 119 to 17,141, the number of those with jobs increased by 195 to 16,450 and the number of jobless fell by 76 to 691. Compared to February 2018, the labor force expanded by 140, the number of employed rose by 91 and the number of jobless has fallen by 10.
     · Marion County’s labor force expanded by 340 to 136,767, the number of those with jobs rose by 1,094 to 131,017 and the number of unemployed decreased by 754 to 5,750. Over the year, the labor force has grown by 1,659, the number of employed has increased by 2,135 and the number of unemployed has dropped by 476.
     Among Florida’s 67 counties, Citrus County held the second highest unemployment rate behind Gulf County, Marion County held at 14th highest and Levy County tied with Dixie, Flagler and Liberty counties with the 18tht highest rate.
     The Homosassa Springs metropolitan statistical area, which includes all of Citrus County, posted the highest unemployment rate among Florida’s 24 metros and the Ocala MSA continued to hold the fifth highest rate.
     Nonfarm employment for the Ocala MSA was 106,400, an increase 2,300 jobs (+2.2 percent) over the year.
Industries that grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year were: mining, logging and construction, with 600 new jobs (+7.9 percent job growth); professional and business services, 500 new jobs (+5.4 percent); manufacturing, 400 new jobs (+4.8 percent; and government, with 200 new jobs (+1.3 percent).
     Other industries gaining jobs over the year were education and health services, which added 400 new jobs (+2.1 percent); trade, transportation and utilities, 200 new jobs (+0.8 percent); and leisure and hospitality with100 new jobs (+0.8 percent).
     Financial activities and other services were unchanged and information lost 100 jobs over the year.
     In February 2019, nonagricultural employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 33,900 an increase of 600 jobs over the year for a 1.8 percent growth rate.
     The region’s preliminary job numbers for March is scheduled to be released on Friday, April 19.

Garden Patch Café
fills void left
by closing of Herry’s

Garden Patch Cafe Chiefland Florida
Standing ready to serve on Monday afternoon (March 18) are (from left) Katie Hinson, Wendy Woods, Joy Ahlstrom and Lori Roberts. (Not picture is Tina Nutter). Monday was the official first day – Grand Opening, with a ‘soft opening’ that was on Friday (March 15).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 19, 2019 at
With the closure of the thrift store and other aspects of Hospice of Citrus and the Nature Coast, there was in Chiefland, another loss -- Herry’s Café.

Garden Patch Cafe Cheifland Florida

The Garden Patch Cafe sign is above the location. It shows the telephone number as well.

     Herry’s Café was a fundraiser for that now-defunct hospice.
     Wendy Woods revived those delicious breakfasts, soups, salads and sandwiches, which many diners came to know and love when they would visit Herry's.
     And her eatery – the Garden Patch Café – has snacks and desserts as well.
     Located at 116 Rodgers Blvd. (in the Save-A-Lot plaza across U.S. Highway 19 from Chiefland High School), the Garden Patch Café is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and it is open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
     Garden Patch Café is closed on Sundays.
     There are tables and chairs similar to the former small café that used to be located essentially across the street from the plaza with Dr. Bill Martin, the orthodontist, and Palms Medical Group in beautiful downtown Chiefland.
     The Garden Patch Café also has two conference rooms with seats for six and seats for eight respectively. These can be used by first-come, first-serve – unless they are reserved in advance.
     The Save-A-Lot plaza might be considered beautiful midtown Chiefland.
     The menu includes breakfast sandwiches, a breakfast burrito, bagels, croissants and more. Patrons can have choices of breads, meats and cheeses.
     The best method to discover the finer points, there, is to visit.
     There is a whole garden salad, a half garden salad, a stuffed tomato, a soup of the day and more.
     In regard to sandwiches, the diner can order their choice of breads and cheeses, and get the sandwiches cold, toasted or pressed.
     The sandwiches include the Garden Patch BLT, Garden Patch Reuben, the Garden Patch Italian Sub, the Garden Patch Club, Ham or Turkey sandwiches, the Garden Patch Cuban, and a chicken sandwich and a chicken wrap.
     Snacks and desserts include pasta salad, potato salad, a bag of chips, pudding cup, muffins (banana, blueberry, chocolate) a cinnamon roll and pies.
     After 2 p.m., there are banana splits, ice cream and milk shakes (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla).
     Woods said that when Herry’s closed she heard the call for a replacement. She hired the same crew of great workers, with one addition.
     Joining Woods are Joy Ahlstrom, Lori Roberts, Katie Hinson and Tina Nutter. They are the Garden Patch Café team. Hinson is the only worker who was not at Herry’s.


What Should You Do
With An Inheritance?

Published March 18, 2019 at 2:09 p.m.
     NEWBERRY --
If you were to receive a sizable inheritance, what should you do with it?
     This money could help you achieve some of your important financial goals – so you’ll want to think carefully about your choices.
     Of course, everyone’s needs are different, so there’s no one “right” way to handle a large lump sum. But here are a few suggestions that may be useful:
     • Pay off some debts. Depending on the size of your inheritance, you may want to consider paying off some, if not all, of your debts, such as car loans, personal loans and student loans. You might even consider paying off your mortgage, but you may not want to, as you might be able to get a better return on your money by investing it. Also, if all your money is tied up in a house, you’ll typically have less liquidity than you would get from your investments.
     • Contribute more to your retirement accounts. You may now be able to afford to contribute more to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, as well as to your IRA. These accounts offer tax benefits plus an array of investment choices, so they are excellent ways to build resources for retirement.
     • Save for college. If you have children, or grandchildren, whom you would like to someday send to college, you might want to put some of your inheritance into a college savings vehicle, such as a 529 plan, which provides tax benefits and gives you great flexibility in distributing the money. 
     • Build an emergency fund. If you haven’t already built an emergency fund containing six to 12 months’ worth of living expenses, you may be able to do so now, using part of your inheritance. Keep the money in a liquid, low-risk account, so that it’s readily available to pay for unexpected costs. Without such a fund, you might be forced to tap into your long-term investments.
     Above all else, you may want to get some help. If you don't already have one, a financial professional can recommend ways of using the money to help you meet your goals. For one thing, you could further diversify your investments, which is important, because diversification can help reduce the effects of market volatility on your portfolio. (Keep in mind, though, that diversification can’t prevent all losses or guarantee profits.)
     And a financial professional can help you determine how much your plans could change due to the inheritance. To name just one possibility, you might be able to move up your retirement date. If so, you’d need to adjust many aspects of your financial strategy, such as when to take Social Security, how much to withdraw each year from your retirement accounts, and so on. 
     You’ll also need to consult with your tax advisor, because some inherited assets, such as an IRA, could have tax implications.
     Your loved ones worked hard, and probably invested for many years, to leave a legacy for you. So, to honor their memory, do whatever you can to handle your inheritance wisely.
    PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.

Chiefland Post Office Cuts The Ribbon
The United States Post Office at Chiefland joined the local Chamber of Commerce recently and a ribbon-cutting was held in front of the entrance to the Post Office on Tuesday afternoon (March 12) to recognize that action.

USPS Chiefland Florida

In this still picture and in the video Postmaster Tammy Gomez cuts the ribbon, and standing beside her from the USPS are Cedar Key Postmaster Jason Knott, Chiefland, Chiefland Lead Clerk Marrisa Motta and Clerk Marybeth Cento, and from the Chamber, Lewrissa Mainwaring, Joy Parker, Ben Lott, Krystle Skelly of the College of Central Florida and others.

Cedar Key and Chieland Postmasters
Here, Chiefland Postmaster Tammy Gomez and Cedar Key Postmaster Jason Knott are seen. Gomez, who has been the postmaster in Chiefland for 16 months has been an employee of the United States Postal Service for 26 years. She told visitors from the Chamber about the various routes in the city, where seven USPS carriers deliver the mail to residences and businesses. Postmaster Gomez also explained how mail is sorted and distributed to boxes within the Post Office.

Tostitos Scoops, a delicious homemade chicken dip created by Chiefland Postmaster Tammy Gomez and several pasties, as well as drinks, were offered to Chamber guests after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Photos and Video by Jeff M. Hardison © March 15, 2019 at 3:09 p.m.

All Copyrights Reserved


Inaugural State of Workforce
conference to help
region’s business interests
to cultivate talent pipeline

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published March 14, 2019 at 11:09 p.m.
     OCALA –
Registration is now open for CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion’s 2019 State of Workforce Conference: Cultivating Your 21st Century Workforce.
     The State of Workforce conference takes place April 18 from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Hilton Ocala, 3600 SW 36th Ave., in Ocala. Bringing together businesses, community and public partners, education leaders and HR professionals, the conference will provide tips and insights into the current and future state of the region’s workforce from the ones who know it best. Additionally, the inaugural Bridging the Gap awards will be presented to area businesses that have gone above and beyond to enhance the workforce.
     Tickets are $25, which includes breakfast and lunch, and are available at The registration deadline is April 12.
     Cultivating will cover:
     ● The skills gap in today’s workforce and how collaboration is working to bridge the gaps
     ● Ongoing efforts in the region’s public schools and postsecondary institutions to meet workforce needs
     ● Understanding and leveraging the next generation of workers
     ● Florida’s future and building a stronger, brighter pathway for the future workforce
     Speakers and panelists joining the conference are:  Michelle Dennard, president and CEO of CareerSource Florida; Josh Davies, CEO of The Center for Work Ethic Development; Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness; Isabel Nieto, PMP, Workforce Developmental Consultant at Duke Energy Corporation; and Megan Richardson, PHR, SHRM-CP, vice president of Consulting at Dynamic Corporate Solutions, Inc.
     Nieto will also lead a panel discussion featuring Dr. Jim Henningsen, president and CEO of the College of Central Florida; and school superintendents Sandra “Sam” Himmel (Citrus County), Jeffery Edison (Levy County) and Dr. Heidi Maier (Marion County).
     “We know many of our local businesses face tough and complex challenges in cultivating their talent pipeline to meet emerging and future needs,” said Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM. “Our focus is on working together to ensure that pipeline grows and reaps a rich harvest.”
     Cultivating’s presenting sponsors are Benefit Advisors and the Ocala/Marion County Chamber & Economic Partnership.
     As the region’s recognized workforce leader and part of the unified CareerSource Florida workforce system, CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion collaborates with local economic development, education and community partners to develop world-class education/training and employment services to meet regional workforce needs.

WHS sells for $1.25 million
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 14, 2019 at 3:09 p.m.
The old Williston High School campus and buildings sold for $1.25 million, according to School Board members and the Realtor who closed the deal.
     School Board members Chris Cowart and Paige Brookins both said they are happy to see the property returning to the realm of taxable assets in Levy County.
     School Board Member Brad Etheridge and School Superintendent Jeff Edison were unable to be reached Thursday morning.
     Cookie King, the Realtor who sold the property for the School Board, said she is happy to see the sale completed. Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Lott said the sale price had ranged from $1.7 million to the closing price at $1.25.
     BluRock Commercial Real Estate of Orlando is the buyer. This company is NOT affiliated with Bluerock Real Estate L.L.C., which is a national, New York-based real estate company. Some gossipers on social media have made the mistake of confusing Orlando with New York City.
     King said she believes the developer will be using the property for retail sales. When the property is developed, she added, this will add to the local economy by providing jobs at the stores.
     An attempt for a comment from BluRock Commercial in regard to the purchase brought no response Thursday morning (March 14).
     As for the sale of the old Williston Middle School, which became vacated like the old WHS when Williston Middle High School became active, School Board Member Cowart was able to provide some insight.
     Cowart sits on the Levy County School Foundation (LCSF) Board.
     The School Board essentially donated the Williston Middle School (WMS) property to the LCSO. Cowart said school district. staff considered three proposals from interests in the WMS property.
     Offers from the Williston Ministerial Faith Alliance, the Levy County Prevention Coalition and the LCSF were reviewed, Cowart said. The School Board, with Cowart and former School Board Rick Turner abstaining, voted to accept the LCSF offer.
     The current list price for the WMS property, lock, stock and barrel, is $750,000, Cowart said, and Cookie King is the Realtor who is able to close that deal on behalf of the LCSF.

Investiture set for March 22
for Judge Gloria R. Walker

Judge Gloria Walker
Circuit Court Judge Gloria R. Walker

Photo Provided
By Christy Cain
Communications Coordinator
Eighth Judicial Circuit, Court Administration
Published March 13, 2019 at 2:49 p.m.
The Honorable Gloria R. Walker was elected to the Eighth Circuit bench for a full term in November of 2018, and sworn in on Jan. 8.
     Her investiture is Friday, March 22, at 3 p.m. in Courtroom 1B of the Alachua County Criminal Justice Center.
     Judge Walker began her career as a legal services attorney at Three Rivers Legal Services Inc in 2003.
     Judge Walker is currently assigned to Alachua County Family Division, Baker County Circuit Civil, Probate, Extraordinary Writs, Mental Health, Family, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Dependency, and Juvenile Delinquency.

Dixie Music Center set to close
Dotti and Bob Leichner at Dixie Music Center 2019
Dotti and Bob Leichner are seen at the Dixie Music Center in Old Town recently. The couple has served the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties for 27-plus years, providing a retail outlet for musical instruments, equipment, supplies and music lessons, as well as offering a great site for concerts galore. Bob is holding one the final few instruments available there for purchase. A couple of Dotti's amazing works of fine art are behind them on the wall.

Photo by Jeff M. Hardison © March 12, 2019 at 2:29 p.m.

By Bob Leichner
Published March 12, 2019 at 2:29 p.m.
     OLD TOWN --
After serving the Tri-County Area for 27-plus years, the Old Town business named Dixie Music Center will be closing its doors.
     Bob and Dotti Leichner, a couple of specialty retailers, have operated this particular full-line music products store and School of Music since they opened their business in October of 1991.
     The store is located in the Dixie Realty Square, across U.S. Highway 19 from the weigh station in Old Town.
     They opened the store with one 480-square-feet unit, but the couple found they had to expand immediately in 1992. Expansion was demanded of these entrpreuers, again five years later, and yet again in 1999 -- to eventually include in excess of 2,000 square feet in the store.
     Due to changing market trends within their industry, and the evolving continual change in the dynamics of general retail trade, the store reverted in 2017 to the three-unit model they operated from 1997 through 1999.
     At one point, mainly during the early- to mid-2000s, this small-town business was displaying more than 200 guitars, basses, pedal steels, mandolins, banjos, resonators, violins, and dulcimers.
     Travelers passing through the area were often amazed that such a small community had such a well-stocked full-line music store. Dixie Music Center carried a wide range of professional audio sound reinforcement equipment, and Bob did a lot of installation and sales for many area churches, schools, hotels -- and even a recent installation at the Cross City Airport, which will be noticed during the Dixie County Chamber of Commerce Expo and Fly-In scheduled for April 27.       
     Instructors with the Dixie Music Center’s School of Music have taught multiple generations in the same families and hundreds of students of all ages.
     Area-known performer, composer/vocalist/guitarist Jamey King, got his start at DMC when he was a teenager, as did internationally renowned award-winning country music artist, Easton Corbin.
     The school's instructors offered lessons on guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, slide guitar, piano, keyboard, violin, and voice and drums at one time.
     It is a bittersweet decision that Bob and Dotti are closing their retail operation. One option was to possibly cut back on store hours, mainly to accommodate Dotti's newly-formed enterprise, Dottiwood Designs, but that activity requires substantial weekend commitments.
     And even if store hours could be cut, expenses would not.
    "Due to primary supplier dealer obligations and needed savings expenses from some utilities requiring year-long commitments, this was a good time to exit our store presence. Otherwise we'd probably need to wait another year", said proprietor Bob Leichner. "I have also considered entering a new profession, for me, as a school teacher; I've been in the music products industry since 1971. Teaching would make it an impracticality for me to try to operate DMC at the same time. I earned my BA from USF a couple of years ago with a major in history. So, I'd kind of like to earn back the $15K tuition I spent at that school."
     While the retail store in Old Town will be closed, Bob still plans on handling institutional sales, service and installations with schools, churches and such.
     "I won't need a brick-and-mortar shop to handle a school purchase order or a mixer install at a church,"Bob said.
     There also seems to be a big demand for instrument and amp service and repairs, which Bob has done for so many customers over the years. So, they do plan on trying to accommodate as best they can once they are out of the building.
     While the store's last "official" open day was last Saturday (March 9), they will be in and out for most of the week of March 10-16 (mainly, in). But inventory is rapidly decreasing.
     In addition to the store and music school, DMC is also renowned for the many free concerts they have hosted on the nicely-wooded acreage they own, which is adjacent to the store.
     There have been 18 Anniversary Shows held in October starting in 2001, when they bought that property. Nearly 100 groups or solo artists, from throughout the state, have performed at these shows.
     Among those performers were two members of the legendary British blues-based band, Ten Years After. That band was a huge hit at the fabled Woodstock Festival of 1969.
     Ten Years After enjoyed considerable radio airplay throughout the 1970s. Dozens of area performers also have graced the stage for the DMC Christmas Concerts. The store would always use the Christmas shows as a non-perishable food collection drive, which they donated to Tri-County Outreach of Chiefland.
     Dozens of videos of past shows -- both Anniversary and Christmas -- can be found on youtube at karenpowers1.
     DMC also started the Pee Wee Melton Memorial Scholarship, in memory of one of their very first guitar instructors. Pee Wee is the instructor that gave Easton Corbin and Jamey Michael King their starts back when they were teens.
     The scholarship is awarded to a graduating Dixie County student for their further study. The primary source for funding has been sale of raffle tickets for celebrity-autographed guitars. To date, they have offered guitars signed by Easton Corbin, Josh Turner, and Luke Bryan.
     Another contribution the store has made to the community is their involvement with the Florida Department of Transportation's (DOT) Adopt-A-Highway Program.
     Since 2009, they have signed up every participating group that has “adopted” a section of highway in Dixie County, besides the store's own section. DMC has stored all of the necessary supplies and equipment for use by all of the groups, saving them a trip to the DOT office in Chiefland. Bob would then process all the paperwork for the groups, saving them more time and trouble.
     The store's closure will leave a void of any vendor of music products from Gainesville to Tallahassee, and from Crystal River to Live Oak. For any information, the store can be reached (for now) at 352 542-3001 or DMC is located at 26626 S.E. U.S. Highway 19 in Old Town.

January’s jobless rate up
over the month;
Long view shows
steady, ‘stable growth’

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published March 11, 2019 at 4:09 p.m.
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 5.0 percent in January 2019, up 0.9 percentage point over the month and 0.2 percentage point lower than the region’s rate a year ago.
     According to the preliminary employment summary released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 10,088 unemployed residents in the region, up from 8,301 in December 2018 and 251 fewer than January 2018.
     The labor force was 201,029, an increase of 859 over the month and an increase of 3,175 compared to January 2018 when the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent. There were 190,941 employed in January, a drop of 928 compared to December 2018, but an increase of 3,428 over the year.
     Unemployment rates dropped over the year by 0.2 percentage point in Citrus and Marion counties and remained unchanged in Levy County.
     Over the month, Levy County had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.5 percent, followed by Marion County at 4.8 percent and Citrus County at 5.9 percent
     Rusty Skinner, CareerSource CLM’s CEO, noted that the report is the first after DEO’s annual benchmarking process when data collection is refined for statistical issues.
      “(Because of that), it is important to review the January labor market information in terms of its relationship to that of a year ago,” Skinner said, adding that “in that respect, the report shows positive data.” 
     When looking at it over the year, Skinner said the labor force has grown in all three counties, approximately 2,800 in Marion County and 200 each in Citrus and Levy counties
     Similarly, he said, the ranks of the employed grew by nearly 3,000 in Marion County and by 242 in Citrus County and 200 in Levy County.
      “Overall, this report continues to show the stable growth for which our three counties are known,” Skinner said.
     Here’s how each county compares to the December 2018 employment numbers:
     ● Citrus County’s labor force fell by 108 to 47,456, the number of employed dropped by 579 to 44,634 and the number of unemployed rose by 471 to 2,822. However, over the year, when the county’s jobless rate 6.1 percent, the labor force has expanded by 177, the number of employed increased by 242 and the number of unemployed is virtually unchanged, dropping by 67 to 2,822.
     ● Levy County’s labor force increased by 151 to 17,009, the number of those with jobs remained nearly unchanged, dropping by 4, and the number of unemployed increased by 155 to 766. Compared to January 2018, when the unemployment rate was also 4.5 percent, the labor force expanded by 211, the number of employed rose by 199 and the number of jobless fell slightly by 12.
     ● Marion County’s labor force expanded by 816 to 136,564, the number of those with jobs fell by 345 to 130,064 and the number of unemployed increased by 1,161 to 6,500. Compared to January 2018, when the jobless rate was 5.0 percent, the labor force has grown by 2,789, the number of employed has increased by 2,985 while the number of jobless has dropped by 196.
     The Citrus, Levy, Marion counties’ region is not alone in terms of its over-the-month unemployment rate increase, experienced in 23 of 24 regions – one region’s rate was unchanged. The jobless rate also rose over the month in all but one of Florida’s 67 counties.
     Compared to January 2018, the rate fell in 21 regions other than CareerSource CLM’s, rose in two and remained the same in one. Looking at it county-by-county,  jobless rates increased in five counties, remained unchanged in six and fell in 56 an average of 2.5 percent.
     Florida’s not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate – a measure that matches how the region’s monthly rate is determined – was 3.9 percent, an increase of 0.3 percentage point over the month and a 0.2 percentage point drop over the year. The state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 3.4 percent, 0.1 percentage point lower than December 2018 and a decrease of 0.5 percent compared to January 2018.
     Citrus County held the third highest rate among Florida’s counties, Marion had the 14th highest and Levy tied with Flagler and Liberty counties with the 21st highest rate.
     The Homosassa Springs MSA, which includes all of Citrus County, posted the second highest unemployment rate among Florida’s 24 metropolitan statistical areas and the Ocala MSA continued to hold the fifth highest rate.
     Nonfarm employment for the Ocala MSA was 105,800, a drop of 1,500 jobs since the last report, but an increase of 2,700 jobs (+2.6 percent) over the year.
     Industries that grew as fast or faster in the metro area than statewide over the year were: mining, logging and construction, with 800 new jobs (+10.8 percent job growth); professional and business services, 700 new jobs (+7.9 percent); manufacturing, 300 new jobs (+3.6 percent); trade, transportation and utilities, 400 new jobs (+1.7 percent); and government, with 200 new jobs (+1.3 percent).
     Education and health services added 500 new jobs over the year, for a 2.7 percent job growth rate.
     Financial and leisure and hospitality industries were unchanged over the year. The information and other services industries each lost 100 jobs compared to January 2018.
     In January 2019, nonagricultural employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 33,300, down 700 jobs over the December 2018 report and an increase of 200 jobs (0.6 percent job growth) compared to January 2018.
     The region’s preliminary job numbers for February is scheduled to be released on Friday, March 22.


* Updated With Amazing Video
Of Four Saxophone Players

14th Annual Dixie County
Education-Business Partnership
Luncheon highlights progress

Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas (left) welcomes guest speaker Frank ‘Bump’ Faircloth of Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings to the 14th Annual Dixie County Education-Business Partnership Luncheon.

Story, Photos and Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 9, 2019 at 11:19 a.m.
* Updated With Video At Bottom, March 10, 2019 at 9:39 a.m.
     OLD TOWN –
The 14th Annual Dixie County Education-Business Partnership Luncheon highlighted accomplishments by individuals Friday afternoon (March 8) at the Dixie County School Board meeting facility in Old Town.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Dixie County School Board Chairman Tim Alexander welcomes everyone to the event.

     Dixie County School Board Chairman Tim Alexander welcomed everyone to the event and he thanked them for taking part of their day to participate in the recognition of the business community partnering with education in Dixie County. During this event, outstanding staff and teachers were recognized. The keynote speaker told some about the process of $1 million being given to help the youth of Dixie County. And a quartet of saxophone players performed, as well as many people enjoying a barbecue chicken lunch -- and it all happened within one hour.
     Chairman Alexander thanked the business partners not just for this school year, but for every year when they have helped the Dixie County School System. The funding, as well as the input from business leaders to School Board members are what helps this county’s students gain the knowledge to succeed in their work endeavors after high school, as well as to have a foundation in education before they enter college.
     Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas expanded on these thoughts, adding that the goal of this district is for every student to enjoy success.
     The major impact of positive input and funding from business is greatly appreciated, Thomas intimated.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas stands with the 2018-2019 Dixie County Superintendent’s Council. They are Breanna Berry, Taryn Brown, Elicia Carter, Derrick Charboneau, Kenlee Stinson, Tyler Sutton, Jeremy Bright, Chase Johnson, Amie Jones, Unique Lake, Easton Locke and Austin Roberts. Members of this council are selected by teachers, administrators and students to provide the superintendent with a source of input from the students.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Pausing for a momentary photo opportunity before they started serving food are five of the six seniors in the Dixie County Superintendent’s Council (from left) Elicia Carter, Breanna Berry, Kenlee Stinson, Taryn Brown and Derrick Charboneau.


     Thomas introduced the hosts, which include himself, Chairman Alexander, Vice Chairman Paul N. Gainey, and School Board members Crystal Bush, Lacey Corbin and Chuck Farmer. The lunch was sponsored by the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition.
     Special guests were introduced by Superintendent Thomas. They were Frank ‘Bump’ Faircloth of Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. and a quartet of saxophone players Malachi Brown, William Malloy, Riggs Ross and Brandon Bird.
     Malloy is the Dixie County High School Band Director. He told after the luncheon, that this year he has been having small ensembles of brass instruments, and saxophone players practicing separate from the whole band, and then working with the whole band.
     During part of his introduction, Superintendent Thomas spoke about the Dixie County Education Foundation. It started 21 years ago with $10,000.
     For graduating seniors last year, the Foundation provided in excess of $170,000 in scholarships, Thomas said.
     The officers and board members of the Foundation are President Kathryn McInnis, Vice President Briar O’Steen, Secretary Charlotte Lord, Treasurer Christina Barber and board members Carol West, Michael O’Steen, Cindy Bellot, Jody Stephenson, Jane Boyd, Jessica Swails, Jean Driggers, Jaime NesSmith, Willmonteen Smith, Holly Houghton, John Cherry, Lee Daniels, Kenneth Baumer, Bobbie Lamar, Sammy Royal, Kenneth Baumer and George Edmonds.
     Superintendent Thomas recognized Dixie County elected officials who were present, retired educators who were present, district department directors, and the principals of all the schools.
     The 2018-2019 Dixie County Superintendent’s Council were all recognized. There are six seniors and six juniors in this group.
     The six seniors are Breanna Berry, Taryn Brown, Elicia Carter, Derrick Charboneau, Kenlee Stinson and Tyler Sutton. The six juniors are Jeremy Bright, Chase Johnson, Amie Jones, Unique Lake, Easton Locke and Austin Roberts.
     The Rev. Mike Brown of First Baptist Church provided the invocation and blessing of the meal.
     The 12 students who are members of the Superintendent’s Council served the lunch of barbecue dinners and tea, which were catered by BubbaQue’s. Meals were served buffet style as individuals went in line, similar to the manner in which students are provided their meals in schools.
     The Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from each school were named by Superintendent of Schools Thomas and he asked each person to stand when introduced.
     Billie Jo Beckham was the 2018-2019 Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from Anderson Elementary School. Beckham was also the 2018-2019 Dixie Countywide School District Educational Staff Professionals of the Year.
     Beckham has worked as the school secretary there for two and a half years now, Thomas said. She has served as a substitute teacher for 10 years and has been an ESE paraprofessional for three years.
     Lisa Buck was the 2018-2019 Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from Old Town Elementary School.
     Buck started as a substitute at OTES in 1991, Thomas said. She became a paraprofessional in 2013.
     Macaele Wood was the 2018-2019 Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from Ruth Raines Middle School.
     Wood “… has provided exemplary service to the students and the staff at Ruth Raines Middle School for over 21 years,” Thomas said.  The superintendent said she brings joy to the school every day.
     Shannon Free was the 2018-2019 Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from Dixie County High School.
     Free has been the friendly face greeting people at the old DCHS and now the new DCHS for the past five years, Thomas said. She exemplified the positive culture and climate at DCHS, he said.
     Denice Stroup was the 2018-2019 Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from the Transportation Department.
     Stroup has been driving a school bus for the school district since 2003, Thomas said. She goes over and beyond her duties to assure student safety on the bus, Thomas said. She knows every student and their parents. She has also served as a driver trainer.
    Jennie VanElla was the 2018-2019 Educational Staff Professionals of the Year from the District Office.
     VanElla worked in the district for four years driving a bus, and the past six years in support services, Thomas said. She is a hardworking, focused employee who work consistently is of high quality, Thomas said.
     The Dixie County Teachers of the Year were each introduced by students from their schools. All of the learners from grade 1 through grade 12 were well spoken. For a first grader to stand on a platform to be able to reach the microphone on a podium, and to provide a speech in front of a room filled with principals, teachers and other adults is a significant accomplishment, which is reflexive of work by educators in this county.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Mike Thomas adjusts the microphone for Old Town Elementary School first grader Jeffrey Stoner.

In this video, Old Town Elementary School first grader Jeffrey Stoner reads his speech about why Kaycee Bush is this year’s Teacher of the Year from that school.

     Anderson Elementary School 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Lynn Cannon was introduced by fourth grader Naomie Cave.
     The young girl told the audience that her teacher has 20 years of experience, having taught students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, fourth, fifth and sixth grades, as well as being a tutor for third graders, and a reading coach.
     Cave said the AES Teacher of the Year has taught in Dixie, Okaloosa, Charlotte, Hardee, Jackson and Union counties. Cannon has earned the Teacher of the Year award in Dixie County before.
     Old Town Elementary School 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Kaycee Bush was introduced by first grader Jeffrey Stoner.
     “I think Miss Kaycee is the best teacher in the world,” the first grader said.
     Bush has been a teacher at OTES for nine years, Stoner said. The first grader mentioned that his teacher’s gifts of candy and juices is appreciated.
     “My classmates said that Miss Kaycee loves us so much that she keeps us smart and on track,” Stoner said.
     Stoner added that the most important thing his teacher does for him and his colleagues is to assure that learning is fun for them. The boy said OTES Principal Karen Tillis has said the school is blessed to have Bush as a teacher there, and that principal wishes every student in every school could enjoy having a teacher with a heart for students like Bush’s.
     Ruth Rains Middle School 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Tyler Eastridge was introduced by seventh grader Landon Rollison.
     Rollison said Eastridge, his civics teacher, was selected as the RRMS Teacher of the Year for many reasons. Among those reasons are the Eastridge makes civics fun and interesting, by going beyond the textbooks, Rollison said.
     Eastridge has taught Rollison and his classmates how to make legislative bills, and vote on approval of those bills. This insight was applied by those students in their student government to have a say in how RRMS is run, Rollison said. This civics teacher has worked with Dixie County Supervisor of Elections Starlet Cannon to let them vote by using actual voting machines to elect student leaders, Rollison said, helping all students learn about the process of elections for a representative government.
     Eastridge worked with Dixie County Judge Jennifer J. Johnson to have a mock trial, where students served as attorneys and on the jury, Rollison said. While civics may not be seen as exciting as science by some students, Rollison said, Eastridge’s service as a civics teacher shows why he was chosen as Ruth Rains Middle School 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Dixie County 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Tucker Duclos stands for a few seconds as he is recognized during the 14th Annual Dixie County Education-Business Partnership Luncheon.

     Dixie County High School 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year (and Countywide Teacher of the Year) Tucker Duclos was introduced by 12th grader Calista Amrell.
     Amrell said teacher Duclos has demonstrated himself as an exemplary teacher – someone who cares about the students as individuals, taking time to know what each person requires to learn and to better themselves.
     Duclos never settles for anything less than his students’ best efforts, Amrell said. This teacher genuinely cares about the education of the students in Dixie County, his student said, as those students will enjoy benefits from learning.
     Duclos’ work in Dixie County, Amrell said, “… illustrates his care for students, reverence for education and devotion for promoting success – both within and beyond the classroom,” Amrell said.
     Dixie County Superintendent of Schools Thomas added to the student’s information about Dixie County District 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year Duclos.
     This teacher, Thomas said, graduated from Lincoln High School, in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and Emmanuel College, in Boston, Massachusetts. Duclos has been a teacher at DCHS for two years now, Thomas said.
     “He establishes professionalism, competence and high expectations in his classroom,” Thomas said. “This teacher excels in class procedures and his classroom is often modeled in our school district for new and beginning teachers.”
     Teacher Duclos’ rigorous curriculum, Superintendent Thomas said, is designed to equip students with the 21st century skills required for students to have success in college and in the workplace.
     This teacher, Thomas added, understands the challenges faced by at-risk students to succeed academically, and he excels in earning their trust to accept those tasks and to flourish as they overcome obstacles.
     “This is a dedicated teacher,” Thomas said. “He devotes countless hours preparing for his classes.”
     Thomas went on to say Duclos integrates activities during class that engage the students in learning. Duclos provides hands-on tasks to his students, Thomas said, and student collaboration to supplement learning and understanding of concepts.
     This invaluable commitment to education, Thomas said, is what earned Duclos the title as Dixie County 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Frank 'Bump' Faircloth speaks about the $1 million award spread over five years from Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings to educational interests in Dixie County.

Dixie County Business Education Partnership
Frank 'Bump' Faircloth holds the 2019 Dixie County Business Partner of the Year plaque award to Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings. This award is presented in recognition of this business’ support to the Dixie County Schools.

     Superintendent Thomas introduced Bump Faircloth, who was speaking on behalf of a business interest that has been a significant part of the economic engine of Dixie County for in excess of 60 years – Suwannee Lumber.
     This company has built a strong foundation by having skilled workers. This company has a commitment to positive environmental, social and government principals that help create value in the company’s investment in the community, Thomas said.
     This company helps the children, families and friends in Dixie County, Thomas said.
     The first set of five sets of $50,000 annual awards to each to four groups – the Dixie County Anti-Drug Coalition (DCADC), the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the Dixie County Education Foundation (DCEF) and the Dixie County High School Advancement by Individual Determination (AVID) program has been completed, Thomas said.
     The $200,000 worth of awards over five years equals $1 million that Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings is awarding to Dixie County.
     The board of Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings chose to give these donations after being prompted by Faircloth.
     As he introduced Faircloth, Thomas spoke about the man.
     Faircloth is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he majored in accounting and industrial management. Faircloth earned Reserve Officer Training Corps honors at UF, and served full-time active duty from 1967 to 1973 serving as a first lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
     He founded Faircloth Ford in Perry, Thomas said as he introduced the keynote speaker of the day.
     “He (Faircloth) was recognized by Henry Ford as the youngest Ford dealer in the United States at the age of 26,” Thomas said.
     Faircloth was also the CEO and owner of Sportcraft Boats, Big Bend Equipment and a set of convenience stores.
     In 1991, Faircloth became the CEO of Suwannee Lumber Co., Thomas said, where he remained until 2013 when Blue Wolf bought that company. Faircloth remained as CEO and Board Chairman of Suwannee Lumber.
     In July of 2018, Suwannee Lumber was sold to Conifex Timber Inc. (TSX:CFF), which was part of the acquisition by that Canadian company, which also bought the Caddo River sawmill in Glenwood Arkansas.
     Blue Wolf Suwannee Lumber Co. Holdings owns four mulch companies, land and other assets, Thomas said as he introduced Faircloth.
     During Thomas’ 25 years in Dixie County education, Faircloth has donated to the county’s sports programs, education programs, and always has been “a huge part of our community.”
     Faircloth said Dixie County and its youth are near and dear to his heart.
     “I saw a lot of need to help people,” Faircloth said, “and every year out at Suwannee we would say ‘You know, there’s more work to be done. We can do more for the community.’”
     Faircloth shared with listeners that his family lineage includes many educators, and this may be part of the reason he feels driven to help young people learn and thrive.
     One of Faircloth’s grandfathers was a judge and teacher. Two uncles were teachers and principals.
     One of his uncles – John Broward Culpepper (Dec. 8, 1907-April 7, 1990) -- became chairman of the Board of Regents for the State of Florida, Faircloth said.
     Records show Culpepper was principal at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville from 1935-1938; Principal at Leesburg High School from 1940-1941; Principal at Leon High School in Tallahassee from 1941-1944. He was Dean of Men at Florida State University from 1947-1954. In 1954, he became the first Chancellor of State University System of Florida, serving until 1968.
     Also noted in records is that the University of West Florida, University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University were created by Culpepper. He was designated a Great Floridian by the Florida Department of State in the Great Floridians 2000 Program. A plaque attesting to the honor is located at Leon High School in Tallahassee.
     Faircloth continued speaking about teachers in his family. His mother was a teacher for 42 years, he said, including being his teacher when he was in second grade.
     One of Faircloth’s aunts, Gladys Moore, has an elementary school named in her honor.
     The speaker said he wanted to be concise on Friday afternoon, because the January presentation at the Putnam Lodge, had been planned to be 30 minutes but it lasted 98 minutes.

To see the previous story about the awarding of $1 million to Dixie County youth, please click HERE.

     The $1 million award to four groups over five years involved a yearlong process, Faircloth said. When Suwannee Lumber was sold to Blue Wolf, because private equity investors are different than some of the folks in Dixie County, Faircloth said.
     Metropolitan New York City people live in a different culture, Faircloth said, in contrast with people in rural Cross City.
     Suwannee Lumber was the first successful company bought by Blue Wolf, Faircloth said, because they like to buy distressed companies that they can improve.
     Suwannee Lumber had some environmental issues, Faircloth said, “… and to spend $15 million in something that was not going to result in something that employs people always concerned me.”
     All of the environmental issues have been remediated now, he said, and everyone is grateful for that.
     Private equity investors obtain money from universities, pension funds and they pool money. Today, Blue Wolf has grown to have $1.2 billion in assets, Faircloth said.
     Some of those investors had not seen a “family culture” where business owners “pray at meetings.”
     They allowed prayers at quarterly meetings, Faircloth said, because without that, it would be a deal-breaker. Faircloth helped them understand that religion is a part of the lumber business.
     Churches have sent grief counselors to Suwannee Lumber, he said. Over the years, this was a practice that continued at the business to help workers with issues at home, such as divorce.
     When this practice proved to be an effective method to help employees work better, the investors saw it as something to consider.
     By the fifth year of Blue Wolf owning Suwannee Lumber (2013-2018), when it was ready for the sale to Conifex Timber Inc., Faircloth told the Blue Wolf Board of Directors that he felt, even with all that Suwannee Lumber had done already to help Dixie County, it had not been enough.
     “I thought if I asked for $50,000,” Faircloth said, “I might get $25,000.”
     He gathered information to show the Blue Wolf leaders. After a year, everyone working on the gift determined the best method for the most efficient method and with proper accountability.
     “I was thinking fifty (thousand dollars) at the most,” Faircloth said. “So, I laid it all on the table.”
     More discussion led to speaking about DCEF, AVID, DCADC and the FCA.
     “The FCA was not as easy to sell as one might think,” Faircloth said, “because of the word ‘Christian’ in it. There’s one Muslim on the Board up there. And that was a chore.”
     Nevertheless, the Blue Wolf Board told Faircloth that this donation is to the people of Dixie County, and if he feels the Dixie County Fellowship of Christian Athletes deserve the help, then so be it.
     At that point, one director said “Why don’t we go to $200,000.”
     Faircloth said when that was said, he could have fallen on the floor from being so overwhelmed.
     And then another director, Faircloth said, proposed giving $1 million to those four Dixie County interests over a five-year span with $200,000 being given annually.
     “And I said,” Faircloth said, “praise the Lord. It’s unbelievable.”
     Faircloth said the leaders of those four groups are trustworthy people who will be good stewards of the funds entrusted to them for the good of the community’s children.
     Faircloth intimated that Blue Wolf’s potential to help Dixie County even more in the future, beyond the already-pledged future donations can be on the horizon.

DCHS Music Saxaphone Ensemble
Concluding the program was a quartet of saxophone players (seen here, from left) Malachi Brown, William Malloy, Riggs Ross and Brandon Bird. Malloy is the Dixie County High School Band Director. They performed an ensemble of songs by the band Queen, which were among those in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, which can be seen and heard in the video below


Spring Career Fairs plant seeds
of opportunity
for businesses, job candidates

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Feb. 21, 2019 at 3:39 p.m.
     OCALA --
Employment and recruiting opportunities will be in full bloom next month during a pair of Spring Career Fairs hosted by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion.
     The annual career fairs will take place in Citrus County on Tuesday, March 26 at the College of Central Florida’s Learning and Conference Center in Lecanto and on Thursday, March 28 at CF’s Klein Conference Center in Ocala.
     The Citrus County event will be held from 3-5 p.m. and the Marion County career fair is set from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
     Businesses and candidates are invited to attend either or both of the fee-free events:
     · Area businesses interested in taking part should call 352-873-7955, ext. 1713 or 800-746-9950, ext. 1713.
     · It is not necessary for candidates to sign up ahead of time, but those interested in participating are strongly encouraged to first register with While there is no charge to take part, appropriate dress is required. More information can be found by searching for Upcoming Career Fairs at or calling 800-434-JOBS, ext. 1713.
     Brenda Chrisman, CareerSource CLM’s business services officer, said that holding the career fairs on two days in two locations “offers multiple opportunities for area businesses and candidates in that they have the flexibility to attend both.”
     Chrisman said the career fairs provide businesses with a “fast, efficient and effective” way to recruit, and candidates benefit because businesses are looking to hire now. Last year, 26 area businesses attended the career fair in Citrus County and 35 did so in Marion County.
     Free career fair preparation assistance is available for candidates at CareerSource CLM career centers.

Water management district
launches new website

Published March 8, 2019 at 8:49 a.m.
     LIVE OAK –
The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) is proud to announce the launch of its new website. The new, user-friendly site features updated navigation for users to find information easier and an improved design aimed at increasing site engagement.
    The website went live on March 1.
     “We redesigned and reorganized the website to accommodate the public’s needs,” said Hugh Thomas, Executive Director at the District. “Allowing the public to easily access rain and river level data, flooding information, current news and other important information within the website was the primary goal throughout the redesign process.”
    Pages such as river and lake levels, camping and recreation, flood mapping, e-permits, water data portal and flooding information are now all easily accessible through quick links on the front page of the new District website. The website features up-to-date content to inform and educate citizens, agencies and partners about the efforts of the District.
    Along with quick links, featured spotlights, district updates and notices and upcoming calendar dates are featured on the home page. These highlighted sections will change throughout the year to reflect current topics within the District.
     “The website redesign was an enormous effort that took over a year of planning and implementation,” said Katelyn Potter, Communications Chief at the District. “We could not have launched the redesigned website ahead of schedule without the dedicated staff who worked hard to ensure the site was providing the most up-to-date and detailed content for the public.”
    The mobile version of the website was also updated with modern designs and improved navigation to provide consistency when viewing the website on all devices. The simple design of the website translates effortlessly when viewing it on a desktop or mobile device.
    To view the redesigned website, visit
    The mission of the Suwannee River Water Management District is to protect and manage water resources using science-based solutions to support natural systems and the needs of the public. The District holds true to the belief of water for nature, water for people. Headquartered in Live Oak, the District serves 15 surrounding North Central Florida counties.  For more information about the District, visit

VAB Meets
Mandy Waters of Levy County Clerk's Office
Mandy Waters, tax deed and VAB deputy clerk in the Office of Levy County Clerk Danny J. Shipp, addresses the VAB. The Levy County Value Adjustment Board (VAB) met Tuesday morning (March 5) before the start of the regular County Commission meeting. A VAB exists in each county of Florida. The purpose of the VAB is to hear appeals regarding property value assessments, denied exemptions or classifications, ad valorem tax deferrals, portability decisions, and change of ownership or control. Taxpayers or their representatives file petitions with the VAB clerk in the county where the property is located.

Levy County VAB 2019
Seen above are members of the Levy County VAB. (from left) They are Paige Brookins of the Levy County School Board, Ashley Clemenzi of the Levy County School Board, VAB Chairman John Meeks of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, Skipper Henderson representing Homestead Exemption interests and Mike Joyner of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners. There is also one vacant seat and there was one VAM member absent – Natalie Thomas representing the residents of Levy County. VAB Attorney Ron Stevens said that although there was one empty seat and one member absent, there were enough VAB members to constitute a quorum for action. This was the formative meeting of 2019.

Photos by Jeff M. Hardison © March 6, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.


First two months of 2019 show
visitors keeping daily news
website at one million-plus hits
during both months;

Keeping It Fine In Year Nine
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 1, 2019 at 8:39 a.m.
     THE WORLD –, the daily news website that started its ninth year on Feb. 1, shows it is Keeping It Fine In Year Nine, with more than one million hits in each of the first two months of this year, according to third-party statistics from cPanel and Google Analytics.
     Monthly reports show remains strong, according to the two independent automated traffic-registering programs.
     There were 12,125 unique visitors in January of 2019 to, according to these trusted third-party automated measuring devices.
     There were 10,572 unique visitors in February, which has 28 days rather than 31 days.
     Jeff Hardison, publisher and owner of the daily news website, said that first he is thankful to God for all things.
     “People ask me how I am,” he said. “I answer that I am happy, or that I am glad. Even with one of my lower left arm bones being broken and held together with a metal plate and screws, and some bones in my wrist being held together with metal pins, I’m still happy.
     “Here’s the thing,” he continued. “My orthopedic surgeon told me yesterday (Feb. 28) that the X-rays do not show conclusively that the bones are joining together. He said none of his surgically implanted plates have broken before. So, I’m going to eat a little more ice cream (for added calcium, not just because I like it) and try to be in the sunlight a tad more, and pray for my bones to heal better than they have so far.”
     Meanwhile, the injured publisher said he is able to continue covering the news and human-interest stories, primarily focusing on Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (although with no limits for potential coverage area).
     “I’m not saying it’s a cake walk,” he continued, “because it never is. Among the many things I thank God for daily, though, are the many people who help me every day. Certainly, there are detractors from my efforts to serve a free society with my daily news website. God will tend to any attempted destroyers now and during the rest of eternity.”
     As for January and February, is Keeping It Fine In Year Nine.
     Hardison said he is thankful for the website traffic, which shows a strong base of loyal readers, viewers and listeners as the daily news website moves forward during its ninth year of existence
     Not only is this website the best source for daily news, he said, this is also the best platform for advertising because of the traffic to the site.
     “Private and public interests recognize advertising in is the best return on investment for money spent on advertising,” Hardison said.
     The numbers for January and February 2019 are shown in the graphic below:

Jan. and Feb. 2019 Traffic to

     Hardison, a multiple award-winning daily and weekly newspaper writer and editor, and established publisher and daily news outlet owner, said he is pleased with the monthly reports.
     The national advertisements will remain on the bottom of the pages, he added, because local advertisers are better served by being on the right side of the pages and in the body of the pages.
     The ads for five local Chambers of Commerce (Cedar Key, Chiefland, Dixie County, Williston and the Withlacoochee Gulf Area {Inglis and Yankeetown}) currently are at the bottom of the Community Page.
     Following are the figures from two independent robotic programs for January and February of 2019.
     The first gauge reflects Unique Visitors. defines unique visitor as "a person who visits a Web site more than once within a specified period of time." Software used for this report can distinguish between visitors who only visit the site once and unique visitors -- who return to the site.
     The unique visitor is different from a site's hits or page views -- which are measured by the number of files that are requested from a site. Unique visitors are measured according to their unique Internet Protocol addresses, which are like online fingerprints, and unique visitors are counted only once no matter how many times they visit the site after they have visited it twice.

January 2019 – 12,125
February 2019 – 10,572

     The number of visits is as it says. This is the number of times that these visitors came to pages.

January 2019 – 32,467
February 2019 – 26,816

     Pages Viewed shows how many different pages the visitors looked at. This website has the Home Page, Police Page, Calendar Page, Business Page, Community Page, Life Page and the Leisure Page.

January 2019 – 113,269
February 2019 – 97,108

     What is a “hit?” When a viewer looks at a page, there are elements on the page that register a “hit.” For instance, if there are four pictures on a page, then that may equal four “hits.” Like all of the gauges, this is a measure of traffic.
January 2019 – 1,256,741 (1.2 million)
February 2019 – 1,049,664 (1 million)

     “These figures show the number of people each day who use as a source for information,” Hardison said. “And they return daily. If your product or service is better than the competitors’ products and services, then you will have better odds of being the manufacturer, wholesale outlet, retail store owner, farmer or other product or service provider of first choice in any market.” continues to serve readers, viewers and listeners (yes, the videos have sound).
     This website is the best medium in this market to advertise, which is proved by annual increased revenue even though the price of ads remains stable since the site’s inception. (Except there is an increase in the cost of short-term ads now.) has the Weather Bug on the Home Page for all current weather and forecasting needs, including radar and Weather Alerts. It has columns for quilt reports, Christian devotionals and more. provides state news on the BUSINESS PAGE and other pages on occasion when it is merited.

     "I can't say enough about my wife Sharon Hardison," Jeff Hardison said. "She does so much for me it is incredible. One thing I need to bring people's attention to is the archive page. Go to any of the seven pages and find the ad for the archive page at the bottom of the ads on the right side. Click on it.
     "A new window will open." he continued. "Just go to the month you want and scroll down. If you see a link that looks interesting, click on it.
ADVERTISEMENT KEEPS IT GOING is visible for free to anyone who can see pages on the Internet. Therefore, people all over the world – and in the International Space Station – can view it. This site is subscription-free entirely because of our sponsors. Not only do advertisers help the people in the world (and astronauts) see news and human-interest stories from Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (and elsewhere), but those business interests enjoy the most exposure for the least dollars.
     "We don't put up winky-blinky ads or pop-ups in our local ads," Hardison said. "Our local ads don't move around by the minute. And I promote our local advertisers in other places in addition to" is the best daily news site that covers Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (and beyond).
     Advertisements run in various sizes and can be on one page or all seven pages. Ad contracts run for one year. Ads can be changed monthly. Ads can be hyperlinked to other webpages so that when a person clicks on the ad it opens in another window.
     The annual prices for ads are $500, $750, $1,000, $1,500 and there is one $2,000-a-year ad space available on each of the seven pages. Two are available as of this minute (March 1, 2019 at 8:39 a.m.).
     Call 352-493-9950 or send an email to to learn more about advertising on the MOST VIEWED daily news website in the world for any form of print, broadcast or Internet-based media covering the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (and beyond).

Prevention specialist notes
health hazards from stress;

Stressed employees are bad for business
By C.L. Watson © Feb. 27, 2019 at 8:29 a.m.
“Stress will kill you. Don't sweat the small stuff!”
     This was the message delivered by Robert Wells, prevention specialist with Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, as he spoke to members and guests of the Chiefland Chamber on Feb. 22.
     Wells has 18 years as a prevention specialist as well as being one of the founders of the Levy County Prevention Coalition.
     He noted negative impacts on parts of the body from stress include:
     ● Brain - Depression, Anxiety, Panic Attacks
     ● Heart - Rise in High Blood Pressure and Risk of Heart Attack
     ● Lungs - Strained Breathing and Possible Asthma Attack
     ● Stomach - Stomach Pain, with or without ulcers
     ● Bones - Frequent Muscle and Joint Pain
     The good news is a person can combat the effects of stress by maintaining mental health, performing exercise and keeping balanced nutrition as part of their everyday life. The cost of being unwell is not cheap, with deficit data calculating a loss of $2.2 trillion annually in the United States, Wells said.
     The breakdown he provided on the costs of being unwell is:
     ● $1.1 Trillion in Chronic Diseases
     ● $550 Billion in Work Disengagement/Absenteeism/Presenteeism/Unhealthy Activities
     ● $300 Billion in Work-Related Stress/Physical/Psychological/Job Satisfaction
     ● $250 Billion in Work Related Illness/Injury
     Employers can be proactive in small changes at the workplace with a few simple steps.
     First start off by electing a wellness champion. That person can be a current employee or Wells can help employers develop a program.
     Encourage sanitation with hand-washing on a regular basis and place hand sanitizer around the office. Give employees breaktime to include a short walk, or to stretch as they reset their bodies mentally and physically. Choose healthier snacks such as fruit and nuts, as opposed to a dozen donuts left in the break room. 
     By incorporating these small steps, Wells said, employees are:
     ● reporting 41 percent fewer unhealthy days;
     ● more than twice as likely to say they always adapt well to change;
     ● 36 percent more likely to say they always bounce back after an illness;
     ● 23 percent more likely to donate money;
     ● 43 percent more likely to have volunteered;
     ● 65 percent less likely to be involved in a workplace accident; and
     ● 81 percent less likely to look for a new job when the market improves.
     Individual and group presentations-classes are available through Meridian Behavioral Healthcare by contacting Wells at 352-318-2416, or send him and email at for more information.
     The Meridian Behavioral Healthcare company's motto, “Wellness is within everyone’s reach” shouldn't be taken lightly, he said.
     Chiefland Billiards sponsored the Chiefland Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon on Friday (Feb. 22). Chiefland Billiards is scheduled to host a benefit for local first responders, which it has named as “Hometown Heroes,” of its “Have A Heart” fundraiser.
     This fundraiser is scheduled for March 3 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Chiefland Billiards and will have a “battle of the bands” with the winning band determined by applause.
     The LifeSouth Community Bloodmobile is slated to be on site for those wanting to donate blood.
     The Chiefland Chamber Mixer is slated to be held at Merle Norman and Day Spa on March 14 at 5:30 p.m.
     Meridian Behavioral Healthcare is hosting a St. Patrick’s Themed 5K Run, Walk, Roll on March 16 in the Tioga Town Center in Gainesville. Check in is at 7:30 a.m. and the event begins at 8:30 a.m. For more information, on the 5K contact Stephanie Brod 352-374-5600 extension 8630 or text the keyword “Miles” to 31996.

FRIDAY  MARCH 22  3:09 p.m.
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