Last updateThu, 25 Aug 2016 1pm


Commission meeting ends on sour note

HIGH SPRINGS – Citizens sat through another contentious meeting on Thursday, April 24 that led to the removal of one citizen by Acting Police Chief Antoine Sheppard at the direction of Mayor Byran Williams.

Although Williams has suggested removal of argumentative citizens at previous meetings, this is the first time he has actually followed through. The individual escorted out by Sheppard was in a wheelchair and may have been a veteran as was later claimed by another citizen. He did not settle down when asked to do so, but instead kept wagging his finger at the mayor and ultimately wheeled his chair over Sheppard's foot as he was being escorted out. When he was admonished by Sheppard for doing so, he denied it had happened at all.

At that Commissioner Bob Barnas quickly stood up and said he didn't feel well and was going home.

Commissioner Linda Gestrin also got up and left the room. City Clerk Jenny Parham followed to ask if she was also leaving, and Gestrin said she was not. She came back shortly thereafter, picked up her items and left. Due to the previously planned absence of Commissioner Scott Jamison, the commission no longer had a quorum and the mayor closed the meeting with none of the new agenda items addressed.

Prior to closing, commissioners heard from several members of the High Springs Farmers' Market as part of the agenda item to approve a short-term contract with Basti Gonzales to continue to run the market until September.

Gonzales will continue on a month-to-month verbal agreement and City Attorney Scott Walker will draw up and advertise a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in an attempt to locate a permanent market manager.

Another old business item addressed was a request by Bryan Sperry to purchase a piece of city-owned property adjacent to his own. Commissioners decided the city should create a surplus property policy for any property the city believed had no usefulness. Properties deemed surplus would then be advertised to allow any interested citizen to bid on the property. Booth said he would look at the existing plans for Tillman Properties to determine if the property had usefulness to the city. No action was taken to sell the property during the meeting.

A lengthy report on his findings regarding an earlier survey of computer equipment at the High Springs Police Department was conducted by Eric May. The report addressed certain specific items which most of the audience did not have a list of or a copy of the report. Barnas asked most of the questions, adding that he was talking with employees and conducting his own investigation. City Manager Ed Booth objected to the commissioner questioning his employees as it would violate the City Charter. Barnas then clarified his earlier statement saying he was talking with “former employees.”

Resident Sylvia Newcomb commented that the city manager should resign, which then set off some audience members who started clapping at her suggestion. At this point one person was escorted out of the meeting.

A special meeting was called for Wednesday, April 30, to consider approval of a time-sensitive contract with WCA for solid waste services. Without an approved contract, citizens would not have their garbage picked up on Friday, May 2, the contract start date.

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High Springs gets new acting chief of police

        HIGH SPRINGS – James “Steve” Holley, police chief for High Springs, has taken time off after covering shifts for officers who were sick or attending special training during the past year.

        “He asked for time off, and had the comp and vacation time available to do so,” said City Manager Ed Booth. “I granted his request for 30-days leave,” he said.

        While Holley is out, Sgt. Antoine Sheppard has been appointed acting chief of police.

        Sheppard began his law enforcement career as a police explorer with the Alachua Police Department, according to the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) website. He was hired by the HSPD on April 26, 2001 as a police officer. He has risen to the rank of Sergeant and has been a patrol supervisor.

        In addition to Sheppard's regular assigned duties, he also was in charge of the coordination of the bicycle unit, neighborhood crime watch and the reserve officer program. Sergeant Sheppard is a member of the city's safety committee and is a trained Crisis Intervention Officer.

        City Manager Booth denied rumors that Holley would be demoted to sergeant at the end of the 30 days.

        “That’s all just rumor,” Booth said.

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Hawthorne appoints Patricia Bouie as city commissioner

HAWTHORNE – Less than a month ago the city of Hawthorne lost a member of the community with the passing of Eleanor “Kit” Randall. Randall left behind not only friends and family, but a city commission seat as well. On Wednesday, Sept. 4, the commission filled that seat.

At the city commission meeting last week, the commission reviewed three candidates for the position and chose Patricia Bouie to hold seat four on the commission. Normally, city commissioners are elected. Because the commission was filling a seat vacated by someone’s death, the position was appointed instead.  

Bouie has served on the commission before, completing a two-year term ending about four years ago.

Prior to her time as a city commissioner, Bouie worked as a board member on the planning and zoning committee in Hawthorne. Due to her past involvement with the city, the transition to being a commissioner once again should be easier, said Ellen Vause, Hawthorne city manager.

“We are fortunate to have her as the appointment to fill Commissioner Randall’s seat,” Vause said.

Filling the seat, not replacing Randall, is precisely what Hawthorne Mayor Matthew Surrency wants Bouie to try to do as well.

“I expect her to stay true to who she is and to do what she can do,” Surrency said. “Pat will do her own thinking and act on what she believes is right, she knows you can’t replace Kit.”

Bouie is also involved with her church, which helps her to stay plugged in to her community, Surrency said. She was a part of the process in the past and it will allow her to have an impact immediately.

Commissioner Randall served on the commission for several years over the course of two separate terms. She also acted as Hawthorne’s mayor for a number of years before Surrency took office. She then worked alongside him as a commissioner.

Surrency went to school with both Commissioner Bouie’s children and with the late Commissioner Randall’s children. He said he has always believed that having people in a leadership role that are familiar with each other can make progress easier.

“Serving with people you know is what makes this community great,” Surrency said. “I’ve known Mrs. Bouie for quite a while, and I know she will be right for the job.”

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Ag Commissioner Putnam announces 2014 Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame Honorees

TALLAHASSEE – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation announced four honorees who will be inducted into the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame for 2014. These individuals have made outstanding contributions to Florida’s agriculture industry and mentored future leaders in this field.

“These individuals have made incredible contributions to agriculture in our state and beyond,” Commissioner Putnam said. “The changes and improvements they have made will help ensure the strength of Florida’s $100 billion agriculture for generations to come. I am pleased to announce the awards for these outstanding gentlemen.”

The honorees are:

  • Scottie Butler, Gainesville, former general counsel, Florida Farm Bureau Federation. Scottie Butler has spent more than 40 years advocating for Florida’s farmers and ranchers. He retired as general counsel from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation in September 2013, after more than four decades of service. He understood the importance of developing relationships to bring together associations, coalitions and government agencies to move key issues forward. In addition to his expertise, he strongly believed in helping raise up the next generation of agriculture leaders and has mentored several of today’s industry leaders.
  • Bruce Christmas Sr., Cottondale, former Director of the Poultry Evaluation Center at the University of Florida. Bruce Christmas is a fifth generation farmer from Jackson County and a former Orange County Extension Agent. He has been recognized by many organizations for his leadership and his volunteer service to youth and was previously chosen “National Volunteer of the Year” for the National Agriculture Alumni and Development Association.
  • Dr. Elver “Doc” Hodges, Wauchula, retired Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida. Dr. Hodges’ contributions to the livestock industry in Florida are enormous. His research as an agronomist identified problems and found solutions to enrich low-quality Florida soils, which revolutionized peninsular Florida beef production. He served with the University of Florida Range Cattle Research and Education Center and with the USAID International Program in Malawi. In addition, he was involved with his local 4-H program for many years.
  • Dallas Townsend, retired Director of the University of Florida Hendry County Extension Office. Dallas Townsend served 39 years as an extension agent in Southwest Florida and was instrumental in working with IFAS and the agriculture industry to bring more research capacity to the area through the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center. His involvement with youth and 4-H is legendary, coaching more than a dozen 4-H teams and thousands of 4-H youth.

The award winners will be honored on Feb. 11, 2014 at the Ag Hall of Fame Dinner. For tickets, or more information about the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame, go to

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Do not call and telemarketers top list of consumer complaints for August 2013

Tallahassee Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today the top three complaints received in August 2013 at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were regarding the statewide Do Not Call List, telemarketing and communication services.

The agency received 5,271 written complaints in August. In addition, there were 20,208 calls and 669 emails requesting consumer assistance and information. The top three calls to the agency’s 1-800-HELP-FLA hotline were related to the solicitation of contributions from charities, landlord/tenant issues and motor vehicle repair.

In the past month, the department has responded to many consumer concerns and taken action against several individuals or businesses operating outside of Florida law. During the month of August, the agency:

  • Registered 5,607 businesses.
  • Initiated 93 investigations.
  • Arrested 8 individuals.
  • Recovered $273,641 on behalf of Florida consumers.
  • Added 11,249 telephone numbers to Florida’s Do Not Call List. Currently, there are more than 558,000 numbers on the list.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. The call center is staffed with trained analysts who can respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department’s purview, provide information on a wide variety of topics, or direct callers to the appropriate government agency.

Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832). For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit

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