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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sheriff’s Deputy Solves Chipola’s Cold Case 1/1/09

Case has been open and unsolved since 1987
By Sid Riley

Officer Rufus Baron recently came a step closer to solving a theft case which occurred on the Chipola Campus in 1987. At that time a Chipola student, Rita Lynn Hooks had her wallet stolen from her purse while eating in the Chipola school cafeteria. The wallet was never found.
Renovations of the school cafeteria are currently underway. The construction workers tore into a wall which separates the mens and ladies restrooms from the cafeteria. To their surprise, stuffed between the walls was a ladies blue wallet. They gave the wallet to Deputy Rufus Baron who was on duty on the campus.
Officer Baron engaged in some detective work and discovered that the former student of twenty one years ago now resides in Memphis, Tennessee. He found her telephone number, gave her a call and asked if she could ever recall losing her wallet during her years at Chipola. She responded that she vividly recalled having her wallet stolen from her purse on one occasion. The officer told her he had her wallet in hand and was prepared to return it to her.
So, after all of those years, the blue wallet is now on its way to Tennessee and its rightful owner……The criminal remains at large......but the search is ongoing.

Mark Sims Switches Sides 1/1/09

Sims changes "hats", not sure which is the "white hat" and which is the "black hat".
By Sid Riley

Author’s Note: This story also appeared on our front page lasat week. However, while I was writing the story my mind was saying "Mark Sims", but my fingers were typing "Chuck Sims". There are just too many Sims’es out there for me to keep up with! I know Homer, Henry, Hershel, Joynera, Danny, Chuck, and of course MARK! I have appropriately apologized to MARK and his family for my error. I hope this mistake isn’t a sign of "mad cow" starting to occur.

"Hopalong Cassidy" wore a black hat, but he was on the good side…so that even complicates things more", was the quip Sims gave when I kidded him over his dramatically changing roles within the judicial system. After working as a prosecutor for thirteen and one half years, working as hard as he could to put those indicted "bad guys" in jail…Sims has just joined Herman Laramore’s staff of Public Defenders, working to keep those same indicted individuals from unjustly being sent to prison.
There is no question it is a dramatic changing of hats, but which is the white hat and which is the black hat certainly depends on your point of view. "Life is full of new challenges and adventures", Sims stated. "I consider this a time of excitement and am looking forward to working in this role".
Mark Sims was the Chief Assistant State Attorney for Jackson and Calhoun counties under the realm of Steve Meadows. He will now be a full time Public Defender for Calhoun County, working for Herman Laramore. The Calhoun County court in Blountstown is under the jurisdiction of Judge Clark.
Sims is a 1985 graduate of Marianna High School, a graduate of Chipola College in 1989, graduated from FSU in 1991, and earned his Law Degree from the University of Miami in 1995. Upon graduation from Law School Sims went to work in the State Attorney office in the 14th Circuit. He is married to Lori Layne Sims, who attended schools in Blountstown. They have four children, with a fifth one on the way.
We all wish Mark Sims good luck in wearing his new hat. He looks good in both white and black.

Local Officers "Get It Right" 1/1/09

Potentially lethal incident is resolved without serious injuries.
By Sid Riley

Last Friday an incident occurred in Sneads in which responding police officers from the Sneads Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office handled with mature professionalism and restraint. These officers deserve commendation from us all for ‘getting it right’.
It appears that a citizen of Sneads, Mr. Larry Booth, had become very agitated and combative in a family incident which escalated into violence. Mr. Booth had forced his way into the family home on Mathis Drive in Sneads, had allegedly taken a large butcher knife and attacked and cut his uncle, and was continuing to threaten other members of the family.
Sneads Police Chief, Burt McAlpin and his brother, JCSO Investigator Jason McAlpin were among first responders to the 911 call which the family had made. They observed Booth in the edge of a nearby woods and went to that area where they ordered him to lie on the ground and drop the knife. Instead, Booth rushed towards the officers in a threatening manner, knife in hand.
The officers had their guns drawn and were prepared to shoot Mr. Booth in order to prevent him from physically attacking them. Bert McAlpin had armed himself with the Sneads Police department taser, and as Booth approached he fired the electrified darts into him. The electric shock instantly knocked Booth to the ground, face down, with the knife still in his hand but laying under him. The shock from a taser lasts for approximately five seconds, but this was long enough for the officers on the scene to overcome the suspect and after a struggle secure him with handcuffs.
This could easily have been a deadly incident. The responding officers had every justification for using their guns and perhaps killing Mr. Booth. Instead, they chose a less reactive course of action, used the taser, got their job done, and no one sustained any serious injuries. It was good, mature, professional police work.
Sheriff Lou Roberts cites this as a perfect case for the promotion of the appropriate use of tasers by officers as they perform their duties. "Tasers provide a "middle ground" for an officer to use in dealing with a violent, threatening incident. It is an option to use before resorting to deadly force."
A taser costs between $400 and $800, depending on the model and features. At the present time the Sheriff’s department has six tasers in possession. Sheriff Roberts would hope that could be increased by another ten to fifteen instruments so that every patrol vehicle on a shift could have a taser at hand. All officers are given certification training in the proper use of the device, and the course includes being "tased" yourself.
This is a story with a happy ending. The stabbing victim was released after treatment, no officers were injured in a potentially violent incident, and Mr. Booth is in jail awaiting his fate.
We at the Jackson County Times wish to congratulate Bert and Jason McAlpin for their good work.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Graceville School Gets Better and Better-12/18/08

Facility improvements have ground breaking
By Sid Riley

The illustrious group shown struggling to throw the first shovels full of dirt for the beginning of construction of several needed facility improvements at the sports complex of Graceville High were there for the ground breaking ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. The $641,715 improvement project includes two new locker rooms totaling 2856 sq. ft., an addition to the existing weight room of 720 sq.ft., and a much needed 720 ft. new restroom facility for public use during sports events.
The architectural work will be performed by Paul Donofro and Associates, and the construction will be by Floridian Construction of Destin.
After introductions by Stewart Wiggins, Lee Miller expressed the pleasure of the administrators and the school board in seeing this needed project started. He gave former School Superintendent, Danny Sims, who was also at the ceremony, recognition for the approval and planning for this project during his term as Superintendent.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Three Rivers State Park Has Significant Three Rivers State Park Has Significant Economic Impact Closure would cost local area $1.2 Million and 25 jobs

By Times Staff

Sneads – The State of Florida’s plan to save $239,268 by closing Three Rivers State Park would actually cost the businesses of Jackson County more than $1.2 Million a year.
A review of the state-prepared economic impact figures for the park presents a surprising story. Far from being an economic drain, Three Rivers provides a major boost to the economy of Jackson County – particularly the Sneads area.
Since 2004, Three Rivers State Park has hosted 80,073 visitors. The state estimates that the total economic impact provided by the park over that same period of time is $3,233,879. It is believed that the money spent in the local area by park visitors creates 25 jobs, only 3 of them state employees, and has resulted in sales tax collections over the last four years of $292,135.86.
In addition, the recommendation to close the park comes at a time when it is reporting its highest visitation numbers in years. The number of people visiting Three Rivers has increased by more than 3,000 people a year since 2004 and the annual economic impact of the park has increased by nearly $360,000 over the same period of time.
These figures, prepared by the state, indicate that the economic impact of closing the park would be much greater than was indicated in initial reports. Far beyond the 3 state employees that would risk losing their jobs, a closure of Three Rivers would cost Jackson County and the Sneads area in particular an estimated 22 private sector jobs. Businesses would lose $1.2 million per year in expenditures made by park visitors while the county and state would lose nearly $88,000 per year in sales tax revenue.
The park has been a fixture in Jackson County since 1955. When Lake Seminole was developed during the 40s and 50s, state and federal officials planned a series of such parks that would bring thousands of visitors to the Florida shore of the lake and provide a major economic boost to Jackson County. A number of the parks, however, were never built.
Over its 53 years of existence, Three Rivers has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors and pumped tens of millions of dollars into the local economy. The park preserves a beautiful setting of rolling hills and shoreline along the sparkling blue waters of Lake Seminole. Facilities include picnic areas, hiking trails, boat landings, camping areas and cabin facilities.
The park is located on land owned by the U.S. Government, as it has been since it was established, but is under long-term lease to the state. State authorities have proposed that it be closed and the land returned to the federal government, a move that would not guarantee that facilities will remain open for public use. Federal authorities, in fact, have turned a number of their own recreational areas over to area counties to operate and some facilities constructed at the cost of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been closed.
Since 2004, Florida’s state budget has increased by more than $11 Billion. After discounting sales tax generated, the closure of Three Rivers would save the state only $151,299 while costing the local economy over $1.2 million and endangering 25 local jobs, all at a time when the nation’s economy is reported to be at its worst level since the Great Depression.
If you are concerned about this issue, please send a copy of this article to Marti Coley, Brad Drake, and other State Legislators.

County To Raise Wastewater Rates for Customers

By Sid Riley
107% Rise in electric charges by Florida Public Utilities has created loss situation for county.
The county is currently losing approximately $80,000 per year from its operation of wastewater services. This loss has been created by the significant added cost of electricity for operating the large pumps that are used in the system. The county operates a wastewater delivery system which serves businesses and residences along highway 90 west of Marianna’s city limits, and extending out to the I-10 interchange and the developments in that area. The county’s system pumps this waste into the city’s system for delivery to the new wastewater plant located fifteen miles south of Marianna, near Dry Creek.
Due to the 107% increase this year in electric rates charged by Florida Public Utilities, the customers using this wastewater service will soon receive at least a 20% increase in their rates. These rates will be finalized by the Board of Commissioners in early January. A workshop and subsequent public hearing on this issue is scheduled at 8:00 on January 13, at the County Commission Meeting Room.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors- Lowes not Closing

By Sid Riley
During this week rumors have been flying. I suppose the impending closure of our beloved Beall’s Department Store has shoppers very jumpy. All you have to do is listen to the doom and gloom spouted every day on television news stations and you can easily become victim to a "chicken little" mentality.
One of the newest and most extreme rumors that is going around the county is the rumor that Lowe’s is planning to close after the holiday season. This was followed by similar rumors about Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, Ruby Tuesday’s, and others. The sky seemed to be falling…at least out at our I-10 interchange.
In response to these predictions I contacted Mr. Mike Brenner, District Manager of Lowe’s for this area. He confirmed that he had also heard all of these rampant rumors, and wanted the opportunity to stop any further spreading of this negative news.
"We are proud of our Marianna location, are very profitable here, our chain is still expanding, we just opened a new store in DeFuniak Springs, and we are not…I repeat …we are NOT planning to close our store in Marianna, " he stated clearly and firmly.
After talking to Mr. Brenner I decided to go across the street to Sonny’s to talk to their management, but they were so busy I couldn’t find a parking space…so I gave up and returned to the Jackson County Times offices. It appears the sky is not falling after all.

Three Rivers State Park is a Crossroads of History

By Dale Cox
Sneads – For more than fifty years, Three Rivers State Park has served as an often overlooked scenic and historical treasure to the people of Jackson County. With the park now on the state chopping block, I thought it might be of interest this week to look closer at this outstanding facility.
The view from the picnic area at Three Rivers is one of the finest in all of Florida. The bluff top picnic tables provide a sweeping view of Lake Seminole, the 37,500 acre manmade reservoir created during the 1950s by the construction of the Jim Woodruff Dam between Chattahoochee and Sneads.
The lake covers the original confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, streams called "Prehistoric Highway 101" by one Florida archaeologist. In fact, archaeological research in this area at the time of the building of the dam revealed Native American mounds, hunting camps and village sites by the hundreds in the area now under or adjoining the lake.
One of these villages, dating from slightly before the time of Christ, is located along the lakeshore of Three Rivers State Park.
For much of our nation’s early history, the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola River system was a vital transportation network. Canoes gave way to flatboats, flatboats gave way to steamboats and steamboats eventually gave way to barges, but over time inconceivable tons of cargo were moved up and down these rivers. They played a vital role in opening Northwest Florida, West Georgia and East Alabama to settlement and in the development of these states as we know them today.
The hill at the southern edge of Three Rivers is known as "Gorrie Hill" to this day. It earned this name because it was the home during the early 19th century of Florida’s famed inventor, Dr. John Gorrie. He lived there prior to moving to Apalachicola, where he went on to invent the artificial ice machine and a method of refrigeration that paved the way for such modern conveniences and necessities as refrigerators, freezers, ice makers and even air conditioning.
When Lake Seminole was created during the 1950s, federal and state officials envisioned a day when eastern Jackson County would be a recreational wonderland. Plans were made for a number of parks and boat landings that would provide access to the lake and spur economic development and residential growth in the region.
After building the lake however, plans for many of these parks fell off one by one. Three Rivers State Park and several nearby boat landings and parks (Sneads Park, Parramore Park and Landing, Neal’s Landing, etc.) are all that remain of the once ambitious program to bring economic life to eastern Jackson County.
Three Rivers became an official state park in 1955 and now offers camping, fishing, picnicing, hiking and other outdoor opportunities to people from around the world. More than 20,000 people visit each year to enjoy the beautiful lakefront setting and experience the peace and relaxation of one of Florida’s prettiest state parks.
Editor’s note: Writer and historian Dale Cox is the author The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One and several other books on local history. His books are available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) or online at

The Voice of Chipola Is Getting Louder and Stronger

By Sid Riley

Channel 4 CCTV is growing in popularity in our community
Chipola Television CCTV Channel 4 on cable started operations in 2006 on a very limited budget, with only four hours per day allocated for programming. Today it still operates on a very limited budget, with daily programming increased to ten hours per day.
With 4, 958 cable viewers on the Comcast system, CCTV under the direction of Royce Reagan, is steadily increasing the number of locals that are "tuning in" to Channel 4 to see local people discussing local subjects, and engaging in local events. It is informative, entertaining, interesting, educational, and relative to what local citizens want to experience. As a result, it is gaining in popularity on a daily basis.
At the present time the programming schedule is:
Mornings - 6:30 to 8:30 Mid Day- 11:00 to 1:00 Evenings - 5:00 to 10:00
Among the most popular locally produced shows is "Political Forum" and "River Talk" on Wednesday evenings, Dr. O’Daniel and "Covenant Hospice" on Thursday evenings, and Hospital Talk on medical subjects with Rosie Smith. On weekends the station will be featuring Chipola Basketball, Christmas Parades, and local festivals. Another regular and popular program is "Chipola Talks" by Royce Reagan.
All of this scheduling, taping, and operating is conducted by Reagan and four part time student helpers. "Every family has 2.3 children, and I am employing the .3 part of that number", quips Reagan. "This is a continuing learning process, and we are certainly continuing to learn every day."
Just as Channel 11 television has become an important part of Florida State University operations, we can expect CCTV to continue to grow in popularity and importance at Chipola. Eventually, the operations of the station will become a formal applied teaching program, with course credit awarded to the students who work and learn through the station operations.

A "World Class" Musician Is Now Living in Graceville

"Bob Snyder may be the best clarinet player in the world."
By Sid Riley

Some people are blessed genetically with a beautiful voice which enables them to emit wonderful sounds, pleasing to the ear, inspiring to the soul. Bob Snyder was not blessed with a beautiful voice.
He made up for this shortfall by picking up a clarinet, and learning to "sing" through his instrument. He is able to make sounds on the reed instrument that cause shivers to run through his enthralled audience as he inserts his emotional feelings into the moving tones that fill the air. He is a rare talent. His rendition of "Amazing Grace" can not help but call up a tear, and when he plays "America The Beautiful" your heart swells with national pride.
Bob was predestined to be an outstanding musical talent, genetically and environmentally. He was born in Danville, Indiana into a musical family. His parents were professional musicians. At the age of eight this child prodigy played his first professional engagement, he played alto saxophone in the high school band when he was in the third grade, at the age of ten he was part of a family group called the "Hillbilly Kids" which toured Indiana, at age eleven he was playing the clarinet with the Hoosier Symphony at Canterbury College. When he was thirteen he appeared on the Horace Heidt Amateur Hour, and became a featured performer with the Indiana State Legion Band in Indiana.
During high school he won first place awards all four years in the Indiana All State Music Competition. After graduation from high school Snyder entered the Marine Corps, and soon had an opportunity to audition for the Air Force Band in Washington D.C., including the Air Force Glenn Miller Band. He was an active part of the Air Force Band throughout his military career, including the Air Force Academy Band.
After separation from the military he played with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Ted Weems Orchestra. Then he became a member of the Memphis Horns, and in 1966 moved to Detroit where he was a member of the Motown Recording Orchestra. He later toured Europe with Lionel Hampton and became a member of his organization and continued to appear with Hampton until the 1990’s. Lionel Hampton ranks Bob Snyder’s clarinet skills with those of his old boss, Benny Goodman.
In 1984 Snyder became Music Director at the prestigious Grand Hotel, a well known summer resort in the upper Michigan peninsula. During the off season for the Grand Hotel he operated his own supper club called "Bob Snyder’s Deck Restaurant" at Marco Island, Florida.
This world class musician has played with a long list of recognized artists during his career. These include Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, The Temptations, Diana Ross, The Supremes, Gladys and the Pips, and many, many others.
Of his numerous CD’s, those featuring his rendition of "Amazing Grace" have created the greatest degree of national attention, rave reviews, and significant album sales. It was the connection with the success of that particular song that led him to respond to an area realtor when he and his wife Jan were told of a home site meeting their requirements was located in "Graceville", on Piano Road. "We felt there had to be some divine intervention that was leading us here", Snyder explains.
Since relocating into our area in order to escape from the south Florida population explosion, Snyder has entered into a new phase of his musical evolution. This master musician has begun to transfer his unique talents to others, through teaching. He is teaching privately in Marianna, he is working actively with the high school band in Marianna, and Holmes County, and is generating great excitement on the Bible College of Florida campus in Graceville.
At BCF Snyder currently performs with the BCF Show Band and wind ensemble under the direction of Ron Branning. The development of this jazz group has everyone within earshot on campus tapping their foot to the rhythm.
Snyder has played at several cultural events around Jackson County during the past few years, including this year’s "Afternoon With The Artists" event on the Chipola Campus. We are blessed to have a musician with his unique talents and musical background residing in our area. If you see any local event being promoted where he is scheduled to appear, you will not want to miss an opportunity to hear him play.
He and the BCF Show Band will be performing a Christmas Show on the BCF campus this weekend performing "The Gospel of Christmas" at the R.G. Lee Chapel at 8:00 PM on Friday, December 5, and on Saturday an afternoon show at 3:00 and an evening show at 7:00 PM.
To learn more about Bob Snyder, or to order any of his music, you can go to his web site at You can even hear some of his great music there.

Ed Revell, Former Farm Bureau Agent Passes At 70th Birthday

Well known Jackson County citizen will be missed by family and friends.
By Sid Riley

An avid sportsman, active supporter of local athletics, professional Farm Bureau Agent, defender of agricultural interests, wonderful father and loving grandfather, devoted husband, follower of his church, and all round great fellow. Those words tallied into a sentence, best describe the life of Ed Revell.
Sunday the family had planned to celebrate his seventieth birthday…instead they hosted a public viewing and family visitation at the James and Sykes Funeral Home in preparation for his funeral service at the Marianna Church of Christ Of Latter Day Saints, and burial in Bristol. Ed’s wife of fifty two years, Judy Dean Revell, greeted what seemed to be an unending line of well-wishers. She was bolstered by her large extended family which included their children, Stephen and Bunnee, a long line of grand children, as well as Ed’s immediate family members.
Some who attended the visitation stated the turnout was among the largest they could remember. This outpouring of concern for the family was the best way our community could express its feeling of loss.
Ed was born in Bristol, Florida and attended Liberty County High School. Like his father and three brothers, he played football for Liberty County as well as other sports while in school. An article in the Tallahassee Democrat during the 1955-56 season stated " Five all-conference stars and four other seniors graduated, and left Dubose with a small nucleus for "55". Only two of the six returning lettermen are now playing in the same positions they did last year. ‘Edward Revell, a 150 pound senior is still on hand to direct the Bulldogs modified T formation offense. A versatile performer, Revell owns two varsity letters and was the regular quarterback last year." Ed also played basketball and pitched for the FFA Fast Pitch Softball team.
In August of 1966, after graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, Judy Dean. Ed started selling life insurance with Independent Life, and from that point forward, the insurance industry became his profession until he retired from Farm Bureau Insurance Company in Marianna in 2001.
Ed Revell was popular, well known, respected,…and will be missed by us all.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Failed Effort…Bealls Will Close

Letter from owner Bob Beall ends hopes for change of mind.
"Tis better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all".
The wisdom of that idiom is about all we can garner from our effort on behalf of many, many desperate housewives in our area who are mourning the impending closure of Bealls Department Store in Marianna. The effort which was put forth last week did earn a serious reconsideration of the matter in the corporate offices of the organization, but in the end, the end is near.
After we printed our story about the emotional trauma the impending closure was having on numerous women in Jackson County, combined with a call from Ernie and Lydia Padgett who personally know the owner, Robert Beall, Bill Stanton, with the Jackson County Development Council also contacted Mr. Beall, offering community support to fill their needs. We are adding the e-mail correspondence that transpired late last week.
#1- Correspondence
From Bill Stanton to owner, Robert Beall:
Attention: Robert M. Beall II, Executive Chairman Bealls Inc.
Please read the separately forwarded November 13 issue of the Jackson County Times (front page above the fold lead article).

Our community, county and surrounding area of 68,000 people . . . truly are praying that your company will allow us to continue to "leave our homes with Bealls on".

We are requesting that you assign someone from your staff to explore the following options:
1. Keep your present Marianna store open for the first six months of 2009 (to allow time to consider other options).
2. Let us work with you on looking at a much larger new or existing building location (to expand your footprint up to 80,000 sq. ft.).
3. Look at co-locating with Publix and Walgreen’s in a proposed new regional shopping center to be constructed in Marianna to serve the 68,000 people who conduct the majority of their shopping here.
Please note that our County Commission Chairman, County Administrator, Marianna Mayor and City Manager have been copied on this e-mail. We are a united team who wants you here!
Lastly, Ernie Padgett was an elected County Commissioner here in the early 1980’s . . . and served as our first County Administrator (before moving on to Santa Rosa County and the 12 years you knew him in Manatee County). I’ve known and worked with Ernie for 25 years. He is back home and has joined our economic development team in pursuing this project.
Give us a chance . . . We’ll make you glad you did!
Bill Stanton Executive Director
Jackson County Development Council, Inc. (JCDC)
#2 – Response to Stanton from Mr. Beall:
In response to your communication, and to Lydia’s call, I have just met with our Real Estate Director to discuss the Marianna store. It is with real regret that I must say that the decision to close is the correct one, and we must take that action. I will not go into all the reasons for this decision, but please be assured that my review was thorough.
It is my hope that at some point in the future, perhaps when the market has grown a bit and when the economy has recovered, we can consider a new store that we could both be proud of in your beautiful community.
Best, Bob
Robert M. Beall, II Executive Chairman
Beall’s, Inc. Bradenton, FL 34206
#3 – Final response from Bill Stanton to
Mr. Beall:
On behalf of everyone in Marianna and Jackson County . . . thank you for considering our request to keep your Marianna store open.
Of course, we’re disappointed. However, we sincerely appreciate that you gave this matter your personal attention and took the time to revisit the issue with your Real Estate Director.
Meanwhile, we join you in looking forward to an "economy recovery" so that you and your team can then consider locating a new Beall’s store in Marianna.
Our united "Economic Development Team" (including those copied on this e-mail) stands ready to work with you in the future.
Again, thank you for your consideration and know that we look forward to your return . . . so that we may again "leave our homes with Beall’s on".
Respectfully . . . Bill Stanton

Governor Crist Appoints Four Jackson County Citizens to the Jackson Hospital Corporation Board

Governor Charlie Crist today announced the following reappointment and appointments:
To the Jackson County Hospital Corporation

Kathy A. Sloan, 55, of Marianna, vice president of Baxter’s Asphalt and Concrete Inc., reappointed for a term beginning November 20, 2008, and ending July 31, 2012.
Sarah M. Clemmons, 56, of Marianna, college administrator with Chipola College, succeeding Juanita Sanson, appointed for a term beginning November 20, 2008, and ending June 23, 2012.
Kathleen S. Evans, 55, of Marianna, branch manager with Regions Bank, succeeding Patricia Williams, appointed for a term beginning November 20, 2008, and ending July 20, 2012.
James F. Streetman, 53, of Marianna, real estate broker with Coldwell Banker – The Hatcher Agency, succeeding Patricia Furr, appointed for a term beginning November 20, 2008, and ending July 31, 2012.

Marianna FCI Is Scheduled to House Additional Sexual Offenders

By Sid Riley

Part of federal prison approach to improve treatment programs

Several weeks ago I was informed by several concerned citizens that plans were underway to make the Marianna FCI one of the primary prisons within the Federal system for the housing and treatment of sexual offenders. The citizens were concerned over the possibility this change might lead to a greater number of these former prisoners remaining in Jackson County upon release. In response to their calls I embarked on an investigation of what implications this program could have for our community in coming years.

I first contacted Charlie Brown and Byron Ward, both of whom serve on the Community Relations Committee which coordinates with the Marianna FCI officials through monthly meetings. They both informed me that the rumor was true, there were plans to increase the percentage of sexual offenders housed within the existing capacity of the prison. Charlie requested I not write a story on this matter until I had first met with the new warden, and had received a full briefing on the issues relating to these changes at FCI.

On Thursday, November 20, Charlie Brown and I met with Warden Eichenlaub and Jennifer Saad of his staff at his office within FCI and confronted him with the concerns of our community. I found him to be completely open and candid in his answers, and left the meeting feeling much better about the matter. The text of that session is presented below:

Riley: "Warden Eichenlaub, is it true that the federal prison system has decided to concentrate incarcerated sexual offenders into selected prisons to enable better treatment programs for them and to reduce potential problems of having them mixed within the prison populations at numerous sites"

Warden: "Yes, we are a selected site for increased housing of sexual offenders. At present there are 180 such offenders in our population, and we are slated to increase that number to around 450."

Riley: "About what percentage of the total population will that be?"

Warden: "At present our population consists of approximately 280 at our women’s unit, 75 in our special security area, and 1180 in the general medium security population. This creates a total of approximately 1535. With 450 sexual offenders within the medium security unit, they would constitute about 40% of the total for that unit."

Riley: "The primary cause for concern in our community is the potential for a percentage of these offenders to remain in our area upon release, and over the years this number would accumulate and thus result in our community containing a disproportionately high number of individuals who were prior convicts with a history of sexual problems."

Warden: "I can understand your concern. However, we are required to release them in the area where they were convicted, and their follow up parole period is set up under the parole programs in that area. Thus, the opportunity for them to come back to this area after release is very, very remote. In fact, we have researched the matter, and we can find only one or two instances from the entire population here since the prison started, where the inmate remained in this area after release. Because of this, I feel that no problem exists for the Jackson County community from any prisoners being released after completion of their terms here."

Riley: "That makes me feel much better about the issue. Now, how can this be monitored by the community in coming years?"

Warden: "Whenever a prisoner is released into a community, we are required to notify all significant law enforcement agencies in the area of our action. Thus, if we were ever to release a sexual offender into this community, and I doubt any frequency of that occurring, we would notify the municipal police chief, and the local sheriff."

Riley: "I thank you for your time and your direct answers to my questions."

Warden: "We are always sensitive to the attitudes and needs of the community. Please feel free to contact me if you ever have any questions relating to anything involving Marianna FCI."

Meet the Warden at the Federal Penitentiary

By Sid Riley

Chris "Ike" Eichenlaub has been "the man" since September 2.

He has his own little fenced in world…and within that world he is King. That is the way it is inside a prison. At Marianna Federal Correction Institution that man in charge is Chris "Ike" Eichenlab, who took the reigns in September.

A native of a suburb of Philadelphia, and a fourteen year veteran of the Federal Prison system, he is well prepared to take charge of Marianna FCI. He was transferred to Marianna from the FCI in Milan, Michigan. He and his wife of fifteen years, Andrea, are enjoying the opportunity to live in a warmer climate.

Warden Eichenlab attended High School in the Philadelphia area. He first attended Gettysburg College, where he acquired a BA degree. He then moved to the University of Maryland, where he earned his Masters Degree in Criminal Justice.

‘Ike" states that he is enjoying the warm hospitality of the Marianna community, and the relaxed lifestyle that this area offers. So, if you happen to encounter Ike around town, tell him you saw this article and welcome him to Marianna.

New Faces and New Places on Board

On Tuesday, November 25, 2008 the Jackson County Board of Commissioners held their first official meeting for the new elected term of service. There was one new face at the table, and Commissioners Jeremy Branch and Chuck Lockey had swapped seats.

This was the first meeting the newly seated Commissioner for District 5, Kenneth Stephens assumed his responsibilities. It was also the first session conducted by the new Board Chairman, Jeremy Branch. Chuck Lockey, the previous Chairman, had relinquished the center position to Branch and was seated to his left side.

Everyone seemed comfortable in their new roles, and the meeting was conducted in good order. We at the Jackson County Times wish them all good fortune in the coming year.

Hathcock House Is Ready for Christmas

Home will be featured on Holiday Tour of Homes

Nothing says "Season’s Greetings" like a house completely bedecked and bedazzled for Christmas. This theme certainly rings true at the Hathcock residence located on River Road in Sneads, one of five showcased homes in this year’s Sneads Carlisle Rose Garden Holiday Tour of Homes extravaganza.

Upon entering this custom designed, newly constructed home, guests are welcomed by four stately columns and an elegant arched beveled glass entryway, all adorned with seasonal garlands. The theme of holiday splendor is carried throughout the home with, Christmas trees in the study, living room and bedrooms. Don’t miss their boy’s special theme trees…a hunting and dog theme and a Disney Cars theme!

The custom built bookcase and fireplace mantle are real showstoppers as they sparkle with holiday pizzazz. But that’s not all! Descend the main floor to the 1600 square foot basement and find yet another family retreat. Here you can feast your eyes upon a mix of Christmas decorations reflecting favorite family pastimes from their first train set to the family’s collection of holiday villages.

Mark your calendar now for this year’s tour of homes. The Holiday Tour of Homes will take place Sunday, December 14th from 2:00 – 5:00 P.M.C.S.T., beginning at the Sneads Community Log Cabin on Old Spanish Trail. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased the day of the tour or from any Garden Club member. For more information call 593-6143.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Florida Public Utilities Will Raise Local Electricity Bills Another 11% On January 1, 2009

By Sid Riley

Florida Public Service Commission approves rate hike.

Well, they are going to do it again. On November 17 the Florida Public Service Commission which regulates Florida’s Electric Utilities and determines what rates they can charge their customers, approved a 11% rate hike for Florida Public Utilities. FPU is the investor owned utility which serves the Marianna area in Jackson County.

This scheduled increase comes shortly after a study which was conducted by a utilities consultant and paid for by the Marianna City Commission, revealed that Florida Public Utilities already has one of the highest power rates in the state of Florida. FPU customers are currently paying $123.45 per 1000 kilowatt hour (including fuel charges), and the new approved rate will raise that cost to $136.71 per 1000 kwh.

Utilities are allowed to recover only the prudently incurred costs of purchasing fuel and power as necessary to meet customer demand, and are not allowed to make a profit on fuel purchases. The fuel charge appears on customer bills as a separate line item charge.

FPU’s franchise with the City of Marianna expires in 2010, and the city officials are currently in the process of evaluating their options before granting a renewal to FPU. We should all carefully observe what transpires in this matter in the coming months. Meanwhile, Marianna residents can expect to pay even more for electricity as of January 2009.

New Officials are Official

By Sid Riley
From Candidate to Elected County Official In 10 Easy Months

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 was the official "swearing in" day for all newly elected county and state officials. Here in Jackson County, it was "raise your hand and repeat after me" time for our newly elected Superintendent of Schools, Lee Miller.
Miller appropriately wanted the ceremony to be held at Golson Elementary, where he has served as Principal for many years. He was given the oath of office by Judge Bill Wright in the school auditorium Tuesday morning before the student body. Miller’s first official public appearance as Superintendent of Schools occurred later that day at the regular meeting of the School Board, where Miller presided. (See Story)
Meanwhile, across town, at almost the same time hands were being raised and oaths of office given to the three elected County Commissioners. Judge Brantley Clark administered the oath of office to new District 5 Commissioner, Kenneth Stephens, and reelected Commissioners Willie Spires and Chuck Lockey.
After the administration of the oath, Chairman Lockey announced that it was then time for the reorganization of the board, by electing a new Chairman and Vice-Chairman. Immediately, Commissioner Crutchfield nominated Chuck Lockey to serve another two year term, and the motion was seconded by Jeremy Branch. During discussion, Chuck Lockey stated that he had enjoyed being the Chairman, and felt honored to be re-nominated, but he felt it was better for the Board and for the citizens of the county if the position was not retained for long periods by one Commissioner. He thus encouraged the Board to nominate another member.
At this point, Crutchfield nominated Jeremy Branch to be the next Chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Spires, and Branch was elected by a 5-0 vote. After taking the chair from Lockey, Branch then opened the floor for nomination of a Vice-Chairman. Crutchfield nominated Commissioner Spires as Vice-Chairman; it was seconded and approved by a 5-0 vote.
The swearing in and reorganization completed, Branch adjourned the meeting.
Note: The Jackson County Times congratulates all elected and re-elected officials and wishes them all great success and profound wisdom as they execute their responsibilities for the citizens of Jackson County.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008 Parade of Homes to Begin Next Month For Sneads and Grand Ridge Homes-11/13/08

It’s getting to be that time of year again! There’s a nip in the air and quite possibly a pumpkin pie in the oven as families everywhere begin to ready their homes for the Christmas season! Once again, the Sneads Carlisle Rose Garden Club will add to your holiday festivities as they present the 2008 Holiday Parade of Homes on Sunday, December 14th from 2:00 to 5:00 P.M.C.S.T.
One of the five beautiful homes featured on this year’s tour is the Gainer home located on Hwy 90 in Grand Ridge. Designed by the late Mr. Ducky Johnson, this spacious four bedroom house is situated dramatically among several ponds, a lake and wildlife that also call this area home. You can bet that Santa will smile approvingly when he spies the custom built dollhouse that resides on the bank of the entrance pond to the property, a gift given to the homeowner’s daughter when she was three. As guests enter the new home and move into the family room, they are greeted by a large ten foot Christmas tree showcasing ornaments that hold special meaning for the members of the Gainer family. Three more spectacularly decorated trees can be found in the master and children’s bedrooms, all depicting a different theme and color scheme. The elegant formal dining room is set for a special Christmas dinner as the table gleams with heirloom china handed down from generations. Don’t miss this and all the homes on this year’s Holiday Tour of Homes.
Mark your calendars now for this fun and inspiring event. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased the day of the tour at the Log Cabin Community House on Old Spanish Trail in Sneads, where the tour begins. Tickets may also be purchased in advance from any Garden Club member. Call 593-6143 for more information.

Racial Slur Incident Is Not Resolved Yet

State President of NAACP Attends Local Town Hall Meeting
By Sid Riley

The school board and school administrators may think the racial slur incident which occurred several weeks ago at the Marianna Middle School has been resolved, but that is not the opinion of the local black community, as well as the local and state officials of the NAACP. Many in the African-American community, parents, and leaders are still very upset and are seeking further action against the teacher who made the racial remarks, Greg Howard. They want his teaching certificate to be suspended.
At a special "Town Hall" information gathering meeting on Wednesday evening, State NAACP leaders, Local NAACP leaders, and a concerned crowd of approximately fifty citizens met to discuss the issue and to formulate a plan of action. The discussion was led by a panel consisting of Madam Adora ObiNweze, State NAACP President and member of the National NAACP board, Mr. Charles Evans State NAACP Officer, Richard Patterson local NAACP Branch President, and Elmore Bryant Past-President of the local NAACP Branch.
After an opening prayer delivered by Deacon Collins and recognition of several local community leaders who were present, Richard Patterson opened the meeting by defining the purpose and format of the proceedings. He expressed his regret that this act had focused national attention on the racial situation in Jackson County, and the fact that this event has destroyed years of positive work and direction on improving community relationships in our area. He expressed his despair that they had not been able to accomplish more at the School Board meeting where outgoing Superintendent of Schools Danny Sims made the final decision to only temporarily suspend Mr. Howard, transfer him to Adult Education from the Middle School, prohibit him from coaching, and engage him in special sensitivity training. "Our timing was bad, since he is the outgoing Superintendent at this time", Patterson related.
As members of the audience began to speak, many of the statements, outrage, and emotions that were expressed at the School Board Meeting were reiterated. However, there were some new claims which surfaced. Among these were the concerns expressed by one parent over the fact that Mr. Howard had been coming back onto the Middle School campus during class hours, thus arousing fears of possible reprisal from him directed toward some to the students who have testified against him.
Another allegation was directed against Supt. Sims stating that the Superintendent’s family or the family of his wife is related distantly to the Howard family, and because of this relationship Mr. Simms should be disqualified from the issue due to a possible conflict of interest. The panel promised to investigate this problem.
The organization’s legal counsel, Mr. Crumbs spoke on the fact that the School Board had failed to follow the precedent set in a similar incident in South Florida, as presented to the board by Mr. Crumbs at the meeting several weeks ago. In the South Florida incident the racial slur was not premeditated, occurred in the hallway instead of in the classroom, and by those standards was less severe than the Howard incident, yet in that case the teacher had received a three year suspension of license. He stated that they are attempting to get the State DOE and even the Governor to take suspension action against Mr. Howard. "If we fail in that effort, we may have to resort to court action against the parties involved", he continued.
At one point madam Adora ObiNeze, the State NAACP President delivered a fiery address, stating the failures of the local school system to address the educational needs of the black children in Jackson County. She stated that their graduation rate is below 50%, that many are only being given an attendance certificate instead of a diploma, that for too many the educational road leads to prison and failure, that suspensions of black students and remedial actions for black children far outnumber similar actions against whites, and in general, the system is not serving the needs of the local African American citizens.
She stated that she and the State NAACP officials are "very concerned" about the racial situation that exists in Jackson County, and "they are going to support and in some instances lead the local community in an effort to correct these shortfalls. If they will not respond to our requests, we will engage in demonstrations and will focus the eyes of the nation on what is happening here".
The local leadership is scheduling a follow-up meeting in the near future to develop a formal plan of action in this matter. "If the state will not support us, then we will move onward to the Federal level", stated Patterson. "At the moment we are most disturbed about the fact that Mr. Howard is returning to the school campus and the emotional impact this is having on some of our students. We plan to immediately approach the school officials about this at the November 18 meeting".
The meeting adjourned, but it was obvious the book is not closed on the issue.
In a subsequent meeting with Larry Moore, Deputy Superintendent of Schools, we were informed that the schools administration is aware of the fact that Mr. Howard had on at least one occasion been on the Marianna Middle School campus during class hours, and that appropriate action had been taken to prohibit a reoccurrence. In response to the "conflict of interest" charge due to a family relationship between Mr. Sim’s wife and the family of Mr. Howard, Moore stated that he felt that if any relationship does exist, it is probably distant enough to render it meaningless.

Meet Your New Chief Deputy, Don Branch

Local lawman achieves long time goal.
By Sid Riley

Don Branch was born in the old Marianna Hospital, was raised in the Grand Ridge area, attended Grand Ridge High School, and has always lived in Jackson County. This certainally qualifies him as being a Jackson County product.
Consequently, a large percentage of the citizens of our area already know and respect Don Branch. For those readers who do not know him, this writing will serve as an introduction.
He and his wife Debbie, who is a retired nurse, have three sons and three grandchildren. They own and operate a small hay farming operation in the Sneads-Grand Ridge area. This farm is also operated by one of their sons. Another son lives in Pensacola and works for a state agency. The youngest son is Jeremy Branch, District 4 County Commissioner.
Don has worked in law enforcement for thirty two years. His father had worked as a deputy under Sheriff’s Gause and Craven, so it was only natural that Don would also be motivated to work in the field of Law Enforcement. He started in campus security at the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, then worked for the Dept. of Corrections as a guard at River Junction, and finally in 1978 went to work for Sheriff Applewhite as a deputy. In 1984, under Sheriff McDaniel he was promoted to investigator. In 1986 he went to work for the FDLE as a special agent, and worked for that agency until a few weeks ago when he left to assume the position as Chief Deputy for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.
Branch first met Lou Roberts in 1978 when they were both working on the same shift as deputies. They formed a close bond of friendship that has endured since that initial period. Through the years they often discussed the possibility of Lou Roberts eventually achieving the position as the elected sheriff of the county, and during those conversations Lou committed to Don that he wanted him to be his Chief Deputy if the dreamed for goal was ever achieved.
Well, that day has now arrived. Lou and Don are in the saddle and ready to ride.
They plan no immediate, drastic changes to the normal routine in the department. "We will stress more visibility", Branch stated. "If the bad guys realize a deputy is usually in an area, they will go somewhere else. I consider visibility a form of prevention. Our main goal is to do a good job in serving the citizens of Jackson County with the best possible law enforcement, thus making this a very safe place to live and raise children"
We at the Jackson County Times and all of the devoted citizens of Jackson County wish Sheriff Roberts and Deputy Branch great success as they step into those big shoes that have been filled by Sheriff McDaniel for so many years.

Angry Citizen Lashes Out At Marianna Commissioners

By Sid Riley

"You will be hearing from my Lawyer!" Those were the parting words thrown at the Marianna City Commissioners by an angered Pete Carmichael as he stormed out of last Tuesday’s meeting. He had just made a plea to the panel for consideration of the dilemma the city planning department has created in regards to a planned project and new use for the old Stone Hotel facility, which Carmichael owns.
His first area of complaint centered on the requirement, which the planning officials had made, which required him to have detailed drawings made of the proposed alterations. These drawing would have to be made and stamped by a certified engineer or architect. The cost - approximately $8,000.
The frustrated property owner alleged that other "change of use" projects in the area had not been met with this requirement and cost. Specifically he referred to the new Century Lighting store on Jackson Street, and a project at a nearby church. The planning officials retorted that those facilities were modern and were already in code compliance. The Commissioners and City Attorney Frank Bondurant took exception to his claim that favoritism had been demonstrated by the city.
Carmichael hopes to convert the lower portion of the grand old hotel into banquet and party rental space. He also plans to use the second floor for retail sales. In order to accomplish this goal, he was told that the facility would have to be fully brought up to modern construction and fire codes.
"That would be cost prohibitive, and you are thus making my building become worthless", Carmichael retorted. After reaching that impasse, he made his parting angry remark and stormed from the room.

A Community In Crisis

Announcement of Beall’s Closing Is Having Widespread Impact
By Sid Riley

A few days ago the executives of Bradenton based Bealls Department Stores announced that shortly after Christmas the Marianna store would be closing. Since that momentous announcement, there have been widespread instances of serious repercussions in the local community resulting from that impending action. Many local citizens, especially women, have experienced severe depression, a diminished ability to function, and an overwhelming sense of betrayal.
For instance, my own wife, Judy has been severely impacted by the situation. She now spends day after day just sitting looking blankly at the television set, slowly turning her credit card over and over. This started after she was found wandering aimlessly through the store, gingerly fingering the clothing on display. The store staff tenderly escorted her from the store and she hasn’t been the same since.
Down the street at the home of Jim Harkins a similar pattern has developed. Toolie Harkins just roams the house going from closet to closet and saying over and over, "What will I do? What will I do?"
Last week Tom Sanson lost track of his wife, Juanita. He finally located her sitting in their car in the Bealls parking lot, looking forlornly at the building and sobbing hysterically. Polly Roberts has been trying valiantly to hold up under the strain, lending a supporting hand to her friends and fellow shoppers…however, her husband Jim states that she, too is beginning to cry herself to sleep. Libby Hutto, normally a voracious cook, has not prepared a family meal in two weeks. Her husband Roy has lost ten pounds and has begun to beg Libby to cook. Libby just mumbles something about moving to Tallahassee, and walks away.
Dr. Steven Spence has informed the Jackson County Times that in his practice he is having to treat an alarming number of area women who are suffering extreme depression. The number of victims is growing daily and at a recent medical meeting the malady was given the name, "Bealls Syndrome".
The crisis is also impacting the dental community. Dr. Robert Payne has told the Jackson County Times that his practice has seen a dramatic upsurge in the numbers of women with chipped and broken teeth coming to him for treatment. It seems that many women, in an angry response to the announced closing, have become "gnashers of teeth". This is causing extensive tooth damage and has actually been a boon for the dental care business. There is one problem for Bob though, his own wife Suzanne recently broke one of her molars.
Pat Hart, a great community organizer and a person that will not sit back idly while things deteriorate, has begun to take a leadership role in this matter. She is reportedly organizing all of these desperate area women and is preparing to lead a motorcade to Bradenton, with the intent to picket the corporate offices.
The announced closing has truly created a community crisis in Jackson County. The emotional impact rivals the condition realized when Graham Air Base closed here in the 1960’s.
In a more serious vein, I have discussed the matter with several community leaders who actively work on behalf of industrial development for Jackson County. County Commission Board Chairman, Chuck Lockey, and Marianna Mayor, James Wise, have expressed their concern over the closing of the store, and have expressed a willingness to assist in every way possible to retain Bealls in our community. Bill Stanton, Director of the Jackson County Development Council has also expressed his willingness to work to retain the store here.
One suggested step would be for Stanton and a selected delegation to meet with the Bealls executives to be sure the company officials have an accurate and clear perspective of what is happening here. This would include demonstrating the fact that Marianna is a growing shopping centre for the tri-county area, especially the rapidly growing retail area developing at the I-10 interchange. New malls, the Super Wal-Mart, Lowes, restaurants, motels, and other retail stores are moving into this area at a rapid pace. Also, it appears that a new call center operator is on the verge of leasing the old Wal-Mart building (in the Bealls mall location) and creating jobs for some 300 citizens there. This would help revitalize the existing Bealls location.
It has been stated the new Bealls stores are much larger than the existing Marianna store. Bill Stanton could discuss planned new malls in this area and the possibility of a new Bealls store being one of the key occupants of one of these new malls. We encourage everyone involved to take time to fully evaluate the plans of the community and needs of the company before time runs out on this decision.
Bealls corporate offices are located in Manatee County (Bradenton). That is where local residents Ernie and Lydia Padgett lived and worked for twelve years. Ernie served as their County Administrator during that time. Consequently, they both know Mr. Robert Beall personally. Lydia recently spoke with Mr. Beall about the planned closing. During that conversation she stressed the fact that Bealls is the most popular clothing store in town, and if it is closed it will be sorely missed by many. She appealed to him for further consideration of the decision. After this story is published, Lydia plans to contact him again. Let’s all wish her luck!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Buffalo Soldiers are On The March

Local Organization Doing Good Things
By Sid Riley
On the March and working for the benefit of fellow citizens…that is what the Buffalo Soldiers of Marianna are doing. This active group of concerned local citizens is engaged in numerous projects that are designed to help their fellow citizens in times of need.

Their current project is dedicated to raising donations to assure several needy families have a memorable Thanksgiving this year. They are asking citizens to donate food to go with the turkeys the organization will donate. Last year the program made a great Thanksgiving holiday for five families, and they are hoping to increase that number this year.

Donations can be brought to the McClain Community Center on Clay Street between 3:00 and 6:00 PM, Monday thru Friday. For information call 209-2314, 482-0353, 209-4310, or 209-1172.

To submit a family for consideration, call with information by November 15. The Thanksgiving boxes will be distributed on November 21. You can help make this a great holiday for a local family by giving from your heart to help others……Thank You.

Scouts Raise Food For Needy

Cubs Scouts in Pack 170 of Marianna participated in the annual nation-wide "Scouting for Food" program again this year to collect canned goods and other non-perishable items for the local food pantry. Scouts worked at both Winn Dixie and the Grocery Outlet to pass out fliers and collect food and money donations from customers. A variety of nutritious food items were collected, which will be used to help local families. If you would like to know more about this program or about scouting, please e-mail, or call 209-2818.


Sunday–Thursday, November 2–13, 2008
● Watercolor paintings by Michele Tabor Kimbrough –Sunday Afternoon with the Arts, Chipola College – Art Center, College St., Marianna, FL. Meet the Artists Nov 2, 1–5 pm.
Monday-Thursday, November 3-7, 2008
● Sneads High School’s Homecoming Week- The SHS cheerleaders are hosting the annual Pirate Plunge community pep rally on Thursday, November 6th at 6:30pm in the new gym. Performances will be given by the JV and Varsity cheerleaders, the SHS band, and others. The 2008 homecoming court will be presented at this event and the evening will culminate with a special slide show presentation of scenes from throughout football season. All honor classes and alumni of both Sneads High School and Grand Ridge High School are invited and will be recognized. Admission is $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for students. If you have any questions, or would like further information, please contact Rhianna Dowling at 482-9004 ext. 249.
Wednesday-Saturday, November 5-15, 2008
● The Buffalo Soldiers of Marianna will sponsor a Food Drive for needy families during the Thanksgiving Holidays. They are asking citizens to donate foodstuffs to go along with the turkeys they will donate. Bring donations to the McClain Community Center on Clay St., between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday. For more information call Aaron Granberry at 482-0353, Marvin Couch at 209-2314, Leon Kelly at 209-4310 or Willie Barnes at 209-1172.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
● Sharon Cox Property Appraiser 4th Annual "Appreciation BBQ"- "Famous Amos Morris" Boston Butt BBQ and trimmings along with entertainment from The Original Artists for your enjoyment located at the Fairgrounds in the Old AG Building, Hwy 90 West at 6:00pm. FREE!
● Ted Walt Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #12046 will meet at 2932 Madison St. (Corner of Madison and Putnam St.) at 6p.m. for a cover dish supper/business meeting to discuss the upcoming Veterans Parade and Buddy Poppy sale. For more information on joining the Veterans of Foreign Wars call 482-8140.
● The William Dunaway Chapter, Florida Society, Sons of the American Revolution will meet at Jim’s Buffet and Grill with the Dutch Treat beginning at 6:30 p.m. Anyone interested in the S.A.R is invited to attend. For more information please call 850-594-6664.
Thursday-Friday, November 6-7, 2008
● Paramore’s Pharmacy 50th Anniversary- To celebrate their 50th Anniversary Paramore’s Pharmacy would like to invite you to their Open House from 9am-5pm Thursday & Friday. Anyone who has been an employee of Paramore’s Pharmacy is invited for a special reunion Friday afternoon at 5pm.
Friday, November 7, 2008
● Laurence S. Pender, Principal of Sneads High School would like to cordially invite all graduates of Sneads High School and Grand Ridge School to attend an alumni reception at ten o’clock in the morning. The reception will be held in the foyer of the school and guests are invited to view the collection of alumni photographs at this time.
Friday-Saturday, November 7-8, 2008
● 7th Annual Veterans Day Poker Run hosted by Pony Soldier and Cookie. FREE Tent/RV Camping, Live Band Friday and Saturday Nights, Food and Vendors, Saturday Poker Run starts and ends at The River Lounge Hwy 92, Clayhatchee, AL. FBO: 1200 hrs/ LBI 1700 hrs. Best/worst hand- Door Prizes, 50/50 Drawing. All proceeds support ANG Family Readiness Program. $10 per hand Free Run Patch. For more information call Pony at 334-692-9933.
● 10 Mile Long Yard Sale off Hwy 69 N. in Grand Ridge on Sand Ridge Rd. or Butler Rd. Plenty of signs will be showing the way as well. Yard sale begins at 7 a.m. Come for a day of fun. For more information call Sue Rudd at 592-1260.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
● Rocky Creek Baptist Church Fall Festival- Pastor Charles Williams and the entire Rocky Creek Baptist Church family invite you to join them at their Fall Festival from 3pm-7pm on the church grounds. There will be food, music, games and lots of fun and fellowship for everyone. This exciting event is being given as a gift of love- no charge. Don’t miss out on a great time! The church is located just south of I-10, exit 142. Highway 71 S one mile, left on Rocky Creek Road, approximately 3 miles on the left. For more information, call 850-569-2591.
● First United Methodist Church of Cottondale is having a huge Yard Sale from 7am-11am. The sale will be inside the Fellowship Hall as well as on the sidewalk outside! For more information call Sandra Tice 352-4732.
● Gallery Talk hosted by The Artists Guild of Northwest Florida during their monthly meeting at Chipola Arts Center at Chipola College in Marianna, Florida. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this meeting featuring talks by local and regional artists regarding their work on exhibit at the Arts Center. Event will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until noon.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
● Harvest Day at First Baptist Church of Campbellton services start at 10:30am. Rev. Luther Pumphrey welcomes all! Gateway Messengers in Concert. Guest speaker is Rev. Ronnie Wright. Join them for a day of worship, music and fellowship. A covered dish lunch will be served following the service. Come and bring family & friends.
● Gospel Sing at the Lighthouse Community Church - The feature group will be the Walkers from Perry Fl. The sing will begin at 6 P.M. Everyone is invited. For more information please call 526-7763.
Sunday- Wednesday, November 9-12, 2008
● First Baptist Church of Bascom welcomes Pastor Jack Daniels. Come hear the amazing story of God’s Grace of salvation that took him from the bottle to the Bible. Sunday morning services begin at 11 a.m. with nightly services beginning at 6:30 p.m. The church is located at 4951 Basswood Rd.
Monday, November 10, 2008
● Veterans Day Parade – Hosted by the Ted Walt VFW Post 12046, Marianna, Florida. VFW Post #12046 and Ladies Auxiliary of Marianna will host a parade honoring veterans past and present, Line up will be at 2PM on Daniels St. at the old Marianna High School. No Entry Fee to participate. Please call 526-1880 before November 3rd for sign up information.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
● Jackson County Habitat Auction & Smoked Steak Dinner will be held at Jackson County Agricultural Conference Center, 2741 Pennsylvania Avenue, Marianna, FL. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, $5 for Auction only. Smoked Steak Dinner and Silent Auction @ 5:00pm. (Bidding on Silent Auction items can begin at 3:00pm) Live Auction @ 6:30pm. Volunteers Needed. Donated Items Accepted. For more information call Leslie Fuqua 482–2187. Tickets can be purchased at the Thrift store, Melvin Eng., George’s Glass Tinting, Jackson County Vault & Monument, or the Habitat Office.
● Emerald Coast Hospice Chaplain/Social Worker To present "Grief and the Holidays" Gino Mayo, Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator, and Sherri Stone, Social Worker for Emerald Coast Hospice in Marianna will present the program "Grief and the Holidays" at the Marianna Health and Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, November 13th, 1:30 pm. The experience of grief can be overwhelming during the holidays when the loss of a loved one is felt more intensely. Holiday time can be very difficult for those still mourning the loss of a loved one. This program will assist you in celebrating the holidays and provide tips to assist you in effectively managing your grief. Come spend an hour with us and learn how to make the holidays a special time for you and your family. Call Gino Mayo, hospice chaplain, at 850-526-3577 for more information and directions.
Friday, November 14, 2008
● Jim’s Buffet and Grill is hosting a Dance at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $6 per person. Dinner from the buffet or from menu as priced. All proceeds will be donated. Come have fun. For more information call 526-4561.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
● Malone Pecan Festival– Friday the 14th of November there will be a pecan pie contest; all entries will need to be at the Malone Town Hall before 12, so they can be judged. Saturday morning there will be a pecan pancake breakfast starting at 6:00am and the parade will start at ten. Entertainment will be the Thompsons and BlueGrass Pure & Simple with Travis Perry from Dothan. The line up will be at the Malone High School. There will also be an art contest. Parade contacts: Dorothy Mathis 569–2986, or Sallie Gibson 569–2980 or 569–2771. There is no fee for parade entries. Booth contacts: Flora or Ken Beard 569–5644. Booth’s with electricity will be $35.00, without $30.00. Pecan pies will be for sale. For fun there will be pony rides and slides for the kids. They will have a pecan house owned by Gayle Hart and her son Jessie. They buy and sell pecans. Come out and enjoy the day!! 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners for best float will receive trophies. Pecan Festival sponsored by Optimist Club of Malone and Jackson County Tourist Council of Marianna.
● Campbellton Senior Citizens are reminded to call in to Campbellton Town Hall and get on the list for the Thanksgiving Luncheon on November 15--this is an event which the Town of Campbellton does once a year for the seniors.
● Tag a Live Christmas tree from 8am -5pm. Maphis Tree Farm is having a Fall sale on plants and other items at the Nursery and Gift Shop. Many items reduced. Bring the family and tag your Christmas tree. Fruit and Citrus trees, shrubs, hanging baskets, fall decorations, wreaths, silk arrangements, etc. Located at 814 Rattlebox Road Chipley, Florida. For more information call 638-8243.
● Last day to submit the names of needy families for the Buffalo Soldiers of Marianna Thanksgiving food drive.
● The North East Jackson County Optimist Club announces its Annual Children’s Christmas Fundraiser. Members of the club will sell BBQ plates during the Malone Pecan Festival. The plates which will consist of a shredded BBQ Boston Butt Sandwich, coleslaw, baked beans, bread and a drink will go on sale at 10:30 a.m. All proceeds from this event will be used to purchase Christmas gifts for area children. For more information, contact Lisa Floyd at 850-573-7696.
Saturday-Sunday, November 15-16, 2008
● Caverns Road Church of Christ will be hosting a Saturday Vacation Bible School. It will be more Christian fun than you can imagine in a half day! Festivities will include: Bible stories, singing, crafts, hay rides, horse rides, animals to visit with, snacks and lunch! It’s free for all children ages 1-12 [6th grade].
● St. James A.M.E Church located at 2391 Orange St. in Marianna will be celebrating "Membership Day Weekend." On Saturday the weekend celebration will kick off with a "March of the 50 States Program" in the lower auditorium beginning at 6:00 p.m. The celebration will conclude on Sunday with the 11:00 a.m. Worship Service. All are cordially invited to attend. For further information you may call 850-536-3440.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
● Fine Arts Series presents FSU Baroque Ensemble- Cello, Violin, and Flute, with Ryan A. Kasten on Harpsichord. 4:00pm at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna. Meet the Artists Reception follows this concert. Donations accepted for the Fine Arts Series.
● Compass Lake in the Hills Fire Dept. hosting a spaghetti dinner from 1-5 p.m. on Nortek Blvd. Adults are $6.00 and children under 10 are $3.00. Take Out available. For information or tickets call 579-430 or Arty Penello at 579-5183 or 557-3554.
Monday, November 17, 2008
● Jackson Hospital Finance Committee will have their Finance meeting at 5:30pm in the Community Room of the Hudnall Building.
● Chipola Chapter, NSDAR will meet at Caverns Road Church of Christ, located one block north of the Jefferson & Kelson intersection in Marianna. Social time begins at 11:10 with the opening ritual at 11:30 a.m. Debra Bush will bring the Native American program, "Living in Two Worlds." The Dutch Treat luncheon is $11 and reservations are needed so that caterer Brenda Shiver will know the amount of chicken casserole, etc. to prepare. For reservations please call Dorcas Jackson at 579-2103 or send an email to
● Cottondale & Alford. For further information, you may call 579-4194 or 526-1951.
Monday-Friday, November 17-21, 2008
● Salem Free Will Baptist Church will be hosting the Salem Association Area Wide Crusade. Services will begin each night at 7:00 p.m. The evangelist will be the Rev. Tim York, who pastors Woodbine Free Will Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. There will be special singing nightly. Salem church is located at 2555 Kynesville Highway, just off Highway 231, between Cottondale and Alford. For more information call 579-4194 or 536-1951.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
● Jackson Hospital Board of Trustees will have their board meeting at 5:30pm in the Community Room of the Hudnall Building.

Thursday, November 20, 2008
● Emerald Coast Hospice Chaplain/Social Worker To present "Grief and the Holidays" on November 20th Gino Mayo, Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator, and Sherri Stone, Social Worker for Emerald Coast Hospice in Marianna will present the program "Grief and the Holidays" at the Jackson County Senior Citizens Center on Thursday, November 20th, at 10:00 am. The experience of grief can be overwhelming during the holidays when the loss of a loved one is felt more intensely. Holiday time can be very difficult for those still mourning the loss of a loved one. This program will assist you in celebrating the holidays and provide tips to assist you in effectively managing your grief. Come spend an hour with us and learn how to make the holidays a special time for you and your family. Call Gino Mayo, hospice chaplain, at 850-526-3577 for more information and directions.
Friday, November 21, 2008
● Buffalo Soldiers of Marianna will be giving selected needy families the Thanksgiving boxes they have prepared.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
● Help the March of Dimes achieve their mission to give babies the chance of a happy, healthy life by attending an elegant cocktail reception to celebrate the Best of Tallahassee winners, wine tasting, music, and a live and silent auction. 6 PM: A variety of wine classes. 7PM: The Grand Wine Tasting Event. At the University Center Club, Florida State University. Tickets are $50 in advance and $75 at the door. For more information contact Eventions at 850–222–0200.
● Last day for submissions to be entered for the D.A.R sponsored writing contest. Contest includes the DAR American History Essay Contest for grades 5-8 and the Christopher Columbus Essay for grades 9-12. For more information please contact Chipola Chapter, NSDAR American History Chairman Mary Robbins at or 209-4066.
Monday, December 1, 2008
● Campbellton Senior Citizens meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. in the Community Center. Ben Graves from Promised Land Farms will present an informative program on trees. Also, this will be a Christmas Luncheon. Each person is asked to bring a small gift under $10 for exchange along with a covered dish for the evening meal. For other information, call 263-8145.

A Helping Hand….and A Great Program

Marianna City Police help many local families care for safety of elderly relatives
By Sid Riley
Last week the Marianna Police Department participated in a special luncheon for the elderly people of Marianna that are under the caring wing of city policemen through the "Police Care Program". Caring for elderly family members who are struggling to remain at home instead of moving into some facility where close care can be provided, is a situation faced by many. The Marianna City Police department helps solve this problem for many families through this civic service.

Families only need to register the name of the family member, address, and other data with the Marianna Police Department and the service will begin. At present there are 65 local residents registered with the service. Each morning the individual must call the special number at the police department to advise them that all is well. If no call is received by noon, they will be contacted by the Police Department to assure they are up for the day and are doing ok. If any indication of a problem is encountered, a patrol car will be dispatched to the address immediately.

There have been numerous incidents where this action prevented a serious problem from developing for an elderly citizen. "Of course there are also a lot of false alarms and unnecessary responses, but the one time we are really needed makes all of that very worthwhile", states Police Chief Hayes Baggett.

The Marianna Police Department is the only municipal police department in the county that provides this valuable service. For more information call the police care line at 482-6446, or the main number at 526-3125.

300 To Dine At "The King’s Table" In Grocery Outlet Parking Lot

"A Thanksgiving to remember"

The King’s Table is a unique, free Thanksgiving Dinner concept which was started several years ago. This event is made possible by the donations of numerous area businesses, charitable individuals, and Christian Ministries in the Jackson County area.

The King’s Table is meant to provide a memorable Thanksgiving Dinner to those who are lonely, shut-in, homeless or otherwise in need. Because of the current economic situation in our Country and most importantly in our community, there is a greater need this year than ever before.

The King’s Table will be held in the Grocery Outlet parking lot on Thanksgiving Day, we will be serving meals from 11:00a.m. - 1:00p.m. This dinner is given on a first- come-first-served basis, and will be provided to the first 300 people who attend. A special invitation is also extended to our Police Officers, Fire Fighters and other public service employees who will be working that day. For more information about The King’s Table or if you would like to make a donation please call Lori Gregg at 557-3595 or Joy Gilbert at 272-8350.

Paramore’s Pharmacy Has Birthday

They Have Been Marianna’s Medicine Chest for Two Generations, Covering Five Decades
By Sid Riley

This photo was from Paramore’s Pharmacy Grand Opening in November 1987. Pictured from left to right in the back row is Allen Sheffield, ?, Kathryn Mayo, Jeanette Hamilton, Linda Yarbrough, Dana Rosborough. Front row is Carrie and Earl Paramore, Leigh Paramore, Scott and Donna Paramore.

Forty eight, forty nine, and ….fifty. Usually when you hear someone counting at Paramore’s Pharmacy they are counting out pills for a prescription. However, this week that is not necessarily the case. The counting you hear this week could be Donna, Scott, Willie Earl, and the rest of the staff counting how many candles are on the birthday cake they purchased in honor of the fiftieth birthday of their business.

It all started on May 1, 1958, when Willie Earl Paramore took a leap of faith. As a young pharmacist working with Hightower Drug Store in downtown Marianna, he had the opportunity to purchase Davis Pharmacy which was located a block away, next to the present Hinson Insurance Agency. Mr. R.L. Hinson, Sr. thus became Willie Earl’s first landlord. In those days, no one signed a lease, your word was what counted. At that point Willie Earl and his wife Corrie began the American Dream…becoming a business owner.

He hired Thelma Pilcher (Carlton) as his cashier and first employee. On the first day he filled one prescription for $1.25! Mrs. Syble Mount was his first customer and remains a loyal customer to this day! The first month they filled a total of 284 prescriptions, a figure they now match in a few hours of operation.

After a year in downtown Marianna, he decided to move to a building (which is now Heart by Heart) beside the doctor’s office of Dr. Gene McQuagge, on Fifth Street. Many thought he would never make it moving away from downtown. Shortly after the move, Dr. Richard and Sarah Shultz completed their office nearby. Maybe he wasn’t doomed after all! Jackson Hospital was located where the present Marianna Retirement Center is and soon the doctors began building and moving their offices into the area. Business began to grow.

One day a local doctor came to Willie Earl with a perplexing problem. He told Willie Earl that he had a patient who had continual, severe nausea that would not go away even though he had prescribed numerous remedies. He asked if Willie Earl had any ideas about a course of treatment. Willie Earl smiled and told him that the fellow apparently had a drinking problem that angered his wife. “She has been coming in here every two weeks and buying a bottle of Ipecac (which causes severe nausea), and I suspect she has been putting it in his whiskey”. The case was solved.

Willie Earl and Corrie Paramore built their home in the block behind the store…he could walk through their neighbor, Bill and Ann Bell’s yard to work. (Energy conservation was important back then!) As soon as their son Scott was about 9 years old, he would work at the store after school filling the coke machine and sweeping the store. This started a long tradition of employing family members…the joke in the family was that if you could hold a broom or even add and subtract, you started to work! Their son John Paramore and daughter Leigh followed the family tradition.

The business continued to grow, and Willie Earl hired his brother Gene to work with him. He hired him on Monday and Graham Air Force Base closed on Thursday. This was a huge blow to the community and both were concerned for their future. The business volume held steady and finally again began to grow. Gene would eventually open his own drug store.

Through the years, several other pharmacists had the privilege of working at Paramore’s Pharmacy, Jimmy Mullins and Ellis Syfrett and Janet Moneyham Booth.

In 1970, Earl and Corrie’s son, Scott (a pharmacy student at Auburn University) married Donna Mitchell. Both Donna and Scott would come home on the weekends and in the summer to work at the drug store. When they both graduated in 1973, Scott came to work full time as a pharmacist with his dad. Except for a short time in 1974, Scott has been employed as a pharmacist with Paramore’s Pharmacy.
In 1985, Scott officially bought the business from his father but both continued to work together until 1991 when Earl unofficially retired. The present store was constructed in 1987 and had the first drive-through window in the area. The store began to also carry various gift items for the convenience of their customers. Kathryn Mayo, who recently retired after working for 37 years, ran the front of the store and was known through the community for her beautiful gift displays. Since that time, the gift area has grown. When Kathryn retired in 2004, Donna Paramore retired from the Jackson County School Board and took over business as manager of the business.

Following in the family tradition, Scott and Donna’s two children also began working in the store sweeping, delivering and whatever dad (the BOSS) asked….But after long deliberation, son Jeff decided to become an electrical engineer and is presently living in Suwanne, Ga. with his wife, Fabiana, and two daughters, Stephanie and Isabella. Susan Paramore Compton became a physician and is working with Bay Nephrology Associates in Panama City, Fl. She lives in Lynn Haven with her husband, Jay and son, Sam.

It is hard to count the many local young people whose first job was at Paramore’s Pharmacy. They have gone on to be successful in many areas. Some are pharmacists, doctors, physical therapists, engineers, educators….and the list goes on and on. It is very rewarding to the Paramore family to know they have positively impacted the lives of many of them.
Changes through the Years

When the pharmacy began, each prescription was filled or compounded by the pharmacist. A slide rule was used to calculate the price of the prescription. Everyday, an employee would take an Rx and type it on a family record and it was filed away.

Today with the technology that is available, Paramore’s Pharmacy has the only robotic filling machine (lovingly named Willie Earl) in the area. This machine houses many of the medications that are the most frequently prescribed. Willie Earl the robot can quickly count and fill the bottles, thus allowing the pharmacists and pharmacy techs to input and fill other prescriptions simultaneously. This allows their customers to get their prescriptions filled quickly and accurately without the long delays encountered in some of the chain stores.

Paramore’s computer system stores important information and allows the pharmacist to know immediately if a medication might interact negatively with another they are taking. Patients receive a printout of information on every medication they are taking…how things have changed! Computers have become a necessity because every Rx is imputed, sent to the insurance company and then the pharmacist is told what the company will pay them and how much the customer is to pay…no more slide rules and calculators.

Recently, a new service has been added, a 24-hour re-fill system. Paramore’s Pharmacy is also one of the few certified compounding pharmacies in the area. Presently, Theresa McKeithan and Scott Paramore are the full-time pharmacists and Anne Canada is working part- time. The store has grown from one pharmacist and one cashier in 1958 to fourteen employees in 2008. Kathryn Mayo, who started working at the pharmacy in 1968 accumulated thirty seven years as a wonderful employee.

Celebration Time !

Scott and Donna Paramore along with Willie Earl and Corrie Paramore would like to thank this community for their wonderful, loyal support through the years. We could not have survived without the wonderful people of Marianna and Jackson County.

Today, Thursday, November 6, 2008…we will begin a two-day celebration of our 50 years in business with and Open House. We are inviting our loyal customers and the community to come by and browse the store, talk with the Paramore family, have refreshments…maybe even find something special you might want for the upcoming holidays.

We are also extending a special invitation to any past employees to come by Friday afternoon from 4-6 p.m. for a special reunion.

Utility Consultant’s Report To City Reveals Possible Overpricing By Florida Public Utilities

By Sid Riley

Marianna residents now paying highest rate in state of Florida

"From the lowest to the highest in only eight months". This extreme swing in relative statistics is not a stock market swing, a global warming statistic, or a FCAT score….it is the change in the cost Marianna residents are paying Florida Public Utilities for electric service. At a special meeting with the Marianna City Commission last Thursday, Utilities Consultant Bill Herrington with W.H.H. Enterprises presented a special report which provided comparative pricing of FPU rates per 1000 kilowatt hours to other utilities around the state.

At present, the lowest rate a residential customer using only 1000 kilowatt hours in Marianna could achieve for power is $120.00 (not including added fees and taxes). This was shown to be the highest residential rate in the State of Florida. Another revealing statistic shown in the presentation was a comparison of the Marianna rate to what Gulf Power is charging their residential customers, which is $99.00 per 1000 kilowatt hours. This is a +20% increase in cost, and Florida Public Utilities purchases their power from Gulf Power. The remarkable difference in ultimate pricing to the consumer could not be explained.

From this data, it would appear that FPU is using its monopolistic position in Marianna to justify a maximum in pricing from the Florida Public Service Commission….at the expense of the citizens of Marianna.

The Marianna City Commission is proceeding with an evaluation of the feasibility of purchasing the delivery infrastructure from FPU instead of merely renewing their franchise with the city. The next step in this process, as recommended by Herrington would be to determine the cost of severance and reconnection the city would encounter as it connected with the delivery system. This next study would cost $4500, and was unanimously approved by the Commissioners.

Marianna City Commission Raises Gas Rates 20%

By Sid Riley
Based on data from a study conducted earlier this year, City Manager Jim Dean made a recommendation to the City Commissioners at the Tuesday evening meeting, for the city to raise the gas rate for city residential customers from the existing $ .035 per therm to a new rate of $0.42 per therm. This will be a 20% increase in the gas rate.

This rate increase is in addition to the previously approved $4.00 monthly per meter charge for gas customers. "This action is recommended because the study revealed that Marianna has one of the lowest existing rates in our area," stated Dean. The recommendation was unanimously approved by the five City Commissioners.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Understanding Florida’s Agriculture

By Carly Barnes

The extensiveness of Florida’s agriculture industry never ceases to amaze me. As a state officer for the Florida FFA Association, it is necessary for me to have a comprehensive understanding of Florida agriculture in order to be an advocate for the industry. However, with each new experience during my role as the Area I State Vice President for Florida FFA, I’m quickly discovering how much agriculture crosses industry barriers and into our daily lives.
During the week of October 6-10, 2008, my state officer team was given the awesome opportunity to intern at and tour the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services located in Tallahassee, FL, the largest department within our state, and the largest department of agriculture in the nation. The vastness of the department is no surprise, as agriculture is the second largest industry in our state, falling very closely behind the tourism industry. The Florida agriculture industry produces over 270 commodities on over 42,000 commercial farms, making Florida one of the most agriculturally diverse states in our great nation.
The internship allowed my team to gain first hand experience in several divisions of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). We visited the Division of Food Safety and inspected a local Wal-Mart, observed chemists test octane levels in gasoline, and inspected a gas station on the first day of the internship.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is unique in that the Department regulates agriculture, as well as deals with all consumer protection issues around the state. This is why petroleum inspection falls under the regulation of the Department, along with the state-wide consumer complaint call center.
During the internship, my team also toured the Florida State Capitol, as well as met with the staff directors for the Florida Senate and House of Representatives Agriculture Committees. By meeting with these staff directors, we were able to understand more about agricultural policy, and how agricultural laws are drafted and passed. During our time at the capitol we met with Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson, as he spoke with us about Florida’s initiative to produce alternative fuels.
Florida is very well known for its beaches, but many people never realize that our state has a booming aquaculture industry. Right down the road in Apalachicola is the heart of Florida’s oyster industry. Our internship took us to "Apalach", where we visited an oyster processing facility and met with Division of Aquaculture environmental specialists who tested the bay waters for contamination. These specialists have the authority to cease the harvesting of oysters in the bay, therefore controlling the livelihood of oyster farmers.
Have you ever seen the "Fresh from Florida" logo in a grocery store or on produce or seafood? If so, you have witnessed the product of the FDACS Division of Marketing. While visiting this Division, my team discovered how much marketing plays into the global agriculture market. Our Florida food products are marketed and sold all around the globe, and without this Division, our agricultural sales around the state would definitely go down. Next time you’re purchasing fresh food products, look for our logo and support locally grown Florida foods.
After our tour in Tallahassee, we traveled over to the Agricultural Inspection Station on I-10 in Live Oak, Florida. We witnessed how members of Agricultural Law Enforcement used canines to inspect for food cross contamination and for non-native species illegally transported into Florida. The ag inspection stations are another example of how the Florida Department of Agriculture works to protect its consumers.
The final stop of internship was at the Suwannee River Water Management District in Live Oak. It was there that we were reminded that agriculturalists are environmentalists and stewards of the land that they depend on. We were able to see the proactive steps that farmers in the area were taking to better manage their farms and the water used on them. We also heard from the Master Gardener Program in Live Oak that works to educate others about how plants can protect the environment and conserve water around our homes.
The week-long internship at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services widened my view of our agriculture industry and how important it is to the citizens of our state. This department regulates every member of the agricultural community, from gas station owners to local farmers to business owners, in order to protect you, the consumer. To learn more about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit