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Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Residency Requirement: County's No. 2 Caught in County 5 Dysfunctional Web

Lead Graphic: County 5 Drops the Ball on Residency

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The long tradition of Columbia County flying by the seat of its pants and the County's tradition of polling board members was evident last night when the County 5 pulled off its consent agenda the request for a residency requirement waiver for the County's Number 2, Assistant County Manager Kevin Kirby.


Columbia County's residency requirement resides in the HR Policy Manual. The HR policies are approved by the County 5.

In 1996, the County required all managerial or supervisory employees (County Manager, Department Heads, Directors, Assistant Directors, and Foremen) to reside within Columbia County. There was no allowance for exceptions.

In 2003, the residency requirement was revised to allow the County 5 to consider exceptions to the residency policy on a case by case basis. These exceptions or waivers had to be approved at a public meeting, which is where the County 5 (the County Commission) is supposed to do its business.

In Columbia County, this has been and continues to be problematic, as many times when dealing with contentious issues, or others, public board meetings are nothing more than rubber stamps for agreements that are made in the back rooms.

Sometime between 2004 and 2012 the residency policy was changed again and remains in effect through today.

The current policy:

It is the policy of the Board to require all managerial or supervisory employees (County Manager, Department Heads, Directors, Assistant Directors, and Foremen) to reside within Columbia County...  The County Manager may consider exceptions to this policy on a case-by-case basis and may approve exceptions from this requirement...

While not necessary, those seeking residency exemptions have continued to bring their requests before The 5 through the consent agenda, which is not what the consent agenda if for.

It is not clear if any County Manager has independently authorized exemptions.

Assistant County Manager Kevin Kirby

Kevin KirbyNot too long ago, Mr. Kirby found a piece of property outside of Columbia County, right across the County line in Suwannee County.

On March 25, 2019, he wrote a memo to County Manager Ben Scott stating that he had found this property and it "suits my family's lifestyle and hobbies."

Mr. Kirby had not purchased the property.

Rather than asking for a residency waiver from County Manager Scott, Mr. Kirby requested "the Board of County Commissioners" to approve the waiver.

Mr. Kirby told the Observer, "I wasn't going to buy the property and then find out I couldn't move there."

The Consent Agenda & Polling the Board

Last night, according to County Chairman Ronald Williams, both he and County Manager Scott agreed to insert Mr. Kirby's request for a waiver on the evening's consent agenda.

Consent agendas are for recurring ministerial acts, and as explained in the Florida statutes, ministerial acts include the "approval of minutes and ceremonial proclamations."

One might be hard pressed to consider that a waiver of the County Residency Requirement for the second highest ranking and second highest paid employee of the County is comparable to "approving the minutes."

Foiled: Trying to Sneak it Through

The Columbia County 5: Williams, Ford, Nash, Witt, Murphy

Your reporter, who is also a resident, asked the Kirby waiver be pulled from the consent agenda. It was.

Ms. Barbara Lemley commented to The 5 that she thought people should be able to live where they want.

When your reporter, who is also a resident, began inquiring about how the item ended up on the consent agenda and if the Board was polled, which is against the law, Chairman Williams interrupted, got nasty, and refused to answer.

Your reporter asked that this important matter of public concern be a suggested amendment to the County Charter, which is coming up for review, and that the people decide if their highest paid County officials be required to reside in Columbia County.

There was no further comment regarding the waiver. Chairman Williams neither asked for a motion nor discussion.

The County's newly elected commissioners, Ford and Witt, who ran on platforms of change, didn't make a peep.

Mr. Kirby's request just evaporated, like the morning mist.


A source advised that The 5 were polled before the Kirby item went on the agenda and this was a done deal. This is a prevalent way the County 5 conducts its business.

Asking it to be pulled, upset the legendary 5's apple cart, ultimately leaving Mr. Kirby in nowhere land.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On April 8, 2019, a Columbia County resident wrote:

How is it that other city employees have asked for the same thing and have not gotten the quick reponse/action Kirby did? This alone speaks loud and clear, abuse of power. You either make it okay for everyone or no one. Position and pay should not determine the out come of this decision nor the quickness of such a decision. I do not want my city council to be indebted to any other county but my own.


This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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