Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County's Legislative Delegation Hears From Its Elected/Appointed Officials and Citizens

Senator Rob Bradley and Representative Chuck Brannon during a light moment at the legislative delegation
After an introduction by Representative Brannan, "We're going to miss him," Senator Bradley quipped, "I'm not dyin'..."

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Senator Rob Bradley represents all or part of 11 Florida Counties. Representative Chuck Brannan represents all or part of 5 Florida counties. For an hour and thirty-nine minutes both representatives listened to the County's elected officials, appointed officials and citizens.

Representative Brannan explained that Senator Bradley is "on his home stretch." Senator Bradley is term limited out at the end of the 2020 legislative session. The Florida Constitution limits an elected state senator or representative to no more than eight consecutive years in office.

Senator Bradley addressed those in attendance: "It's great to be here at Florida Gateway College. I want to thank President Mike for always having such hospitality and being so accommodating for this meeting... These meetings are very important for us to understand collectively.... the things that we focus on. You can't do everything in a 60 day session. There just isn't enough time."

"I'm on the home stretch... It's been an honor and privilege to represent the people of Columbia County during that time... I'll do my best to finish strong and reflect the values and concerns of our community as we go forward. I look forward to hearing from you today."

The reference to "President Mike" may have been a Freudian slip, as it has been reported to the Observer that Mike McKee, FGC President Larry Barrett's number two at the college, has told people that "he runs the college."

Representative Brannan followed up, "We are fortunate to have him. He is so respected in Tallahassee. I don't think sometimes we realize how fortunate we are to have Senator Bradley. We're going to miss him."

Senator Bradley followed up, "I appreciate that. I'm going to miss a lot of good friends, but I'm around. I'm not dyin'... (everyone laughed) I'm just goin' to do some other stuff."

The Constitutionals

Left to right: Property Appraiser Jeff Hampton, Sheriff Mark Hunter, and Tax Collector Ronnie Brannon.
The constitutionals in order of appearance: Property Appraiser Jeff Hampton, Sheriff Mark Hunter, and Tax Collector Ronnie Brannon.

Columbia County's Property Appraiser, Jeff Hampton, isn't into small talk. He didn't come asking for money, or anything, but volunteered his office to the delegation. He said, "If either one of you can use my office for anything you all might need, just give us a call and we'll be at your service."

Columbia County Sheriff, Mark Hunter, said, "I want to thank you all for what you done in the past. It's been a pleasure working with you Senator Bradley." Unlike in other years, Sheriff Hunter kept it short. He spoke about coming drone legislation and wished Senator Bradley good luck in the session and his future endeavors.

Columbia County's popular Tax Collector, Ronnie Brannon joked about the difference in the spelling of his last name and that of Representative Brannan.

Tax Collector Brannon was not looking for "Santa Claus" (the local mainstream media's reference to the delegation) when he told the delegation, "If you have something that needs to get to the people, we're the front line of state government and we'll be glad to help you in any way we can. All you have to do is ask. We'll find a way to make it work."

Rocky Ford, Columbia County District 2 Commissioner
Columbia County's new District 2 Commissioner, Rocky Ford.

County Manager Ben Scott spoke for the County Commission. He gave a project update to the delegation, as the County has a reputation of not spending money that has been allocated to it by the state.

Mr. Scott mentioned, among other things, "State aid for local libraries is very important to Columbia County and several small counties."

What Mr. Scott didn't mention was that Columbia County has two libraries in Lake City which are 5 miles down to road from each other along U.S. 90. If one makes the lights the drive is about 8 minutes.

For years Columbia County banked library enhancement funds and at one time had not spent so much of the money that the County was worried about the state cutting off its funding.

Lex Carswell, Superintendent of Schools
Superintend Carswell spoke about the need for higher teacher salaries.

District 2's newly elected Commissioner, Rocky Ford, told the delegation, "I'd like to thank you all for what you all do for Columbia County. I'll tell you, the hardest thing for me to get used to comin' out of private business is how long it takes to get anything done."

Arguably, the most under paid elected official in Columbia County, Superintendent of Schools Lex Carswell addressed the delegation, "I want to ask you for meaningful increases for our teacher's salaries."

State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister

Chief Assistant State Attorney Dana Brady-Giddens addressed the delegation for State Attorney Siegmeister.

The Third Circuit's State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister couldn't make the delegation meeting. He was working on serious State Attorney business.

Dana Brady-Giddens, Chief Assistant State Attorney addressed the delegation: "I'm Mr. Siegmeister's Chief Assistant State Attorney. Unfortunately he can't be here... I would like to give you his thoughts on any fire arms legislation that's going to come up this year. If there is any, he is adamantly opposed to any restrictions on fire arms."


Jim Tatum, the historian of Our Santa Fe River thanked the delegation "for coming out to listen to the citizens."

Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River Historian.
Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River Historian.

He said, "Our water Management District Board has had too many vacancies lately and there is no board member who is a true environmentalist. We have an exceptional candidate whom we know among those who have applied. She is Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson of Fort White. She was recently endorsed for this position by the Gainesville Sun. There is no one better qualified."

Senator Bradley remarked about his remaining time in Tallahassee and Our Santa Fe River, "Mr. Tatum. This will be my last meeting. I just want to tell you that I appreciate your input and that of your group. We don't always agree on the outcome of the policy, but I know we are coming from the same place on our concern for the environment. I appreciate your contribution to these very important discussions."

Other citizens spoke about a wide range of topics.

As the meeting wound down, Senator Bradley said, "You learn something new every time and today was very educational for me on many fronts. I look forward to following up on many of these issues with each of you..."

Representative Brannan thanked everyone for coming.


As the delegation headed off to its next stop in Baker County, Representative Brannan's earlier remarks about Senator Bradley, who is one of the sharpest minds in Tallahassee and always prepared, rang true, "I don't think sometimes we realize how fortunate we are to have Senator Bradley. We're going to miss him."

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