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The Clock Is Counting Down: 4 Councilmen Will Choose a Member to Fill the Vacated Council Seat

Photo of empty chair with caption: 4 City Councilmen will vote to fill one empty seat
Photo of Chair: Renè Müller via Unsplash | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – On October 13, 2021, at 5 pm, for the first time in decades, the Lake City City Council will choose a candidate to fill a vacated City Council member seat. After interviewing five candidates, the Mayor and three Councilmen will vote to see which one gets the nod.

See What the Councilmen See

The five candidates listed below, in alphabetical order, submitted a two-page letter to the City Clerk explaining what each thought the Councilmen should know.

Some candidates included their address, and some did not. Some included their phone numbers, and some did not.

The Observer has reformatted their letters, keeping as much as the original formatting, and included them below. Line breaks have been added when necessary to make the statements more readable.

Also included is a link to the original candidate’s document. Look for the Pdf widget in the candidate’s information.

You Can Be Involved

If, after examining the candidate’s information, you feel there are questions you would like asked during the candidate interview session, you can email them to the City Clerk at: SikesA@lcfla.com

Kenneth Bochette

Abbie Chasteen

Befaithful (Bea) Coker

Stephen A. Douglas

Ricky Jernigan

Kenneth BochetteKen Bochette

Kenneth (Butch) Bochette
230 SE  Brown St.
Lake City, FL 32025

City Counsel district 14 Application

I’ve written many documents in my life, everything from a simple note to complex reports and briefs to be decided by the Courts of Florida. This letter for an application to be considered by this Council for review has proven to be the most difficult. I considered many many things before making a commitment to communicate what I can bring to this board.

First let’s talk about why I decided to come to this council.

I really had no desire to be up here in front of this council or get involved. I came purely out of social pressure. My friends in the community inspired me to come see what my counterpart was doing. Upon arrival and seeing our chief of police present a power point presentation of what she was doing and her approach to crime I became emotionally charged. It brought to the forefront of my mind all of the crime in my neighborhood and our community that has not been resolved. I was motivated to tell a story that was hard for me to tell. The visions in my mind while telling the story of the brutal attack of my pet were gruesome and shocking at least.

I tried to give a recollection of the violence witnessed by my neighbors and the insouciance of our police department. I was dismayed by the acquiescence of this council. This lack of concern from this council of this type of violent crime coupled with the outlandish lack of communication demonstrated by our police department caused great concerns. These actions I witnessed have spawned me to get involved. Had a proper Police response and follow up to my call for help been conducted this assailant would have been arrested.

Possibly this persons mental status could have been identified and addressed. However, because of the lack of communication this did not happen and this assailant committed more violent acts. These new crimes unfortunately were involving our citizens. This behavior of our leadership must be put in check! We must have action!

Let’s talk about what I learned

Learning of the open position for my district was a big concern. Why did our former Councilman quit? Why all the conflict Downtown? Why were people quitting? I needed answers to this question and went on a fact finding mission. I started asking questions. Who, what, when, why, and how? I needed to see body language as well as the words used.

I hit the streets. I poke and prodded all involved. I went behind the scenes and I talked to everyone. I was shut out by a few so I turned up the game and bridged that communication gap. This is what I do. I’m a salesman at heart. Solving problems is what I’ve always been good at. Time was of the essence in this endeavor. Sometimes it takes a little nonsense to bridge a communication gap.

The things I learned are why you are reading this report/application today. My conclusion is that this council is as divided as our community. We need a catalyst to start a positive reaction.

Now we come to what I can bring to this Council

I’ve worn many shirts in my life and worked every type of job you can imagine. My talents and knowledge of tools are extensive. I know my way around an office as well as a construction project. It’s always been easy for me to rise to the top of any field I endeavored. Mainly because I love to learn and I love people.

The people of this city have watched me come and go. They have seen me at my worst and at my best. They watched me go to prison. Many thought I got a bad deal and tried to help me. They have seen me fall down and watched me get up brush myself off and get back at it. They watched me put on my painters clothes on and paint shopping centers. They have seen me sit down at the drawing board and design buildings and homes that stand in our community today. They have seen me in the law office helping our Veterans. Many have known me as their landlord. They all know me as a man with a conviction of doing the next right thing. I owe my community a huge debt for making me the man I am today!

I believe I possess the ability to bring good common communication back to our community. I believe I have the ability to look beyond the words a man uses and hear what he is really trying to say. I know I have the ability to communicate with every walk of life.

My understanding and knowledge of building trades, mechanics, engineering, math, men and the law will be an asset to this Council and our Community. My undying devotion to problem solving will be noticed by all. Let’s not overlook the education I received from the FDOC. This experience with the criminal element will definitely bring knowledge and workable solutions to the violence we are seeing in our streets today.

To sum up my desire to serve this community I will say that it is my life experiences that will be the most valuable asset that I can bring to this counsel.

Thank you for your consideration!
Kenneth (Butch) Bochette


Abbie Chasteen

Abbie ChastainHonorable Mayor Witt and City Council:

My name is Abbie Chasteen and I am honored to submit my name as a candidate for the District 14 City Council seat. I am a native and lifelong resident of Columbia County and have resided in District 14 since 2008.

I am community minded and strongly believe that in order for Lake City to remain a functional municipality it is going to take unity and inclusion to move forward. I have a track record of being fair, trustworthy, and having a voice of reason. I believe one of my greatest attributes is the love that I have for Lake City and my desire to do all that I can to help make it a great place to live, work, and play.

I am a graduate of Columbia High School, Lake City Community College, and Saint Leo University where I earned my Bachelors degree in Elementary Education. My family has owned and operated a restaurant business in Lake City my entire life which has provided me with the opportunity to build and foster relationships, as well as establish and maintain a strong work ethic, drive, and sense of community.

I was employed with the Columbia County School System from 2006-2012 where I taught 1st grade at Westside Elementary. As an educator, my desire for continuous improvement thrived and it is where I learned to be an excellent listener and problem solver. During my time as a teacher, I served on various committees within the school, planned school wide events, and served as team leader for my grade level.

In July 2012, I was hired as the Marketing Director for The Lake City - Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and the coordinator for The Ichetucknee Partnership. During my time at the Chamber, I worked alongside many leaders in our community and helped to promote our city, our county, our local businesses, and our Chamber.

As Marketing Director, I was involved in all aspects of the Chamber. My duties included planning community events alongside the City of Lake City, such as Trunk or Treat, Snow Day and 4th of July Fireworks, creating sponsorship opportunities for additional revenue, organizing volunteer opportunities, working closely with business owners to promote their companies through networking opportunities, and assisting with programs such as Dale Carnegie and Leadership Lake City (both of which I completed).

While at the Chamber I was fortunate to fill the Chamber seat on the CRA board, which much like I expect of the City Council, required me to work closely with diverse individuals with a common goal of making Lake City a better place. The Chamber allowed me to learn, grow and have a new appreciation for the place that I always called home, while developing many of the skills that I believe would serve me well on the Council, including planning for growth and the future, educating myself and becoming knowledgeable on issues that were previously unfamiliar to me, and familiarity with parliamentary procedure.

Currently I serve as the Marketing and Public Relations director for a local law firm. My duties include working with our attorneys and staff to develop ideas to generate new business opportunities, build and foster relationships with clients, maintain a positive brand reputation, and support the overall growth and success of the firm. Our firm was founded by Lake City natives and we strive to maintain a strong connection to our community in all that we do.

My experiences of being raised in the restaurant business, teaching school, and marketing for the Chamber and law firm have all afforded me with a variety of opportunities that I feel would benefit me in this position.

I have built lasting relationships with all types of people, taught the future leaders of our great city, and worked with and learned from the sharpest business minds in our community.

I am not a lifelong politician or someone who is looking to add to my resume. I am a concerned citizen who feels she can make a difference in the lives and businesses in Lake City, Florida. Admittedly, I do not know everything there is to know about City government, but I am willing to work hard and learn while listening to my constituents to also act in the best interest of the City and its residents. I can’t promise I will be able to fix all of the problems that we are experiencing. What I will promise is that I will give it 100%.

I am confident that I have the ability, temperament, and desire to serve the City of Lake City with excellence. I am excited about the possibility to serve my community. Whoever is selected for this role has the chance to make a difference in the future of Lake City that will be felt for years to come. I look forward to speaking with the Council about this opportunity to serve our great city.

Abbie E. Chasteen


Befaithful (Bea) Coker

Bea Faithful Coker636 SE Baya Drive
Lake City, FL 32025


I have spent three of nearly five decades in Lake City and continuously since 2009 in District 14. My two oldest children became adults in this community and my two youngest continue growing up alongside yours and other young people in our neighborhoods, our schools, and our churches.

Most of my time is spent planning, organizing, and recruiting people to create and develop opportunities to help young people find their way. I work tirelessly in collaboration with others; businesses, and officials alike to help form lasting memories to young and elderly citizens, proof of the heart of Lake City.

Within our community my effort has and continues to demonstrate diligent work for common goals that don’t uplift our differences but highlight the bright futures we pave when removing obstacles and focusing on shared needs for our children and all citizens to be safe, grow healthy, and cherish happiness.


I hold a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Mercer University, with special designation from Stetson School of Business. I have time remaining to complete both a law degree and PhD in Occupational Psychology.

I thoroughly enjoy the legal field and the motivations of people. I live satisfied with my career choices.

As a Senior Paralegal for Georgia-Pacific I received the distinguished honor of being named “The State of Georgia’s Corporate Paralegal of the Year”. My responsibilities at Georgia-Pacific included managing $3 billion in contracts as the sole paralegal for the packaging division. I managed this task while completing a college degree, giving birth to Victoria, and being very active in the community. The knowledge and experience I gained is shared in my local community through my small business consultancy, the community engagements of my charitable organization, and while raising my pretty active children, in this place called home.

Working in our Community

Helping in other communities refreshed memories created right here in Lake City and fueled my strong desire to return and share with our local community. I have learned it isn’t the quantity but the quality of the effort we exert as individuals that make a difference. It isn't a “Hollywood " dreamer that we necessarily need in Lake City but an unselfish desire to be part of the solution.

I am proud to raise my children in Lake City beside many of you. I am passionate about maintaining safety, preserving their childhood, and protecting their future. Our efforts have been great, yet there is much house cleaning needed and more growth to come. I am proud to share these accomplishments made in our community:

     • Professional

Serves as Exec. Director of It’s About My Efforts, Inc. Organized Our Community Cares Coalition Created My Business Consultants

     • Community

• Art & Culture in the community and schools.
• 10 years of contribution to the Lake City Reporter highlighting residents within our community (Come Meet an American),
• Established Ambassador Leadership Council, • Beautification Project - debris removal and minor home repairs for elderly citizens
• Reading programs provided to pre-kindergarten students.
• Year round camps and programs for young people to reinforce art and culture, reading, career development, community service.
• Organized, prepared and delivered over 750 meals to elderly households and connected 100 households to the internet and technology resulting from Covid-19.
• Organization of recognition programs for academic achievement of students

• 2014 recognized over 50 pre-k students for learning to read
• 2017 recognized over 200 high achieving students at Lifestyle Enrichment Center
• 2021 Annual Youth Leadership connected over 200 students with business for activities and scholarships valued at $12,000,

      • Served as a Community Representative

• Florida Department of Education Faith Based and Community Outreach Committee
• Florida? On the Social Status of Black Men and Boys

Why me?

I hold a strong desire to represent the citizens as a member of the city council.

Our city is changing rapidly and we need to remain focused not just on building household income, sustaining and creating infrastructure to accommodate growth, but in maintaining safety in communities, upholding values, and restoring order and decorum and public communication. We need direction and demonstrated commitment to the future of our city through proven efforts and appreciation for all citizens.

Working together requires understanding, experience, and outlook. I strive to help others and help this community.

I have no problem maintaining decorum while making the tough decisions and upholding accountability. If Georgia-Pacific was satisfied enough with my management of $3billion, to extend statewide recognition, I believe I can do right for the citizens of Lake City in protecting and growing our $60million budget.

I am the best person for this seat because I want the best for all of us, recognizing and appreciating the significance of our laws and rules. I fully understand improvement is necessary; however, I also believe pursuing needed change must occur in decency and order, and requires the efforts of us all to accomplish that goal. Let me help us get on the right track.


Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen A Douglas205 SE Butler Glen
Lake City, FL 32025
September 27, 2021

City Council
City of Lake City
205 North Marion Avenue
Lake City, FL 32055-3918

Dear Lake City Council,

With this letter, I am formally indicating my interest in being appointed to fill the remainder of the City Council District 14 seat.

After graduating from Columbia High School in 1984, I have lived in multiple cities throughout Florida including time in the state of Mississippi.

Working for First Union Bank in Finance and Accounting which was the sixth largest bank in the United States at that time was my livelihood from 1990 thru 1998.

I moved back to Lake City, FL in 1998 to pursue my goal of being an entrepreneur. I have owned and operated Mini-Storage & Record Storage of Lake City, Inc. since 1998.

The business started with 12,000 square feet of self-storage space and has grown to 275,000 square feet of self-storage space with six facilities and three offices throughout Lake City and Columbia County.

Having established a successful business with this community has afforded me the luxury of also giving back to this community.

I have been fortunate enough to serve on the following board(s):

Lake City / Columbia County Chamber of Commerce
2004 – 2009 Member Appointed

Lake Shore Hospital Authority Board
2010-2014 Florida Governor Appointed

Columbia County Economic Development Advisory Board
2010 – Current Columbia County Commissioners Appointed

Columbia County Charter Review Commission
2019-2020 Columbia County Commissioners Appointed

Operating a business in today’s environment requires dedication, vision, budget acuteness and the ability to get plans and tasks accomplished.

I have taken these twenty plus years of skills from operating in the private sector and used them on the aforementioned boards that I have served on. Having served on these boards have also enhanced and broadened my knowledge base and people skills.

I am a big believer in Pay It Forward and Giving Back to the Community that has been very good to me and my business.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working with each and everyone of you in the future.

Stephen A. Douglas
Mini-Storage & Record Storage of Lake City, Inc.
442 SW Saint Margaret Street Lake City, FL 32025
Office: 386-752-7092 Mobile: 386-961-6587



Ricky Jernigan1723 SW LESLIE GLN

September 27, 2021

Stephen M. Witt Mayor
618 E Duval Street
Lake City, Florida 32055

Mr. Witt:

I am applying for City Council District 14.

My qualifications include: 1) I am a registered voter. 2) I love my country, state, and city. 3) I worked for Florida Department of Corrections for 38 1/2 years. I retired on August 27, 2021. 4) I am passionate about serving the community in my district. In fact, I tan for city council a few years ago.

I look forward to representing District 14 with integrity. Please contact me at (386) 365-1150. I greatly appreciate your time and attention to this matter.

Let’s make Lake City great again!

Sincerely, Ricky Jernigan 

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