Mayor Dean Davis confers with fellow commissioners shortly after being selected to lead the commission.
HIGH SPRINGS – In a High Springs election cycle that saw two incumbents defeated, one of the victors became vice mayor Thursday night. Commissioner Dean Davis was selected by the commission to serve as the mayor of High Springs. Bob Barnas, who was elected to the commission on Nov. 8, will serve as vice mayor.
With every seat filled, residents crowded the meeting room on the second floor of City Hall to watch Bob Barnas and Linda Clark Gestrin be sworn in as the two newest members of the High Springs City Commission, replacing incumbents Larry Travis and Byran Williams.
Williams congratulated the new commissioners and thanked the citizens for allowing him to serve for seven years. He said while he was proud of the work the commission has done and was honored to serve, someone close to him is excited about the election results.
“Who is really happy about all this is my grandbaby,” he said. “I always used to tell her, ‘Granddaddy has a meeting to go to.’”
Travis was not present at the meeting due to a family commitment, but Interim City Manager Jenny Parham read a letter from him praising their efforts and looking forward to the direction the town will be taking.
One of the first orders of business for the new commission was to select a new mayor and vice mayor.
Commissioner Sue Weller nominated former Vice Mayor Eric May for the mayoral position. But Davis was selected as the new mayor garnering votes from Barnas and Gestrin, after Barnas nominated him for the slot.
Gestrin then nominated Barnas for vice mayor, once again defeating Weller’s nomination for May to continue serving in that capacity.
Davis has served on the High Springs Commission since 2009, winning a seat that expires in 2012. While neither of the new commissioners has held prior political office, they won their seats with campaigns focused on a change of direction in High Springs.
Barnas thanked the townspeople for their support, saying that throughout his life in High Springs, “It is unreal what people will do for you.”
Davis said this is characteristic of the High Springs he grew up in. He said he wants to have High Springs return to being the friendliest town in the South, a title he said he once read in a magazine.
“I am overwhelmed by the love and support for me and my family since I was a kid,” he said. “I was raised by the citizens of this town. My goal for this year is healing for our city.”
His first act as mayor was asking all commissioners and audience members to shut off their cell phones at the meeting.
“It invariably goes off at a very tense moment,” he said. “Once this year I let mine go off and y’all forgave me and I appreciate that.”
The commission also filled vacancies on the planning board, code enforcement board, housing needs and improvements board, parks and recreation board, tree board and the Mayor’s Youth Council.
Barnas said he is excited for the future of the city. He wants to make this an active year for High Springs, with citizen involvement bringing a new direction for High Springs.
Gestrin said now is the time because the people of the town are “finally awake.” She pointed to the packed room at the meeting, a room usually hosting a handful of the same faces, describing it as a “cross-section of High Springs.”
“You did it. City Hall, the government belongs to you,” she said. “You worked your heart out.”
“Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. It’s a moment in time.”
May said he is looking forward to the next year, a time to look toward the future.
“I think we have five people up here who are committed to the future of High Springs,” he said. “The people have spoken.”
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