NEWBERRY – The citizens of Newberry voted for change over the status quo in city elections Tuesday.

Over 26 percent of registered voters turned out to vote on three city commission seats, two of which featured incumbents who both fell short.

In Commission Group One, Ricky Coleman defeated Commissioner Joe Hoffman, who had served on the commission since 2002. Coleman garnered 53 percent of the vote to Hoffman’s 47 percent.

Commission Group Three saw Commissioner Alena King Lawson lose in a rematch from the 2012 City Election to former commissioner Monty Farnsworth, 46.6 percent to 53.4 percent, respectively.

Jason McGehee bested Barbara Hendrix 62 percent to 38 percent in the Commission Group Two contest to fill the seat being vacated by Commissioner Lois Forte.

The new commissioners were sworn into office Wednesday morning at City Hall.

Several issues raised during the election were discussed as part of a candidate forum on Tuesday, April 1, including what qualities each candidate would look for in a new city manager; what each candidate envisioned Newberry would look like in 10 years; and what each candidate thought regarding the city’s acceptance of grant money.

As the election came to a close Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., opponents Coleman and Hoffman were both optimistic about the city’s future.

“A lot of people showed up to vote, probably a near record number,” Hoffman said. “I’ll live with the results, however they turn out. We’ll work on patching up any recent wounds that may have opened and bring the community back together.”

“It was very positive all day,” Coleman said. “There was a great turnout, and it was great to see everyone come together for the common good. I want to express my sincere appreciation to the citizens of Newberry for coming out.”

Coleman, Farnsworth and McGehee join sitting commissioners Tim Marden and Jordan Marlowe and Mayor Bill Conrad to round out the elected city officials.

The mayor and five commissioners serve two-year terms, with three seats up for election every year. The two commission seats held by Marden and Marlowe, as well as the office of mayor, will be open to election in 2015.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Parking, landscaping and façade improvements are current priorities of the High Springs Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The agency voted to direct the city to go out for bids for the creation of approximately 16 new parking spaces on NW 1st Street. City Manager Ed Booth estimates the cost to create those parking spaces will be in the $4,000-$6,000 range.

The city is required to go out to bid on any project over $5,000. However, if the city is able to negotiate a price under $5,000 with a qualified company, the city is not required to put the project out for bid.

A second plan to create parking spaces in the vicinity of the city's Police Department was tabled to the next CRA meeting. A detailed map showing exactly where the proposed parking will be located will be provided to board members at that time.

Earlier in the year, the CRA board set aside a total of $5,000 to help property owners improve the outside of their homes by repairing or replacing damaged facades. During the Thursday, April 3, CRA meeting, board members awarded facade grants to two property owners whose homes are locate within the CRA District for needed repairs to their homes.

Repairs or replacement such as roofs, windows, doors, or painting the outside of a home were just some of the types of improvements discussed at the time the budget for this fiscal year was prepared. As each grant would not exceed $1,000, homeowners would be expected to match the amount of the grant and pay the balance of the cost to complete the facade repairs themselves.

The CRA unanimously approved a facade grant of $1,000 to John T. Kennedy, 305 NW 2nd Ave., to replace two windows in his sunroom. Kennedy estimated the total cost of repairs at $2,610.

The board also decided unanimously to do the same thing for Martha P. Conrad in the same dollar amount for a roof replacement which is estimated to cost $6,655. Although she lives in Newberry, the property is located in High Springs at 130 NW 3rd Street.

The High Springs Historical Society, Inc. received approval to purchase $375 worth of landscaping plants, mulch and a sign to identify the brick walkway area constructed using bricks originally purchased by individuals in remembrance of their railroad family members. The walkway is located to the right of the front door of the city's Historic High Springs Elementary School and Community Center located at 120 NW 2nd Ave.

Two of three benches located behind the High Springs Police Department were also donated to the organization by the city. Volunteers will repair the two benches and plan to use them as seating in the garden area.

Currently, the historical society museum is housed in that building and the building is also used by the city and rented to groups and organizations for events and meetings. Historical Society volunteers will plant and maintain the garden area in the future.

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W - Alachua Spring Fest - DSC 0181Sunday’s Alachua Spring Festival brought beautiful weather and upbeat crowds to the downtown Main Street area.  Spring flowers were on the list of this shopper as she wheeled her colorful purchases along the street.

ALACHUA – Explosions of colorful flowers and art lined Main Street on Sunday afternoon. The sound of bands and vocalists filled the street at this year’s Alachua Spring Festival. The annual festival took place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and featured a variety of vendors, such as homemade dog treat bakers, churches, charities, artists, flowering plant vendors and a host of activities geared toward children..

Cap’n Jack trotted down the sidewalk, taking in the full effect the festivities could have on such a little guy as he.

There was food at every turn, children playing and laughing, music and even some dancing; entertainment all around, and Cap’n Jack, or C.J. as he is called, enjoyed every bit of it.

“It’s his first time here, but I’ve been to the last five or six at least,” said Susan Dotson, C.J.’s walking partner. Dotson, from Lake Butler, was referring to the Alachua Main Street Festival, and she brings a different dog every year. This time, it was C.J. taking a walk on the town.

“I get dogs through a program called Paws on Parole, and foster them until they’re ready for an inmate to take them,” Dotson said. “I’ll more than likely be back next time around with another dog too.”

Dotson did not just go out for the food and family atmosphere, although she said that adds to the experience. She has a friend who owns one of the shops that sets up a booth each time the festival takes place.

“I always come out and support her, and look for some things myself from the shops,” Dotson said. “It’s a great place to find some things for dogs, too.”

Cap’n Jack wasn’t the only one to visit the festival for the first time though. The Lam family also made their way to Alachua as newcomers to the event. Gwen Lam, of Fort White, said her husband, Frank, was volunteering at the Irish Water Dogs booth, and she figured if he was going to be there the whole day, it was a great chance to take the kids along, too.

Lam stood with her children, daughter Autumn and son Joseph, as they petted some of the goats near the pony rides.

“The favorite part for us would have to be feeding the animals,” Lam said. “I know my kids enjoyed that the most.”

Whether it was walking a dog, or walking a child, the crowd enjoyed a wonderful day on the town. There were food vendors at every corner, offering anything from fried specialties to cotton candy.

“It is a beautiful day,” Lam said. “I would certainly come back again.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs has a new recreation director with high goals.

“It was perfect timing,” Robert Basford said, reminiscing on how he came upon the new job just as he had started working in Alachua.

As a program assistant at the City of Alachua’s Hal Brady Alachua Recreation Complex, Basford participated in citywide recreation meetings and gained experience and knowledge about organizing activities such as baseball tournaments and networking teams for students.

Basford, a 22-year-old graduate student at the University of Florida, has a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management, and is currently studying for his master’s in Recreational Parks and tourism as well as Sports Management.

He started his new job as the City of High Springs Recreation Director in High Springs after accepting the job in February.

But in those few short weeks since then, his vision for the department is beginning to take shape.

“I only just started,” he said about his plans for the future and for the community’s recreation facilities.

His agenda includes maintaining and mastering the current programs, as well as expanding them in the future.

“I’m looking to involve more unique programs, as well as applying for grants to improve the facilities,” he said.

Some of the programs he would like to include are tennis, tennis lessons, ultimate Frisbee and adult recreation.

And, he said, fitness trails.

“Those are always nice.”

He would also love for a gym to be built, but acknowledged that’s a large undertaking.

“That’s a bit of a pipedream,” Basford said.

Basford’s varied duties keep him busy, from working with parents, to maintaining playing fields and keeping them clean, as well as executing and creating programs involving the teams.

First and foremost though, Basford’s priority in his position is to maintain and improve the facilities that are already existing in High Springs. This also includes the preservation of recreational programs that he says really bring the community together — recreation for kids.

“This has a huge impact if it all works out,” he said.

“Recreation keeps the kids busy; they learn to work within a team and become leaders,” Basford said.

He also explains how being a team member serves to encourage kids to keep their grades up through high school, and to stay healthy. “And keep them out of trouble,” he added.

Basford said that even though he just started as the city’s recreation director, recreation has always been a big part of his life.

Whenever he goes out on the ball field to the games and sees the younger children playing baseball or softball, he feels a sense of gratification.

“They don’t really know what they’re doing,” Basford said. “But, they have a blast regardless. And that’s what recreation is all about.”

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L-R: Roger Chambers, High Springs Historic Society (HSHS) Secretary, Jim Dyksterhouse, HSHS Vice President and Bob Watson, HSHS President picked a sunny day in March to begin recreating a garden in front of the High Springs Elementary School and Community Center, which also houses the Historic Society Museum. The beautification project is just one of several currently underway.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                CAROLE TATE/Special to Alachua County Today
High Springs New Century Woman's Club members and High Springs city officials, City Manager Ed Booth and Vice-Mayor Sue Weller, joined forces to raise awareness of child abuse and nationwide efforts to prefvent it.

W - Carol Tate Photo for PW Group - Copy

HIGH SPRINGS – The bright blue and silver pinwheel garden planted just outside of High Springs New Century Woman's Club, 40 N.W. 1st Ave., is part of a national campaign designed to focus local awareness on the issue of child abuse in America.

General Federation of Woman's Clubs (GFWC) New Century Woman’s Club members and High Springs city officials, City Manager Ed Booth and Vice-Mayor Sue Weller, joined forces on Thursday, April 3, to plant the garden as a symbol of child abuse and neglect. The number of pinwheels planted represent only a fraction of the number of children identified as abused in the United States.

Partnership for Strong Families is a community based care agency that provides child welfare services to abused and neglected children. Proceeds from a chance drawing that was held at the April 3 meeting of the GFWC New Century Woman’s Club were donated to the organization.

As April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, the GFWC and Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) Pinwheels for Prevention teamed up to conduct a campaign to focus on activities locally to bring awareness to community and to help keep children safe.

Pinwheels for Prevention began as a grassroots campaign in Georgia, Florida and Ohio, according to information on the website The first National Abuse Prevention month was proclaimed in April 1983.

Pinwheel distribution began in 1998 with 400,000 pinwheels to help create a national symbol for child abuse and neglect prevention. Since that time more than 3.5 million pinwheels have been distributed by the group for display in all 50 states.

This year’s awareness focus is on bullying and cyber bullying. Recent deaths resulting from both have escalated. Additional information is available at or contact Anita Odom, Executive Director, Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida at or visit the website at

Shining in the sun, the 250 blue and silver pinwheels are reflective of the bright future all children deserve as well as representing commitment to provide a happy, healthy and safe childhood for all children.

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W- Lions Club Banquet 201

L-R: Long-time Alachua Lions Club member Ralph Cellon,  Alachua County Director for the Florida Cattlemen’s Association Dr. Ashby Green and Jim Strickland.  Strickland was the 2014 Lions Club Cattlemen of the Year award recipient.

ALACHUA – It was another fun filled evening of laughter, good food and music at the 75th Annual Alachua Lions Club Cattlemen’s Banquet on March 27.

A change of venue was in store this year as the banquet was held at the Santa Fe River Ranch. The evening’s program this year included the addition of a social hour and silent auction leading up to the main event, as well as a live auction afterward.

Opening the banquet and welcoming guests was Alachua Lions Club President John Hopkins, who then handed off the evening’s agenda to Master of Ceremonies J.K. “Buddy” Irby, Clerk of the Circuit Court, who has strong ties in Alachua and graduated from Santa Fe High School.

As is tradition, Gussie Lee led the crowd in singing “God Bless America” to kick off the evening’s program. Providing musical entertainment during dinner was Zack Emerson.

Before presentation of the Cattleman’s award, Irby used his time at the podium to share a few jokes and offer a good ribbing to some in attendance, eliciting roars of laughter from the crowd.

Dr. Ashby Green presented Jim Strickland with the 2014 Cattlemen of the Year award. Green said, “From his early days as a ‘cow hunter’ or ‘day worker’ on central and south Florida ranches, to today’s leadership roles in the state and national cattle industry, Jim Strickland epitomizes service.”

Strickland currently serves as Director of the Agriculture Department for the Manatee County property appraiser. He is a former president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and has served on a number of statewide and national boards and committees.

Keynote Speaker Jim Handley, a fourth generation Floridian from Sebring, Fla., shared his experiences and insights on the agriculture and beef industry. Handley is currently the Executive Vice President of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Beef Council and Executive Director of the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation, all of which are located in Kissimmee, Fla.

In keeping with tradition, the Santa Fe High School Chapter of FFA was on hand to assist as guests helped themselves to the choice aged controlled steaks, loaded potato casserole and dessert.

Following dinner, an animated, and oftentimes comical live auction was led by Alachua Lions Club member and “auctioneer for the evening” Rod Smith.

The Cattlemen’s Banquet is the Alachua Lions Club’s largest fundraiser of the year, and all profits from the banquet support charitable sight, hearing, youth and community service activities.

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