New year ushers in new leadership

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The new year is bringing leadership changes to Levy County, as the result of retirements, career moves and the November elections. 

On New Year's Eve two constitutional officers retired from office early – Supervisor of Elections Connie Asbell and Sheriff Johnny Smith. 

The departures allowed Sheriff-Elect Bobby McCallum (R) and Supervisor-Elect Tammy Jones (R) to take office a week early,

However, both will be joining the other constitutional officers at an official swearing in on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at Levy County Courthouse at 9 a.m. County Judge James Browning, who won election to the bench in the August nonpartisan primary against Cyndee Munkittrick, will be administering the oath of office. 

McCallum, a former sheriff's major, will be taking office after winning election on his second try for the office. 

Jones, who has been an 18-year employee of the supervisor's office, won election in the Republican primary on Aug. 14 ? her first try at public office. She defeated fellow Republican Brooke Ward and had no opposition in the November general election.  

Other constitutional officers, who were re-elected without opposition or won their election, and who will be taking the oath of office include:

• School Superintendent Bob Hastings (R), who won re-election to a second term after defeating retired teacher Cindy Roach in the general election;

• Property Appraiser Oz Barker (R), who was unopposed for his second term;

• Tax Collector Linda Fugate (D), who was unopposed for her third term;

• County Clerk of Courts Danny Shipp (D), who was re-elected to his fourth term, defeating Republican Wilbur Dean in the general election. 

The County Commissioners elected in November took office with the first meeting after the election, Nov. 20, 2012. Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3) was elected in his first bid at public office defeating challengers in the Republican primary and Democrat Al Macri in the general election. Joyner was appointed as District 1 commissioner in 2011 by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to fill a vacant seat. 

Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) won election in his first attempt at the office defeating former Bronson Mayor Jamie Griffin. 

There will be changes in the leadership of the county commission starting this month. Commissioner Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) takes over the chairmanship of the commission from Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (D-District 5). He will preside over his first meeting on Jan. 8.  Commissioner Chad “Cracker” Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) will remain as vice chair of the commission.  

Also taking office in November were two other unopposed candidates, State Sen. Charlie Dean of Inverness (R-District 5) and State Rep. Charlie Stone of Ocala (R-District 22). Both have received their committee assignments for the Legislature's 2013 session that begins in March. Levy now has only one senator and one representative as a result of redistricting in 2012. Previously the county was represented by two state senators and three state representatives.

Taking office today is U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-District 3) whose election unseated 24-year Congressman Cliff Stearns brought him national attention. The large animal veterinarian calls Gainesville home. His district encompasses all of Levy County as a result of the 2012 redistricting by the Legislature. 

There will be a couple of changes on the judicial side, 8th Judicial Circuit Judge David A. Glant, who heard criminal cases, is moving to a  slot that covers Union and Bradford counties. Glant is also the administrative judge for the criminal courts in the 8th Judicial Circuit. He received his law degree from Nova University and bachelor's in Behavioral Management from the University of Houston. 

Taking his place is Judge Stanley H. Griffis III, who two years ago was a civil court judge in Levy County. Since then he has been handling civil, probate and foreclosure cases in Alachua County. Griffis, a Williston native, is a familiar face for Levy County residents.  He holds a law degree from Florida State University, a master's in Business Administration from the University of North Florida and a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice from the University of Florida. 

Another change in the courts comes at the prosecutor's table as William R. Ezzell moves over from the State Attorney's Office in Gainesville to replace Glenn Bryan as the division chief for Levy County. Ezzell, a graduate of the University of Alabama law school, has practiced since 2002. Bryan is moving over to head the Bradford County office, replacing Duane Triplett.