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Thanks, Thanks 
Morriston, Florida
July 26, 2016


On behalf of Williston AARP Chapter 912 and Citizens for an Engaged Electorate (CEE), I wish to thank and congratulate the people of all ages and party preference who attended our jointly sponsored Candidate Forum on Saturday, July 23.

We appreciate the city’s willingness to allow the event to take place in the community center, and we thank Mayor Heathcoat for allowing us to use the flag from City Hall.  We also thank Pam Vamosi and the Lion’s Club for graciously lending us their podium.

We are grateful for the presence of our Supervisor of Elections, Tammy Jones, who spoke and then maintained a voter registration and information table throughout the event.

We also thank the candidates for coming before the people to tell who they are, why they are running and what they plan to accomplish if they are chosen.

Jerry Lawrence and Jeff Edison for Superintendent of Schools and those running for positions on the County Commission—Berlon Weeks, John Meeks, Chetley Breeden, Mike Joyner, Matt Brooks and Danny Stevens—presented their contrasting views to enable voters to make informed choices.

Three of the six candidates running for our newly drawn U.S. Congress District 2—Steve Crapps, Rob Lapham and Ken Sukhia—drove many miles to be there, as did Florida Congressman Charlie Stone, who represents Levy County, as part of Florida House District 22. His opponent was not present.

      if you  love cedar key, boats, and music,  
     this  article is for you...


08 MAY 2016

It’s 9:30 in the morning.  I’m in the cabin of a once submerged, rather odd-looking houseboat.  I’m listening to a pianist MAY 15 Playingplay one of his own compositions.  Eyes closed, his head bobs slowly with the tempo. 

Just another Monday morning in Cedar Key. 

It began the night before.  Captain Bobby tugged on my sleeve for the second time.   “You’ve got to hear this young man play,” Bobby said.  “He’s phenomenal.”  I did and he was.  For the next hour or more, Galen Huckins coaxes notes from the baby grand in the lobby of the Island Hotel.  A bit of New Orleans jazz, mixed with just a touch of classical.  Even a dash of salsa, combined with a ballad or two.  He changes tempo, then changes key. He reaches into the piano and plucks a string.  The music flows.  One after another, each piece more captivating then the last.  After the last song Galen Huckins grins, shares a bit of his story and I'm hooked.  We make arrangements to meet in the morning……

Small Boat Weekend Rescue
Cedar Key
May 12, 2016

Cedar Key, it is déjà vu all over again.  On Saturday of small boat weekend our 17 foot Oday day sailor capsized not too far from Atsena Otie in a failed jibe attempt because of what will remain an unspecified operator error.  (Déjà vu all over again because this is our second knockdown for the same reason). 

The purpose of this letter to the editor is to thank all of the anonymous small boat weekend participants who took part in our rescue.  Our mishap occurred in water shallow enough that we could stand and we wound up walking, sheepishly, up to the beach on Seta Otie. In the meantime our boat was drifting away with the tide and wind and, honestly, we thought it might be best to just let it go.  However, that was not to be.

Several people went about rescuing our boat.  One group caught up to the drifting boat, stood on the center board which miraculously righted it, and then towed it to the beach.  Another group retrieved almost all of our equipment (including the rudder).  I think all we lost was one hat and one short piece of line.  We were then ferried to town, hitched a ride home with Andy Bair, and brought our motor boat back to tow our sailboat home.  Thanks to the efforts of many small boat weekend participants the sailboat is safely at home sitting on its lift looking no worse for its exciting Saturday.


The issue of signage is a critical one.  Proper signage informs the public what it may do, where it might go, what is legal and illegal, and so on.  In effect, signage ensures safety and promulgates adherence to expectations.  Signs are not a convenience; they are a must.  Lack of signage compromises public knowledge and consequently its safety.

Destruction of signs is not an option; however, their obliteration continues to occur on Lukens. 

On May 4, 2016, good to its word, the Suwannee River Water Management District posted signs on the Lukens Tract carefully delineating the private and public properties and the public access road through the entire Tract.  The signs were, for the second time, placed on posts driven into the ground.

On May 4, at 6 pm the signs and the posts were still in place.

On May 5, at 7:20 am, less than 24 hours later, the signs and the posts were gone, nowhere to be found in the area.


As some focus upon the Suwannee River Water Management Distract’s management regarding the Lukens Tract, others focus upon Levy County’s issuance of building permits to Topping for his property at Lukens.

Below you will find Dr. Marguerite VanLandingham’s challenge to Levy County for issuing a permit to Topping to build a home on the Lukens Tract.

Following those cogent arguments is Levy County Development Department Director William Hammond’s response to VanLandingham.   


Who Is in Charge?
22 April 2016
It has happened again . . . another visitor to the SRWMD conservation area, a public site locally known as the Lukens Tract, experienced an obscene verbal assault by the owner of the private inholding parcel. In this bullying attempt to threaten and intimidate, the property owner showed a volatile side of his personality to another person who had the legal right to be on the site.
The bullying and sending of intimidating, threatening letters to some of those who do not agree with the property owners, has been an on-going tactic since the public, some eighty individuals strong, opposed the sale of the conservation land during the SRWMD meeting in Cedar Key in November of 2015.
Now, in an attempt to keep the public out of the conservation area, tactics have intensified to include verbal, threatening assaults on people who are visiting the conservation area, with every legal right to access this public land.
The attack this Monday was only one of the attacks by the present private land owner.  The menacing, aggressive verbal abuse leveled upon visitors on in this publicly owned, pristine conservation area just north of the Number Four Bridge is inexcusable.
This public conservation area has been owned by the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) since 2011 and is managed by the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. No incidents have been reported on this public land until the recent sale of the in-parcel to the present owners. All of the confrontations have occurred on the public conservation land. Some of these attacks have been reported to law enforcement agencies and to both the SRWMD and the LSNW Refuge.
The 60-foot public access right-of-way, that runs from the paved road at the entrance to the east end of the tract, has been in use for years. The new owners were aware of the existing right-of-way and that it crossed through their property when they purchased their site.
This Lukens Tract is state conservation land and is open to the public for recreation uses. The SRWMD has had signs posted on the conservation property to inform the public of the different parcels and how to proceed through the properties. These signs lasted no more than two days before they disappeared. No one has been charged with the theft or vandalism of this state property.
This harassment of visitors to the conservation areas has to be stopped. These recent attacks are aggressive, criminal and dangerous.
This is state land managed by a federal agency. There should be no reason for the public to feel that they cannot safely visit the area. Who is in control here?
The Cedar Key News



February 11, 2016

Some registered voters in Levy County won’t be allowed to vote in the presidential preference primary next month, March 2016. It has nothing to do with picture I.D. or precinct designation.

Florida is a closed primary state, and if you are not registered as a member of the party of the person for whom you wish to vote—either Democrat or Republican—you will not be allowed to vote for that person. Citizens registered as Independent, NPA, Green, Libertarian or other party affiliations may as well stay home. They won’t be given a ballot.

It is not too late to register if you have moved or changed your name or you wish to vote for the first time. Neither is it too late to change your party affiliation if you wish to vote for your chosen candidate, but the deadline is looming. To vote in the presidential preference primary, you must declare your party ahead of time by registering for that party by February 16.

To be clear, if you wish to vote for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, or any other Republican candidate, you must be registered as a Republican in order to get a Republican ballot in the primary on March 15 or during the early voting the week prior to that date.

If you wish to vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you must be registered as a Democrat in order to get a Democratic ballot in the primary period in March.

It costs nothing to switch, and you can change right back after the vote. On the other hand, if you wish to vote in the August primary for other major party candidates, the same rules apply. You must be registered as a member of the party of the candidates for whom you wish to vote. That deadline is August 1.

Registration forms can be downloaded from the Internet at Completed forms can be mailed, but they must be postmarked by February 16, 2016. Forms can also be picked up at the office of the county’s Supervisor of Elections, any DMV office or public library.

I can’t imagine why anyone in America would skip the opportunity to vote. If you don’t think the person in the White House has an impact on your life, you are not paying attention.

People have died for the right to vote, and others have died so that you can have this privilege. Please exercise your privilege, your duty, your honor to vote.

D. Brown
Morriston FL 32668

Thanks, Cedar Key Fire and Rescue
Cedar Key, Florida
May 22, 2015
Dear Editor,
This comes to applaud the services and care afforded by Chief Robinson and the local volunteers. Last year, I fell and the response was outstanding. It is so comforting to look up from my forced prone position on the ground and see my neighbors there to help. My broken hip at the time immobilized me. Not a fun state; even for an old fellow. Many belated thanks, and may we continue to be served by these skilled and generous gentlemen and neighbors. 
Earl Starnes
Cedar Key, Florida
May 21 at 4:24 pm 

To the Citizens of Cedar Key:
I am honored and thankful that you are allowing me to return to the City Council.  Some of you know that in the last 15 years I have served our community both on and off the Council and in other roles. Public service is a priority in my life; however while Lauren and Sarah were still in high school, I withdrew from elected service in order to be more available for them, and to play a more active role in their lives while I could.  Now, as they move on to the next stage of their lives, I am excited to be back on the Council, and to apply all the things I’ve learned since last serving.  And, now that I am back, I plan on staying. How long?  As long as you will have me.
One of my goals for this term is to implement better long-term planning so that our resources are wisely allocated, and contingencies are anticipated and prepared for.  Also, I hope to run our departments in a professional manner so that citizens receive exceptional service from our City.  Most of all I look forward to listening to the needs of our community, and to rolling up my sleeves to work with the new Council and staff to provide for those needs in a frugal, efficient and timely manner. And, behind all my efforts is always the goal of protecting our community from inappropriate change so that we can preserve it the way we all love and enjoy so much.
I have been circulating throughout the community talking with many of you to gather your thoughts, and concerns.  I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me.  If I have not had time to see you, please feel free to find me.  I value your ideas and look forward to serving you.   Again, Jolie and I thank you for your support, and look forward to positive and productive years to come.
Heath Davis

Chimney-trapped Turkey Vulture
Lassoed from Rye Key Fireplace
Cedar Key, Florida
APRIL 1, 2015
The late Jack Tyson was frequently heard to exclaim “Only in Cedar Key” when he heard of the latest eccentricity that had happened in the town. Our Annual Visitors nowadays provide more weird happenings than he could have dreamed of, but we would like to share with other readers our latest home-grown adventure.
On Tuesday last we, sadly, decided that, after weeks of extensive market research, the ospreys are not going to nest on top of our chimney this year. On Thursday, however, there were definite rustlings inside the chimney that suggested the swifts might be back and preparing to rear another of the happy families that we have fostered over the years. But it’s not nearly time for the swifts, so what else could it be? A first sighting of a bit of wing indicated a bird that might possibly be a dove, but with some gymnastics and the help of a flashlight we eventually decided that the small naked red head and a beady eye identified our visitor as a somewhat sooty and uncomfortable turkey vulture.

Cell Tower Update in Cedar Key
Scott Dennison
Cedar Key, Florida 32625

 Dear Editor,

Jeff Pilgrim, the ATC (American Tower Corp.) Project Manager, has indicated that all four suggested sites are acceptable to the carriers and are suitable for construction.
Here is a brief synopsis of some facts concerning this project;
1. City tax dollars - NO public funds will be used to permit, construct, maintain, repair, or operate the ATC site. ATC and its tenants fund the entire permitting, construction, maintenance, repair and operation of the tower site. 
2. Safety - ATC will construct the tower to meet all current City and State building codes, and it will be engineered to meet the windstorm requirements. Any buildings will meet the requirements of the current lease agreement and approvals of the City. 
3. Liability - ATC and the tower tenants carry liability insurance for any catastrophic collapse or fire at the tower site. The City taxpayers are not liable. 
4. FCC Regulations -  The ATC site must comply with FCC regulations which limit the wattage or signal strength to stay within the prescribed limits for public health and safety. The regulated carriers use automated monitoring systems to ensure their equipment complies with the FCC and other regulations. These regulated companies face severe fines should their equipment exceed the regulatory requirements for public health and safety. FCC Info link: (FCC summary attached)
5. Site location - There are 4 sites under consideration by the City ; the City parking lots at 3rd and D Streets (SR24), or at 3rd and A Streets, or on Park Street adjacent to Cedar Key Marina II building, or the public works parking adjacent to the fire department. ALL of these sites are acceptable to both ATC and the prospective cell companies. The City Commission approves the final location. 
6. Site construction - The City lease agreement specifically dictates the site requirements and appearance. Any buildings must comply with the appearance requirements of the agreement, as well as, City and State FBC building requirements.  Chain link fencing and security bob wire is not permitted. 
Improved cell service will allow our residents, businesses, and guest to maintain critical communications for their own safety, family, and business communications. Our own police and fire departments use City provided cell phones for their daily and emergency communications. Florida's aggressive eHealth initiative is designed to support improved communications for rural communities with their doctors and health service providers.
I would suggest City taxpayers to contact the City Commission at;
Mayor Dale Register
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Vice-Mayor Sue Colson
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Royce Nelson
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Annette Hodges
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Tina Ryan
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Tale of Two Counties
Thank you for the timely and thought provoking editorial "Tale of Two Counties." Although currently I'm not a resident of Levy County, I am an admirer of Cedar Key, and subscribe to the Cedar Key News.  
This election year the National News is concerned with individual States hastily pushing through legislation to prevent "Voter Fraud," Levy County Florida and Mr. James Griffin provide a new twist on this problem. The voters of Levy County deserve clarification on a number of issues put forth in your Editorial. As an interested Party so do I.
Would the Levy County Property Appraiser help me understand how the legal residency issue was overlooked?
Would Mr. Griffin help me understand why he would choose, under the circumstances, to run for Levy County Commissioner and not run for one of the two open Dixie County Commissioner seats?
Since records indicate that Mr. Griffin is a resident of both Dixie, and Levy Counties. (registered in Dixie County in 2010 and Levy County in 2012), is he listed as eligible to vote in both counties in the same election? If so, has he? 
Maureen Reilly-Nathanson
Hypoluxo, Florida
31 October 2014



CKN has never endorsed a candidate for public office. The CKN Board of Directors has had a policy of requiring unanimous agreement on political endorsements, hence none have ever been made. Furthermore, CKN has assiduously avoided the interwoven emotional minefields of religion, abortion and guns. However, we believe that newspapers, even local newspapers, must report critical fact-based articles during contested elections.
On October 29, 2014, CKN published an article about a candidate for office in Levy County. The article is based on hard facts found in the public record. The candidate in question was given ample advanced opportunity to respond to questions raised by the article. Our pages are open, as always, to letters to the editor, within the published policies of our paper.
We welcome discussion.
Editor, Cedar Key News
from the editor
November 10, 2015

More information has come to light of late;  it is abbreviated below.  The bottom line is still the same: all discussions thus far involve express denial of public access to the Lukens Tract.  


The Toppings made two “offers” to the Suwannee River Water Management District on October 13, 2015.  Both “swaps” involve denial of public access to the Lukens Tract.


The first involves:
Donation of ownership of parcels of land Parcels 1 and 5 (combined) 2, or 3, to the SRWMD  in exchange for fee ownership of District lands on either side of the Topping’s current property within the Lukens Tract.  The exchange expressly eliminates   public access to the Lukens Tract.

In effect, for one or two small properties (see property sizes below) which are geographically separated from SRWMD other properties, and thus difficult to manage, the Toppings acquire nearly the entire Lukens Tract with no public access.

The second involves:
Donate fee ownership of Parcel 4 in exchange for the removal of public access through the Topping land on Lukens Tract. 

In effect, for one less-than-on- acre-sized property, which is geographically separated from SRWMD other properties, and thus difficult to manage, the Toppings get nearly the entire Lukens Tract with no public access.


Parcel 1 is  9.56 acres of coastal estuary, tidal marsh, fresh water wetlands, some uplands.
Parcel 2 is 0.94 acres of mostly uplands and some coastal estuary.
Parcel 3 is 1.54 acres of mostly coastal estuary and some uplands.
Parcel 4 is 0.92 acres of mostly coastal estuary and some uplands.
Parcel 5 is  0.19 acres of coastal estuary.
Some of these parcels are underwater.

According to the Levy County Tax records as of today, some of these parcels are not currently owned by the Toppings.

The land the Toppings want to the east and the west of their currently-owned Lukens Tract property is approximately 28 acres.


If you would like to have the entire October 13, 2015 agenda packet, do not hesitate to e mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ad we will forward it.  Maps are included.

Cedar Key News is currently investigating and will report upon two very unclear concepts:

  • conservation easements, how they are written and how they figure into such exchanges;
  • the possibility that if these exchanges do not involve money, that there is no need to put the properties up for bid to the public.



NOV 10 CROWHURST E MAIL Kayak launch at Lukens Tract



Cedar Key News Editorial

The kayak launch and access to the SRWMD property at the Lukens, immediately north of the No.4 Bridge, is being closed to public access.
The property is about to be sold to private land owners in Cedar Key and closed to public access.
Lukens Ramp Map xc1
Part of the pristine land and waters that were recently purchased by the SRWMD to help prevent pollution to the clamming waters in the area will be determined surplus and sold or exchanged for other private land in the area.
This directly contradicts the SRWMD written objectives and management protection practices as stated on the SRWMD web site.
This is the only kayak launch area in the SRWMD that leads to the Gulf.
If you have any desire to help prevent this from happening, come to the Community Center for the SRWMD Meeting Thursday at 9 am, November 12th, and to the SRWMD Land Committee on Friday, the 13th at 9 am.
If you want to help, write letters to the SRWMD board members. Come and speak at the meetings Thursday and Friday morning. You must register before the meetings if you wish to speak.
Help preserve the conservation land that was bought with your taxes dollars for the preservation of Cedar Key and surrounding waters.
Frank E. Offerle
CKN Editor

September 5, 2014

SEPT 5 MOMS WHOLE GPColleagues from Palm Harbor, Casselberry, New Smyrna Beach, Belle Glade, and Marco Island converged at the Cedar Key Library’s upstairs meeting room to participate in the workshop designed to teach participants to ably interpret, assemble, and disassemble the Smithsonian’s “The Way We Worked” traveling exhibit, which will remain in place until October 24, 2014.  The group is pictured to the left.

The exhibit will travel to these other five small Florida cities when it leaves Cedar Key in October and these visitors will be the exhibit’s orchestrators in their towns. They came ready to learn and learn they did.   

Welcoming them with smiles and coffee were Cedar Key Vice-Mayor Sue Colson, Cedar Key Historical Society President Ken Young, Cedar Key Historical Society Museum Director Galina Binkley, cedar Key's own Dr. John Andrews, and Levy County Visitors Bureau Exeutive Director Carol McQueen.  Later in the day, participants experienced a first-hand taste of “how Cedar Key works” with lunch at Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, a location so integral to the city’s living history of fishing and tourism.  Andrews, Colson, and McQueen are pictured to the right.

What was an empty room at 8am became, before noon, a series of colorful gears, action-filled pictures, informative banners, and interactives explaining how Americans have labored over the past 150 years.                                           SEPT 5 MOMS SUE AND MCQDSCN4265

Smithsonian Institution Director of Exhibits Carol Harsh led the workshop, carefully overviewing the contents of some twelve huge crates and their packing logic and demonstrating, in much detail, the erection of one of the exhibit’s parts.  Instruction included everything from how to introduce visitors to the exhibit’s meaningful content to the repacking of the crates and the truck at the exhibit’s end.  Harsh is pictured in the above left snapshot in the polka-dotted center.


Florida Humanities Council Program Coordinator Alex Buell and his colleagues Dr. Jennifer Snyder and Keith Simmons functioned as the critical support team assisting the small Florida cities’ representatives construct their assigned part of the exhibit.   University of Florida Master Lecturer, the Department of History, Dr. Steven Noll will function as Cedar Key’s resident expert on the exhibit’s content.

Demonstrating the adage that learning is doing, the participants did, indeed, learn as they worked.  Under Harsh’s careful eyes and with Buell’s, Snyder’s, and Simmons’ assistance, the exhibit took shape.  No hammers, no nails, no pliers, no wrenches were needed, so well designed is the exhibit. 

The session ended with no ceiling tiles, no ceiling fans, and no lights lost in the endeavor and learned, confident, smiling small cities’ representatives.    








MoMS Gold XLe


The Cedar Key School Senior Class graduation ceremony
was held Saturday, May 31,2014 at 9am.
This year there was a graduation class of fifteen students. 


From “ag” and “chem” class shenanigans, homecoming court, and the football field and basketball court to the United States Naval Academy, Air Force, insurance, music photography, nurse anesthetist, fishing guide, international relations,  CSI agent, and resting on a beach, the Cedar Key School seniors are a rich a varied group.   

Do, take a moment, and enjoy the photographs below and the Spotlights of each graduate that will appear when you click on the the photos or the blue “View the Senior Spotlights” under the photos.  You’ll enjoy the students’ memories, favorite teachers, and future plans. 
GradPix15x3 pix
*** Click photos above for Senior Spotlights ***



15 December 2014
Tuesday night the FDOT will again be represented at the December 16th City Commission meeting, hopefully with more answers and an alternative plan for the Dock Street Dilemma. They have answered many questions but not all questions received direct answers and there are many more questions that need to be addressed regarding the bridge projects; the disrupting effect on businesses (not just Dock Street), the visual impact on residents and visitors, the environmental impact, and the compatibility of the increased mass and design of the bridges that will be around for 75 years.
Below are a few concerns. Some have already been addressed, some are very important and some less so. All questions should get a direct answer as each decision will affect the residents, visitors, and businesses of Cedar Key.
Commercial and Recreational Concerns
The time required for the Dock Street Bridge project, including the temporary bridge, demolition of the existing bridge and construction of the new bridge, was estimated to be 30 to 36 months.
At certain times during this 30 to 36 months of demolition and construction, the inside marina will be forced to close down, boat traffic in the inside marina will not have access to open water. 

In the interest of providing information to an informed electorate, the Cedar Key News has studied both candidates competing in the upcoming Levy County Commissioner election which will occur on November 4, 2014, when voters will be asked to vote for James B. “Jamie” Griffin or Lilly Rooks.  Cedar Key News research finds a conflict between the legal residency and the voting practice of James (Jamie) B. Griffin.
Voting is a right.
The right to vote and have that vote counted should not be infringed upon in any way. Everyone has a right to have his/her vote honestly registered and counted.
The system, in most states, requires the voter to provide proof of legal residency when initially registering to vote; these states may not require proof of legal residency when changing a voting precinct from one county to another. This is left up to the honesty and integrity of the individual requesting the change.
Mr. Griffin has established residency and currently enjoys Homestead Exemption on his home in Dixie County.
The county Property Appraiser is charged with determining legal residency in order to allow tax exemptions. Mr. Griffin’s residency has been confirmed by the Dixie County Property Appraiser’s office to be in Dixie County:
  • He still has the Dixie County address on his State of Florida Driver’s License.
  • He still has the Dixie County address on all of his professional registrations and licenses.
  • He still receives his mail at the Dixie County address.
  • He still receives State Homestead Exemption and Dixie County School Exemption on the address of his residence in Dixie County.
  • The Levy County Property Appraiser has the Dixie County address listed as the mailing address for all property he owns in Levy County. 
Mr. Griffin registered to vote in Dixie County in 2010.
Mr. Griffin has been registered to vote in Levy County since 2012.
According to the property appraiser’s determination of Mr. Griffin’s residency to be in Dixie County and according to the Florida Voter Registration Application, James B. Griffin has established his voting district to be in Levy County.
Florida Statute s.101.045 (1) states in part that: “A person is not permitted to vote in any election precinct or district other than the one in which the person has his or her legal residence and which the person is registered.”
The Voter Registration form submitted and signed, under oath, by Mr. Griffin, “…that all information provided in this application is true” shows in the space requiring “Address where you live (legal address-no P.O. Box)”, that Mr. Griffin entered “550 1st Street-Unit 211, Cedar Key Florida.”
The Florida Voter Registration Application states that it is a Criminal Offense and is a 3rd degree felony to submit false information.
It is legal to run for county office (with provisions*) in a county other than the one of the candidate’s legal residency.
*The provision is articulated in the Florida Department of State/Office of General Council document, “Determining When Residency Qualifications for Office Must be Met.”  The document states that a candidate running for County Commissioner must reside in the county where he will be seated “At the time of election” which is November 4, 2014.
 It is not legal for Mr. Griffin to live in Dixie County and to vote in Levy County.
Mr. Griffin, in response to an earlier Cedar Key News inquiry, stated that his permanent residency will be located at the Cedar Key rental unit at 550 First Street on November 4, 2014, as required to run for the office of Levy County Commissioner.
Can he legally vote for himself before that time?


By Jim Hoy, Editor Emeritus
Over the past decade the number of Cedar Key ordinances has nearly doubled in number.  They are approaching number five hundred. The ordinances can be categorized: as either enforced, unenforced, haphazardly enforced, or unenforceable. Over the past three years the Commissioners and their successive City Attorneys have wrestled with a commercial sign ordinance that has not been enforced, and is therefore judged unenforceable. (Among the sign ordinance problems is a provision for fees required of sign owners. That has resulted in lost badly needed revenue for the City.)  In recent years the numbers of signs, like the ordinances, have proliferated. Big signs, multiple small signs and trashy signs abound. 
Ordinances enacted by our Commission include a tree ordinance, a seawall ordinance, a noise ordinance, an animal ordinance, a fence ordinance and the sign ordinance. When was the last time one was enforced?
At the May 1, 2012 Commission meeting a proposed sign ordinance came up for a vote after much legal work. A motion in favor of the ordinance failed for lack of a second. A compromise motion then failed on a two to three vote. Now, two years later the four candidates for Commission in public forum all agreed that many ordinances remain unenforced or haphazardly enforced. One candidate opined that someone must make a written complaint, but that we must avoid turning neighbors against one another. He added that Commissioners cannot initiate complaints because they might need to participate in resulting hearings.
The new Commission will have the opportunity to make the sign ordinance, the tree ordinance, and all the others enforceable and enforced or take them off the books. It is up to the voters of Cedar Key to let the Commissioners know that they want clear enforceable ordinances put into effect in an even-handed way.
Cedar Key News welcomes letters to the editor. Submissions are best submitted via e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Letters not submitted in digital format may or may not be considered for publication on-line. 
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 by Gene Benedict


September 13, 2017

This is Bubba’s kind of place. It’s two steps up to the front door. It’s a long ramp up to the back door. Some who don’t know come in the front door. Locals come in the back door.


The place opens most days at noon. A few locals will show for a light lunch and maybe hang out for a while. On any given day you might see Painter Larry, Dusty, Chuck, Jim, me and others. Then it thins out for a while.

If you like the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or Speed Week you might enjoy that time between noon and four with Patrick on the other side or sometimes me on this side.


This is Bubba’s kind of place. You can come in the front door and turn right and buy a bottle. Or you can walk a few steps further, grab a stool and drink one, or a beer, or whatever. It’s the kind of place you can go on a Sunday afternoon to shoot a game of pool, have a brew and watch NASCAR.

 by Gene Benedict
August 30, 2017

We were on our way up the East Coast from Jacksonville to the Eastern shore of Virginia stopping as we went and remembering things past on the way.   The trip, the process, was the intent, not getting there, as we had no destination in mind, just go, do, and experience.  And remember.

A couple of years back we had a similar intent, to spend a few weeks traveling up from Cedar Key to the Midwest, through the places that helped me get to what I now am, so Anne could catch a glimpse of my past.         

Neither intent came to pass. A couple of years back, we ended up spending some time in southern Indiana with family and friends.  One day again, in another year, at another time, we’ll make that journey that we planned for some time through the Midwest.  And again, at another time in another year, we’ll make the trip up the East Coast that we thought we would make this year.         

The trip this year didn’t happen.  As many of you know, my mom is ill.  My dad fortunately has been healthy and has been doing a lot at their home so that life could be as normal as that can be.  Anne and I have been right there when we could, and certainly when asked, to be with Mom and to give Dad some breathing room to relax, play golf, to bowl, or do whatever.         

Several days back in a routine physical exam, Dad found out he had a nearly complete blockage in a carotid artery.  We rose to the occasion. You rise to the occasion when the occasion calls.  Dad had tests and then an emergency surgical operation.  Some things can’t wait.  That couldn’t.  We were there.         

The surgery went well.  And Dad is again at home.  And Mom is getting better, ever so slowly, but none-the-less, Mom is getting better.         

And Anne and I are back in Cedar Key.  What a relief you get when you swing out from the scrub forest and to the open marsh as you approach No. 4 Bridge.  How good it feels to be home, to sleep in your own bed, to shower and bathe there and to brush your teeth at home.         

So for a while, for the time being, for as long as it takes, here we are a few miles from Dunnellon, a few short miles from Mom and Dad.  And where on a moment’s notice, we can get in touch and we can be there.  Just as they have for me so many, many, times in the past.         

So for a while that trip up the East Coast through Beaufort and the Outer Banks of Carolina can wait, there is time for that.  And we have time.  Lot of it.  So, another time in another year, we will take our trip up the East Coast.

Besides all of that, we are not here in another time in another year. We are here, and I need to be out here looking for Trouble in Cedar Key.

 Copyright © by Gene Benedict 30  August 2017

 by Gene Benedict
August 23, 2017

Last time we talked about some of our feathered friends with whom we share these islands part of the year.  This time let’s talk about some birds you can’t seem to get away from.         

Mallards, highly praised game by duck hunters because of their beauty and their size, normally migrate a thousand miles or so from season to season.  Not so in Cedar Key.  It appears the mallards are here to stay.  And from February through June and even later, the mallards own the streets, the yards and the buildings.  In their mating season they are oblivious to cars, man, the weather and even brooms.  So we live with that, we adapt, we generally let them have their go.  Worthy of note; each year we see fewer females.         

A few days ago, several frigates, otherwise known as man-of-war birds, were soaring lower than usual.  They are scavengers and have been known to rob food from other birds.  One came down to the water to rob a gull of a morsel and when the gull refused to cooperate, the frigate grabbed the gull and tried to fly off with him.  The gull hung on to the morsel and struggled with the frigate, finally breaking free.  The frigate circled back still intimidating the gull, but the gull was not about to give in.  Bored, the frigate finally gave up to search elsewhere.         

We have a large number of barn swallows all over town and they are in their full mating colors this time of year.  Anne and I have a family nesting in our chimney at the house.  Last Halloween, Cindy and Rich at Gulfside Motel hung a jack-o-lantern from the end of the upper deck out over the water.  Several barn swallows have taken to nesting in that pumpkin, and as dark approaches each evening, you can watch them settling in for the night.

Anne and I have a pair of Carolina wrens that have build a nest in our clothespin bag on the back porch.  We won’t be using clothespins for a while.  We also have a resident mockingbird that has forgotten how to sleep and all night long he serenades us through the bedroom window.  Because we have occasional power surges and outages in Cedar Key, we decided we needed a backup alarm clock that is battery operated.  The one we chose talks to you.  You don’t have to see the face to know the time; just touch it and it tells you.  We set the alarm one night and the next morning, early, after the mockingbird had serenaded all night, it went off.  To our surprise, the alarm was a rooster crowing quite loudly.  Of course we sat straight up in bed and by the time we figured out how to shut the alarm off, it was too late.  The mocking bird had picked up on the rooster crowing and was hard at it.         

So until next time, look for me out there hunting down trouble in Cedar Key.

 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - August 2017

 by Gene Benedict
14 August 2017

One day earlier this week, Anne and I traveled from Cedar Key to Gainesville on a field trip to do business and to have fun.  Somewhere near Rosewood we came up behind this lumber truck, this pulpwood (pronounced “pupwud”) truck.  Anne asked if I knew what kind of wood he was hauling.  I did.

He was hauling a load of hardwoods, of gums.  As we drew closer, we saw that one of the logs near the top was dripping sap indicating a very recent cut.  The slowly dripping sap and the long, otherwise lonely, road drew me back to a former life.  We all have them, former lives.         

In the paper industry, those large long logs he was hauling are often called “sticks.”  The hardwood, the gum, is used primarily in making fine papers, white, bleached, opaque papers, such as tablet, bond, envelope, copy and so forth.  I grew up in a small mill town in northern Ohio.  I’ve been around the industry most of my life.         

We swam and fished as young people in the millpond so called because the river was dammed creating a large lake.  Hydropower was used to drive much of the equipment in the mill just downstream. Relatives and much of the town worked in the mill, some literally spending most of their lives there night and day.     

I went on to college majoring in engineering.  My first job was working in what at that time was the largest fine paper mill in the country located in Virginia.   From there, I went on to the largest Kraft mill in the world in Georgia, and then to another large mill in Alabama.       

June 10, 2016

Summer’s arriving soon, and that means heat, good fishing, the occasional tropical storm, and, to some of us, the baseball season.   The Cedar Key Sharks baseball nine did remarkably well in their first year in their new division, but school’s out and the games have ended.  The #1 ranked Gators are just 51 miles down SR 24, but after this weekend’s series with rival FSU for the right to head to Omaha for the College World Series, McKethan Stadium will be empty again until next spring.  That leaves professional baseball, for those willing to travel some distance.  But if you’re planning to visit a major league stadium this summer, you’d better bring money.  Lots and lots of money. 

According to Fortune magazine feature writer Jonathan Chew, two people attending a game this summer, buying tickets, two hot dogs, two beers, and parking their car can expect to pay $77.92.   Our closest MLB team- the Tampa Bay Rays-comes in a bit cheaper at $69.11, but if you’re a family of four, you must add two tickets, many more hot dogs and sodas, and . . . well, you may be looking for a second job when the trip is over. 

Or.  Or . . . you could travel 2:44 minutes down 19/98 and spend far far less watching the Lakeland Flying Tigers, who are playing their 2016 season at historic Henley Field.  The Flying Tigers, minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, compete in the Florida State League, which is Advanced, or “High A Ball” in the parlance of professional baseball.  This means that the players, most of whom are relative newcomers to the profession, are considered very serious prospects whose chance to move upwards towards “The Show’ are better than average.  The Tigers have been coming to Lakeland for over 50 years, easily the longest relationship between a major league team and a spring training venue.  Minor league baseball teams are known for colorful mascot names, and the Florida State League is no exception: the Clearwater Threshers, the Daytona Tortugas, the Brevard County Manatees, the Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Jupiter Hammerheads are just a few of these entries.  So your trip southward to Lakeland will provide a good look at some future stars who play an energetic style of ball in their attempt to impress the organization and enhance their future in the game.

 by Gene Benedict
Rough day: a memoir
14 April 2016
It had been a tough day. Walking out, I pass through the gate on the way to somewhere. I need to come down, have some quiet time alone, forgetting the rough day. I mount the vehicle and head down the way.
I spot this building at the edge of a parking area. No one is in front. I pass slowly around the building. A pickup is parked to the rear, no other vehicles around. I dismount and walk slowly through the door.
The place is lit dimly. It has one window. I walk to one end of the bar. A guy on the other side with a towel walks to me and wipes the bar, waiting. I order a beer. He brings me one. He walks to the other end, no talking. Just the place I need.
I sit quietly, sipping my beer, washing the day away. Someone else comes through the door and sits down. He gets a drink and nods to me. I look his way and also nod. A conversation of a sort begins. He’s talking, I’m not. He moves near to me, talking about his day, I nod.
Someone else comes through the door, moving to the bar. The new guy invites himself into what he thinks is a three-way conversation. I only nod now and then. I look towards the guy who followed me in and now sits next to me. I nod throwing my shoulder towards distant tables on the floor. The two of us leave the bar and go to a table.
By now, others were there, some talking. Soft music breaks out and a woman shows up to serve. The place is filling up. Someone tries to join us at the table. I wave my arm around the room and point to toward the bar. The guy gets the point. He moves away.
The guy at my table orders another drink. The music is loud. The conversation at the table gets louder. I merely continue to nod. He thinks we are having a conversation. He talks, I just nod.
Finally, I rise and head toward the door. He follows me out. “Well, that was a good time. It was fun. Where are you going tomorrow?” He trails me as I go to my vehicle. “I know a place we might meet. This was a good time…”
I climb into my vehicle, look back at him with a half smile, and start the engine. It has been a tough day. I need to come down, have some quiet time alone somewhere.
I drove off…
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 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - April 2016

 by Gene Benedict
A Week for All Veterans
Originally scheduled for the week of November 11, 2015
This week we celebrate Veterans Day and the Marine Birthday. I’ve written about those days in the past in terms of heroes and notable people.
What follows is a tribute to a Veteran and a Marine I met once, and then, only for a few minutes.
A Watch, a Compass, and the Sun over His Shoulder
         Late in the afternoon a while back, Anne and I were at the Blue Desert relaxing with a brew and an appetizer. We normally sit at the counter down on the other end. Not many people had yet arrived. It was still early. We were debriefing each other as we usually do at the end of the day.
         This older man walked in wearing shorts, a pullover, and a cap which he promptly removed. He sat at the counter too, up towards the other end. We took note of him and continued our conversation. After a modest dinner, the man turned to talk to us. He was from Minnesota and was on his way back from a short stay in Tampa. He’d driven in to Cedar Key a few hours earlier and parked a camper at Sunset Isle. He’d been out to the airstrip and had stopped at the Blue Desert on his way back.
         He was a former Marine, an aviator, a pilot. He’d flown over the Cedar Keys while in training years before and had meant to come back for a look around. He never got here. This time driving his way back from Tampa, he’d come mainly to look over the airstrip. And to remember…
         He’d been to Tampa to pick up the cremated remains of his son who had died days earlier and quite suddenly of a massive heart attack. His son, also a former Marine, left a family behind in Tampa. “My boy had lived in Tampa six-and –a-half years, and I’d never been down to see him. I’d promised, but somehow I never got there. This is one hell of a way to make a visit, and it’s tough, really tough,” said the man.
         “You know, I flew in the Pacific. I was all over. I enlisted in the Marines when I was seventeen. I watched my childhood friend, my life-long buddy, go down over Midway and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. That was pretty tough.”
         “I made it through the war with a couple wounds, but I always made it back to duty. Then I laid my mother to rest, then my father, and one by one, brothers and sisters. Those times were pretty tough. But I made it okay.”
         “I once was hit while flying a mission. My instruments went out, gauges, altimeter, and whatnot. I radioed the flight commander. He told me I had a compass and a watch, and if I put the sun over my shoulder, I’d make it home. Then we broke contact as ordered.”
         “I did, I made it home. After that I had a compass installed in my vehicle and I wear a watch at all times. I’m never lost. I just look for the sun and I’m okay.”
         “Can you imagine, six-and-a-half years and I never made it to Tampa? Never went to visit my boy? My church is against cremation, but in this case it was okay. I guess… I’ll be up early in the morning. We’ll take our time going back home, back to Minnesota. I know we’ll be okay. I have my watch on my wrist, a compass on the dash, and I’ll just put the sun over my shoulder.”
         He climbed off that stool and stood up not so easily with legs and hips damaged by shrapnel over fifty years ago. “Donald, A. C., Sir, United States Marine Corps, retired. Honored to have had your presence,” he said as he extended his hand.
         This former Marine, this wounded combat veteran, this man was hurting deeper than he’d ever known. But he’d be okay. He’d have his watch on his wrist, a compass on the control panel and the sun over his shoulder. And with his boy at his side, he should be back in Minnesota by Sunday. And this year, his son will be home for the holidays.
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 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - August 2015

 by Gene Benedict
Dennis R. McDonald and Debbie
A couple - three weeks back, a cousin of mine, Dennis, from Kentucky, wanted to take a vacation in Florida with his wife, Debbie. They planned to stop overnight in Marietta, Georgia, drop by Cedar Key and move on to Hollywood, Florida for the bulk of their trip.  I hadn’t seen Dennis for about forty years, and had never met Debbie. Anne had not met them at all.
“Sure, come on ahead.” Anne and I set them up for an overnight stay in Cedar Key when they arrived. I didn’t recognize Dennis until I realized how much he looked like his dad. He was unmistakably a McDonald. He was younger than me by about ten years. He looked much like Uncle Ernie, my favorite uncle.
As a kid, I spent several summers with him on his farm. I worked hard when I was there. He used draft horses, as he had no tractor. And much of the farming was done by hand. I learned a lot from Uncle Ernie and his family.
During our brief visit with the McDonalds the four of us learned a lot about our families. We shared stories of long ago about the McDonalds and Benedicts. Anne was familiar with some of them and she knows my sister, Barbara. She’s heard my stories of my Uncle Ernie and his wife, Virginia.
We ate several meals in local restaurants. Dennis and Debbie had their first experiences of the Nature Coast and the Big Bend areas of Florida. We had a great time and as they left, I gave them a copy of an article I wrote in 2000 after Uncle Ernie died.
What follows is that article. Enjoy.

Uncle Ernie Died Last Week

          Ernie, Ernest R. McDonald, Uncle Ernie, died last week. He was a dirt farmer, a son of a dirt farmer, one of those kind that live so close to the soil, to the ground, that they sort of become inseparable, the earth, the farmer, the soil, the ground. Uncle Ernie died last week.

          He was maybe, five foot ten though he seemed much taller. He had a barrel chest that, after a deep breath, measured maybe fifty-four inches around. He always wore bib overalls over a cotton plaid work shirt and white socks and clod hoppers on his feet, you know, those boots with the leather laces that come up through the eyes so far then go to those brass hooks above to lace as you wished for the work you were about.

          He had a round, red, robust face, and when he laughed which was often, it came from deep in the belly and came out like a rapid machine gun rattle or a hen pheasant forty yards off, too far away to fire that twelve gauge.

          I visited him often as a young boy, sometimes with my younger sister, Barbara, and when I did, I stayed in the old house, the big house, a two story wooden frame with a fireplace and registers to allow the warm air downstairs to reach the bedrooms upstairs. His dad lived alone in the big house. I was a visitor there. It wasn’t wired. We used coal oil lamps for light. It was dim most of the time.

          Uncle Ernie lived in a small house a few yards off built much like what a few years back we might have called a house trailer. It was wired. The farm was somewhere outside of Salem, in Northeastern Ohio, on a dirt road, in the midst of the Amish people with their black horse-drawn carriages. That’s how it was.

          Uncle Ernie farmed eighty acres with two draft horses, work horses with the big hooves, the hair growing long around them, with mechanical plows, rakes, bailers, and the rest, that somehow magically were connected to the yoke behind the horses. His job, that dirt farming, was a tough one.

He was up way before daybreak, shaking me so I dressed and went along, to milk by hand those eleven or twelve milk cows, who spent the night in the lower part of the barn, each of us carrying coal oil lanterns which we hung on nails overhead. The barn down there was steaming and warmer due to heat from the cows and from the decomposing manure, the smell of which you could not escape. That was part of it.

I remember the sound of the squirt, squirt, squirt, as you squeezed the teats, one in each hand, and pulled as you squeezed so as to get the most milk from the utter with each as you alternated left hand then right hand and back up for another grip and yet another stroke, left and right.

          And the sound of the squirt of that warm milk as it hit that galvanized pail held between your knees as you sat on that three-legged stool. And the smell of that milk, that sweet unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk as it built in that pail. And the steam coming up from that warm milk, and the color, much more yellow than that we buy at the Market and much stronger by taste, too.

He had some sows and some pigs that ate the leftovers and the apples picked off the ground from the several acres of orchard on the hill overlooking the house, the valley, the farm. I remember a picnic with Uncle Ernie, his wife, Virginia, my dad’s sister, we called her Auntie, under that large maple tree in the pasture, when one large sow got into the picnic basket and made short-shrift of what was in there.

          Then his dad died. Then one night the orchard caught fire. All the neighbors came to help to no avail. It was destroyed. Then one of the draft horses got sick and died. And the cows were older and not producing much milk. And the silo collapsed. Uncle Ernie, with a growing family that needed providing, took a job with Chrysler a little ways away. He sold that eighty-acre farm that had been in the family for who knows how many generations, for something like seven thousand dollars. He moved to a place on a hill closer to work and eventually retired from Chrysler.

          His last years were spent in a rest home not that far from Salem. He didn’t really belong there. Now he’s back where he belongs, back one with the soil, back one with the ground, as dirt farmers should. Uncle Ernie died last week.

          ‘Till we meet again, be out there looking for Trouble in Cedar Key…


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 Copyright © by Gene Benedict - August 2015

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