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Apalach chooses Ash as interim mayor

Tami-Ray Hutchinson is named as interim commissioner

In a show of unanimity, five days after the death of Mayor
Kevin Begos, Apalachicola city commissioners voted Thursday evening, June 24 to name
Mayor Pro Tem Brenda Ash as interim mayor.

“I’m humbled,” said Ash, following the 3-0 approval of a
motion by Commissioner Despina George, and seconded by Anita Grove to appoint
her to the mayoral post for about three months, until the voters decide on a permanent
replacement at the ballot box in early September to complete the remaining two
years of Begos’ term.

“Thank you for having the confidence and the faith in me to
carry on with the seat,” she said. “I am honored and pretty much speechless.”

Ash, 51, who was sworn in immediately by City Attorney Dan
Hartman, becomes the city’s first female mayor.

Commissioners made the selection of mayor after hearing a
report from City Manager Travis Wade that he had contacted several people whose
names he had been given from city officials, and asked them if they had an
interest in serving as mayor, or in serving as city commissioner as Ash’s
replacement in the event she weas picked as mayor.

He named five people, two of whom, former Commissioners Rose
McCoy and Jimmy Elliott, had declined the offer. Former Mayor Alan Pierce had
indicated an interest in serving as interim mayor, and Tami Ray Hutchinson and
D.T. Simmons, had showed interest in the two posts.

“I was given quite a few names,” said Wade. “Many people did
not have time.”

He advised the commissioners that they were not limited to
picking from these candidates. “Obviously this is not the extent of the population,”
he said. “Nominations are not limited to these people.”

Following Ash’s selection, Hartman advised the commissioners
they had 10 days to fill the commission seat vacancy that had been created by
her elevation to mayor.

In her first act as mayor, Ash asked whether the commission wanted
to wait to make its decision.

George said she had canvassed the community, and researched
the possible candidates for the interim commission seat. “Everybody has done
their own research,” she said.

Grove said she too had been doing research “and called a lot
of people. I’m ready to make a decision.”

Commissioner Adriane Elliott agreed. “I see no reason why we shouldn’t
move forward,” she said.

She then seconded a motion made by George to appoint
Hutchinson to fill Ash’s District # seat. Hartman said Hutchinson, who was not
at the special meeting, would be able to come to City Hall and take a written

The selection of Hutchison means that for the first time,
all five city commissioners will be woman

Following the vote, Grove said she had long encouraged Simmons
to serve in public office. “We’ll get her someday,” she said.

Between noon Monday, June 28 and noon Friday, July 2, the
city will conduct qualifying for a full four-year term of two seats, held by
Grove, and now by Hutchinson, and of the remaining two-year term of mayor. Wade
said Hutchinson told him she had no interest in running for the seat at the
Sept. 7 election.

As of press time, candidate packets had been picked up by Grove, Ash, Carol Barfield, Bobby Miller and Lee McLemore, although none had yet formally filed for office.

The Sept. 7 election will be at the National Guard
Armory. Early voting at the Supervisor of Elections office will run from August
28 to Sept. 3, and absentee balloting will be available. In the event no candidate
secures a clear majority, the run-off will be Sept. 21.

Ash, who plans to meet with department heads in the days
ahead, said she has not reached a decision whether she plans to run for the
two-year term in September.

“I have not made that decision yet,” she said. “I am still contemplating

Ash has served 12 years on the commission and was completing
her third term. She works as operations director for the St. George Island Plantation
Homeowners Association, where she has been employed for the past six years.
Prior to that she worked for 15 years for Gulf State Community Bank, and five
for Centennial Bank.

A 1987 graduate of Apalachicola, she has two children, son Roderick
Robinson, Jr, a Tallahassee pastor and owner of Island Adventures, and daughter
Jessica Harris, a supervisor for the Florida Department of Children and Families
in Clermont.

In reflecting on her predecessor, Ash said she and Begos were
not always in agreement on political issues, but the experience as serving as
pro tem had shaped her view of him.

“As I listened to him, I saw the heart and soul of Kevin,
and how he loved this city and how he expressed his love. He loved this city
and he showed that every day he possibly could,” she said. “His presence will be missed.”

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