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UPDATE: School levies sweep to win
The renewal of the school district’s half-mill property tax, and the introduction of a new half-cent sales tax, both won solid victories Tuesday night, giving the school district a huge double win in its first test of school tax measures in a general election.
In the lone county commission race, Republican Ottice Amison easily defeated incumbent Democrat Smokey Parrish in District 4, which includes the outlying areas around Apalachicola.
In Carrabelle, incumbent Tony Millender was returned to his city commission seat, and Bill Gray was elected as well, as both men outpolled David Printiss and Sharon Glaze in the non-partisan race.
Following the reading of the vote totals by County Judge Gordon Shuler, at about &;20 p.m. Apalachicola resident Bobby Miller offered congratulations to Lanier.
“Salesman of the year,” Miller exclaimed, referring to Lanier’s dogged pursuit of the levies’ passage.
“At least salesman of the moment,” Lanier said.
More than 71 percent of county voters, 3,448, voted to renew for another four years a 14-year-old half-mill property tax, which otherwise would have expired in July 2024. Just 1,372 voters, or 28.5% voted no.
The newly introduced half-cent sales tax, whose monies would go to capital improvements,passed by a tighter margin, with 2,839 in favor, or 55.2%, and 2,305, or 44.8%, opposed.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Lanier. “I think it’s a statement of support for the future generation, for our students, our community. I think we can do incredibly positive things we’ve never been able to do before.
“It’s one of those rare moments of victory for the entire county, not just Steve Lanier,” he continued. “It’s not about me, it’s about the students, it’s about the future, where we’re going.”
The vote marks the first time that school levies have been before voters at a general election, instead of the usual method of opting for a special election. It also marks a victory for a sales tax, which will last 20 years, in its first appearance before voters. “That’s big for us, first time, a big deal,” Lanier said. “I’m ecstatic.”
With the sales tax bringing in at least $1.3 million annually, earmarked for capital improvements including technology, Lanier signaled he would like to put a property tax measure before voters in two years which would shift capital outlay millage to operating revenue.
“Ideally what we’d like to do is give all of our teachers and our employees a pay raise,” he said. “We have to do better than being the third lowest salaries in the state, that’s what we are now. In two years we can possibly shift a full mill to take care of that.”
In the lone county commission race, Amison gathered in 651 votes, or 72 percent, to down Joseph “Smokey” Parrish, who received 254 votes, ending his tenure as county commissioner – since 2006.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Amision, who celebrated with supporters at a party in downtown Apalachicola. “I know going in I had a strong support system; people have been asking me to do this for years.
“People are just ready for some energy, people are just looking for a voice,’ said Amison, 50, the same age as Chairman Ricky Jones.
Commissioner Jessica Ward is even younger, with Noah Lockley and commissioner-elect Cheryl Sanders the senior members of a predominantly Republican commission.
“There’s fixing to be some energy coming into this, and push Franklin County in a good direction,” said Amison.
He said he promises to be a “big advocate of working with our other bodies of government. If we’re going to get better we’ve got to all work together. The infightings gotta stop and we have to come together and make this county what it can be.
“There’s some good things going to come,” Amison said. “We’ve been stagnant for a while.”
He said he campaigned hard, including being part of a large contingent in last Saturday’s Seafood Festival parade. “I came in late to the race and I made every attempt I could to reach as many people as I possibly could,” Amison said. “Nothing of this was personal for me. It just was time to make changes.”
In the race for two non-partisan city commission seats in Carrabelle. A.C. (Tony) Millender won another term with 343 votes, or 36.8%, with Bill Gray securing 296 votes, or 31.8% to win the other seat. David Printiss received 161 votes, or 17.3%, while Sharon Glaze got 131 votes, or 14.1%.
Of the 85 voters in Alligator Point, who live outside the water district but are served by the system, 48 of them, or 80 percent, voted in favor of being brought into an enlarged district. Only a dozen voters said no to the idea.
In the statewide races, county voters gave more than 70% support for Republicans, Governor RonDeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson – in each of the races.
In the race for state senator, Republican Corey Simon received 3,804 votes in the county, or 70.8% support, to 1,572 votes received by incumbent Democrat Loranne Ausley.
In the race for US Rep. District 2, incumbent Republican Neal Dunn received 3,839 votes in the county, or 71.1%, with his Democratic challenger Al Lawson gathering 1,562 voles.
The voting was similar in the US Senate race, with incumbent Republican Marco Rubio securing 3,878 votes, or 71.7%, compared to Democratic challenger Val Demings, who received 1,470 votes.