A new era for the county commission, marked by a return to office of a longtime commissioner, and the arrival of a fresh face, began last week.
County Judge Gordon Shuler first swore in Cheryl Sanders, who raised her right hand from behind her new seat, second from the left on the dais.
“As the old saying goes, I’m back in the saddle again,” she said, following her recitation of the oath of office.
Sanders, who decided not to seek re-election in 2018 after 20 years serving as a Democratic county commissioner, changed her party affiliation in the interim to Republican. In the August Republican open primary, she won in a three-way race against incumbent Bert Boldt and newcomer Chris Crosby.
Her husband Oscar passed away just weeks before the primary.
“He’s right here with me, and he’s the reason why I have a mission and a vision,” Sanders said. “My priorities are like they always have been – God, family and the people of Franklin County.”
For his swearing-in, Amison was joined by his family in front of the dais, flanked by his wife Courtney and their son Cruz, and Amison’s son Christian.
“I’m finally here,” Amison said, after returning to his new seat second from the right, between Chairman Ricky Jones, center, and Noah Lockley at far right.
Republican Amison defeated four-term incumbent Democrat Smokey Parish in the November general election, gathering in 72 percent of the vote.
With Sanders making the motion and Amison seconding, Jones was elected to serve another year as chairman, with Jessica Ward as vice-chairman.
In a major personnel change announcement early in the meeting, Emergency Management Director Pam Brownell announced that she would be retiring from her post on Jan. 2, 2023, after 17 years as director.
Brownell said that an ailing back contributed to her decision to step down. “Every day I’m in pain with my back,” she said. “I’m tired of coming to work hurting.”
She recommended that the commissioners promote Deputy Director Jennifer Daniels, who has been with the department for nine years, to the position of director. She has served as deputy director for the past two years.
“You can’t just pluck them off the street and set them in as director,” said Brownell. “The position of director of emergency management requires specific training and experience that (she) has completed. Also, both the state and federal grants, which fund over half of this department, are tied to emergency management having completed the Advanced Professional Development Series.”
Brownell said Daniels holds her Florida Professional Emergency Manager certification and has completed the FEMA Public Assistance training as well. Her work experience has included the major hurricanes of Michael, Irma, and Hermine as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can say with confidence that Jennifer is more than capable of serving Franklin County as the emergency management director,” she said. “She will do you a fantastic job.”
Based on a recommendation from County Coordinator Michael Morón, and a motion made by Amison, the board agreed to advertise internally for the director and deputy director positions for the next two weeks, and then make a decision at their Dec. 6 meeting.
Brownell assumed the role of director in 2005 after the retirement of Butch Baker, and was a comparative newcomer to the field.
“Nothing like trial by fire,” said Brownell. “And when it rains it pours.”
“We have gone so far since Butch left, and I know it will go even further,” she said. “In this time my staff and I have been able to expand and improve on the different programs and abilities of emergency management, which continues to improve our abilities to serve Franklin County residents,” she said.
“We did very well in getting you,” Sanders said.