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Commissioners Sworn In Across Panhandle

Escambia County

Tuesday was the first day on the job for some newly-elected office-holders across Northwest Florida.  Installation ceremonies for the county-level governmental entities brought new members, new leadership and optimism for the next four years.

The Santa Rosa County Commission, which held its installation ceremony in board chambers, has a new look with two new commissioners replacing long-serving board members, and one who was re-elected.
All of them were administered the oath of office by County Judge Robert Hilliard, who once served on the board himself.

“You put your left hand on the bible and then raise your right hand,” directed Hilliard.
“I do solemnly swear that I will support protect and defend the constitution and government of the United States and of the state of Florida,” began District-1 Commissioner Sam Parker. Returning for his second term, Parker was first to be sworn-in.

Up next was District-3 newcomer James Calkins, who defeated five-term incumbent Don Salter.
Also, beginning his first term in office representing District 5 is newly-elected businessman Colten Wright. 
On his first official day in office, Wright, who defeated three-term incumbent Lane Lynchard, seemed to take a page from President-elect Joe Biden by pledging to work for all residents of the county, regardless of who they voted for.

Credit Santa Rosa County
Santa Rosa County

“Thank you to the many citizens who did have faith in me and think that I could do this job and serve them well. To those that did not support me, know that I will serve you with dignity and honor, just as if you did,” declared Wright.

In his remarks, Calkins referenced the recent election and called on his new colleagues to join him in executing the county’s “conservative mandate.”

“As you all noticed, the prolife sanctuary passed in every precinct in this entire county,” Calkins said of the ballot measure that he proposed. “Donald Trump also won every precinct in this county by a landslide. So, I’d like to implement a conservative, low-tax agenda.”

District-4 Commissioner Dave Piech was unanimously elected board chairman, with District-2 Commissioner Bob Cole selected as vice-chairman.

“We’ll go ahead and call this installation meeting to order,” announced Escambia County’s outgoing board chairman Steven Barry, commencing their outdoor meeting at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

“So on behalf of the (Escambia) Board of County Commissioners, I’d like to thank you all for attending today. We appreciate you being here for the Installation Ceremony and Organizational Meeting of the new board. The purpose of this meeting is the installation of the recently re-elected members of the Board of County Commissioners of Escambia County, Florida.”

As noted, Escambia is maintaining status quo.

Credit Escambia County
Escambia County
District-4 Commissioner Robert Bender takes over from District-5 Commissioner Steven Barry as chairman of the Escambia County Commission.

Barry, representing District-5 is one of three board members to win re-election. He and District-3 Commissioner Lumon May are each beginning their third term in office. District-1 incumbent Jeff Bergosh was re-elected to his second term.

“Going forward, we could all look at 2020 and all the terrible things that have happened, and all the calamities nationwide,” Bergosh said after he was sworn in. “But, I prefer to be an optimist; the glass is half full, it’s not half empty. We live in the greatest country the world has ever seen. Things will get better. We will get past this virus. We will move forward. Our economy will recover.”

Bergosh went on to talk about some of the county projects in the works, for his district, in particular.
“We will bring District One’s first public library,” he proclaimed. “That’s coming; it’s funded. We will bring tremendous infrastructure improvements to District One; they’re coming. We’re going to bring a brand new fire station to Beulah. It’s desperately needed; it’s coming.”

With family members accompanying them for the special occasion, each newly-installed commissioner took time to thank them for their support in getting elected and during the difficult times as office-holders.
“Whenever you decide to run for office, it’s not just you running; it’s your entire family,” said Lumon May, who ironically, overcame a Primary Election challenge from his younger brother, LuTimothy May, on his way to re-election.

“It’s the good, the bad, the horrific things that are said, the painful things that you bear, you don’t bear it alone. You bear it with your family.”

With his wife and mother and two young children alongside, Commissioner Barry made a few emotional remarks of his own before turning over the gavel to District 4 Commissioner Robert Bender.
Shifting to Okaloosa County, District-4 Commissioner and Board Chairman Trey Goodwin presided over that board’s installation ceremony.

“We have the great honor of watching and being able to welcome a returning commissioner, Nathan Boyles, who will return to continue to serve the people of Okaloosa County,” said Goodwin, kicking off the ceremony.

Boyles retained his District 3 seat. And, like Santa Rosa, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners is also welcoming two new members, representing Districts 1 and 5.

“Mr. Paul Mixon, who will be taking over the reins from Commissioner Graham Fountain, who’s retiring from his commission service to the public; and then our own state representative Mel Ponder, who will now transition from fighting for us in Tallahassee to fighting for us here at home.”

Before adjourning and preparing to open their Regular Board Meeting, the outgoing board members, who chose not to seek re-election, were thanked one last time. That includes Fountain and Kelly Windes, who’s leaving the District 5 seat.

“It’s been a privilege to be here for eight years and I would say that Okaloosa County, in my view, looks to be in real good hands,” said Windes. “Good luck to all of you and God bless Okaloosa County.”

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.