A look back at 2020

Year in Review

Don Coble
Posted 12/30/20

JanuaryAddison Davis selected as Hillsborough’s next SuperintendentCLAY COUNTY – Addison Davis will be the new Superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District, and it will come …

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A look back at 2020

Year in Review

Posted

COVID-19, elections will be remembered as top stories in Clay County

CLAY COUNTY – There’s no doubt 2020 was a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic was felt around the world, including at home in Clay County. Schools were ordered closed in March; stores were ordered to limited customers; and, masks became the most-common accessory worn by everyone. Voters made changes at the sheriff’s office, school board, county commission, state senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and they approved a half-cent sales tax that will help pay for $300 million of overdue repairs and another $300 for future building projects. The news was horrific – the gruesome murders of a Fleming Island woman and a Keystone Heights man – and it was encouraging – the community rallied to make sure Christmas charities continued despite challenges of the coronavirus. Students still exceled in the classroom and on the athletic fields, and we watched two longtime community servants, school board member Carol Studdard and Clay County Commissioner Gayward Hendry, transition into retirement. On pages xx-xx, Clay Today reporters Wesley LeBlanc, Bruce Hope, Randy Lefko and Don Coble took a look back at 2020 with the top headlines of each month. And we look forward to a more-prosperous 2021.

January

Addison Davis selected

as Hillsborough’s next

Superintendent

CLAY COUNTY – Addison Davis will be the new Superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District, and it will come at the expense of Clay County schools.

The school board unanimously voted [Jan. 22] to hire Davis away from county where he was elected three years ago.

Davis originally was one of 51 candidates to run the eighth-largest school district in the country. He made the first cut to 12 and last week was selected as one of three finalists.

“The big winner of this process are the kids of Hillsborough County,” Steve Cona III. “We know the job starts now.”

After he was selected. Davis told board members: “I love Clay County. When you get a chance to drive the [eighth] largest school district, that’s a game-changer.”

Baptist Health plans new

hospital for Clay County

FLEMING ISLAND – To meet the growing need for health care services in Clay County, Baptist Health is planning to build a full-service hospital on its existing Baptist Clay Medical Campus. Groundbreaking will occur in the spring of 2020, with the hospital opening planned for fall of 2022.

The 300,000-square-foot, full-service hospital will open with 100 beds, including women’s services and enhanced cardiology services. The hospital will be designed with modern features, including placing diagnostic equipment near the ICU for patients who need it the most, and corridors designed with calming LED lighting, and centralized staff services to minimize noise.

Dr. James Larson retires after serving community for 45 years

MIDDLEBURG – The Medical Director at Clay Behavioral Health Clinic retired after 45 years of service in the community.

Dr. James Larson is a psychiatrist who has served Clay County in more ways than one. He served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years, with each of those years spent at NAS Jax. He also owned a private practice office and helped those that came to the Clay Behavioral Health Clinic.

While he won’t be in medical offices throughout the county anymore, he can still be spotted around town.

“I retired from private practice two years ago,” Larson said. “I continued at the [Clay Behavioral] but I started to feel tired. I’m 76 and I figured it was time for retirement so that’s what I decided to do, but I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be here.”

February

Missing Fleming Island woman found in Georgia landfill

JACKSONVILLE – Officials with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and the State’s Attorney Office found the remains of missing Fleming Island woman, Susan Elizabeth Mauldin in a South Georgia landfill.

While won’t be coming back to her Harbor Island Drive home after being reported missing in October, 1999, law enforcement officials said they will bring her remains back to Clay County to provide semblance of closure to her friends and neighbors.

When hours turned to days and days turned to weeks after she disappeared last October, few held hope of her being found alive. Those fears were realized when a search team found her in a South Georgia landfill on Wednesday. Dental records confirmed the worst: it was Mauldin.

Within hours, the person of interest in her disappearance, Corey Louis Binderin, a 45-year-old handyman from Fleming Island, was charged with her murder.

School district taps Burghart, Broughton for annual awards

CLAY COUNTY – Teacher of the Year and School-Related Employee of the Year were selected last week and both educators are ecstatic to take home the award.

Lindsay Burghart is the Teacher of the Year and Cassandra Broughton is the School-Related Employee of the Year. Burghart works at Middleburg High as an intensive reading teacher for juniors and seniors, while Broughton is a behavioral health assistant at W.E. Cherry Elementary in Orange Park.

“This distinguished honor is well deserved as both employees have worked tremendously hard and also garnered the admiration and respect of the students, parents and staff in Clay County,” Superintendent Addison Davis said. “Mrs. Broughton and Mrs. Broughton act as models for everyone in our profession. I am proud that both of these individuals will represent our district and I look forward to seeing how they continue to elevate Clay.”

Lady Spartan girls win ninth consecutive state soccer title

DELAND –St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer executed a similar game plan as most of their 24-1 season record with an early advantage created by its suffocating defense and a second half scoring blitz in a 4-0 win again St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep in the Class 2A championship game played Feb. 26.

Shorecrest, with zero shots on goal and zero corner kicks, finished at 14-4-2.

For coach Mike Pickett, though, a set play with just 90 seconds into the second half broke a scoreless halftime tie with sophomore Hannah Lemieux netting a feed off a free kick to the right of the Shorecrest goalie by Paige Crews to put the Spartans on the scoreboard.

March

County’s health department, EMS join forces to

fight COVID-19

CLAY COUNTY – The nation’s focus is flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic and Emergency Management Service Director John Ward said social distancing is the best way to do that.

As of March 18, there currently are four confirmed cases of the virus in Clay County, which is quite low all things considered. But most expect that to change rapidly. If Clay County residents can continue to wash their hands, stay home from work when sick, and keep their distance, it could help flatten the rise of the infection.

“The biggest thing we’re pushing for right now is the social distancing,” Ward said. “We really need folks to take this seriously. We need people to wash their hands and we need them to stay away from large social gatherings.”

David Broskie selected as

interim superintendent

TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed David Broskie as the interim Clay County Superintendent of Schools on Feb. 25. This appointment was effective March 2.

The governor acted quickly to replace Addison Davis, who resigned his position after being selected unanimously by the Hillsborough County School Board to be its next superintendent. Davis’ resignation is effect March 1.

Broskie, of Fleming Island, has been the assistant superintendent of the Clay County School District since 2015. He’s worked for the school district for 30 years and served as a principal from 2003 until 2015.

Clay County Fair cancelled by COVID-19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Out of an abundance of caution and due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 virus in relation to large gatherings, the Clay County Fair Association with the support of Clay County Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health decided to cancel the 2020 fair on March 10.

Fair organizers said the fair will return April 1-10, 2021.

The decision was made following Governor Ron DeSantis’ statements to limit large-scale events in the state of Florida as well as our concerns for guests, volunteers, participants and employees.

“This was the hardest decision for our board to make, we have never cancelled our fair in the 34 years of existence, but ultimately the health and safety of our community, attendees, partners and volunteers are of the utmost importance,” said General Manager Tasha Hyder.

April

Jaguars tag Shaquille

Quarterman in fourth round

JACKSONVILLE – Oakleaf High School’s best and first big-time player, linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, got his most-anticipated phone call after a record setting finish for the University of Miami with a selection by the National Football League Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL Drafts’ fourth round on April 25.

“He’s all about football; alpha male, leader, highly productive,” said Jaguars Director of College Scouting Mark Ellenz in a videoconference Saturday as posted on Jaguars.com. “I think that’s more just kind of a coincidence deal. It wouldn’t matter if he wasn’t from here. It’s a bonus that he is because he’s a quality kid and a really good football player. This kid’s a four-year starter, real productive, smart, tough. All about ball.”

Quarterman, who was integral in the Oakleaf High undefeated regular season in 2014 that finished with a set of firsts; the unbeaten regular season, a home first time playoff game followed by two more home playoff games with Niceville High ending the streak in the region finals.

Local rum maker now running to make hand sanitizer

MIDDLEBURG – Local rum maker Black Creek Distillery joined the fight against COVID-19.

They have shifted their focus from the production of the popular elixir to manufacturing a product that’s in huge demand but short supply: hand sanitizer.

“The TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] who governs us, let everybody who is a small distillery like us know that they were relaxing the rules so that we could make industrial alcohol, which is what hand sanitizer is characterized as,” said Dave Fleming, co-owner of Black Creek Distillery with his wife, Suzette.

“So up until June 30, we don’t have to get an industrial alcohol permit. They gave us the WHO [World Health Organization] recipe, and they provided us a label for the back of it that says as long as you make it just like this, this is your label.”

COVID-19 robs spotlight from Waugh’s retirement from Clay County Fair

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Tom Waugh, a 40-year veteran of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and 19-year veteran of the Clay County Agricultural Fair Board, finally decided to call it quits.

The 2020 fair was supposed the final on the board for the 73-year-old, but cancellation due to the COVID-19 outbreak made his retirement happen in an unforeseen way.

Members of the board of directors are volunteers, and they serve two three-year terms for a total of six years. There is an advisory seat, which is for past board members. That is how Waugh was able to maintain a position for 19 years.

May

Attempts to downsize Orange Park Plaza denied

ORANGE PARK – The push to build Orange Park Plaza on Kingsley Avenue took another step forward on May 14 at the Planning and Zoning Meeting at the Town Hall of Orange Park council chamber.

The two main applications for the Orange Park Plaza, application for small-scale land use amendment, and PUD rezoning applications were both recommended for denial by the council.

Many people spoke, both in favor, but more so against the project. There were also numerous write-ins and phone calls with Orange Park residents. The opposition was based on different points, such as perceived increases in traffic, noise and a spillover of parking into nearby residential neighborhoods.

CCSO deputy accused of having sex with 15-year-old girl

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – A 36-year-old deputy with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office was arrested by the Green Cove Springs Police Department following an investigation involving a 15-year-old girl.

Travis R. Pritchard was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior with handling, fondling or assault on a child younger than 16, as well as in-state electronic transmission to harm a child.

According the GCSPD, the victim’s mother alerted the department after she learned of a possible relationship between the two. The victim said he met Pritchard at school, and initially the two met daily at a convenience store across the street from Clay High.

Their relationship moved to Snapchat, where the victim said Pritchard eventually convinced her to send a topless photo of her. The girl said Pritchard climbed through an open window at her house when the adults were asleep. According to the arrest report, the encounters lasted for nearly four months.

From Clay County Fair to local food pantry

ORANGE PARK – A Clay High sophomore who hoped to get a top bid at the county fair auction wound up donating his prized pig to a local food bank.

Clay High sophomore and 4-H member Brody Mauch spent months raising his piglet into a full-grown hog in preparation for the annual Clay County Agricultural Fair livestock auction. He not only wanted to showcase his pig at the fair, but he wanted others to know the story behind raising pigs from birth.

COVID-19 changed everything. The fair was canceled, leaving Mauch with a 280-pound pig.

Mauch paid for the processing fees to have the pig butchered on May 16. He delivered 200 pounds of sausage and pork chops to the food bank.

She said that much meat will translate to enough food to feed 30 to 40 families of four, meaning Mauch’s donation could feed up to 120 people.

June

Reinhold Foundation awards $100,000 at Celebrate Clay

virtual ceremony

FLEMING ISLAND – The Paul E. and Klare N. Reinhold Foundation, Inc. held its annual “Celebrate Clay” community service awards ceremony virtually on June 19.

In addition to this year’s format change, also new this year the Reinhold Foundation increased the amount of the total cash awards from $75,000 to $100,000. All 47 award categories saw an increase in cash gifts in 2020.

Clay Behavioral Health Center captured the top honor this year, earning the $15,000 Paul E. Reinhold Community Service Award.

A panel of five judges including three volunteers from the community and two representatives on behalf of the Reinhold Foundation voted on the best projects and volunteers of 2019 to determine the winners of the $100,000 in cash awards.

Doctors Lake Phosphorus

Removal Pilot Project goes online

FLEMING ISLAND – A full-scale demonstration project of the St. Johns River Water Management District to remove phosphorus from treated wastewater now is working to reduce the overabundance of nutrients that cause algal blooms in Docors Lake.

After breaking ground in September 2019, the Doctors Lake Phosphorus Removal Pilot Project officially started June 5, removing dissolved phosphorus from treated wastewater from the Clay County Utility Authority’s Fleming Island Regional Wastewater Plant before it is reused for irrigation in the Doctors Lake watershed. The project will reduce the phosphorous concentration by 90% and will assist in furthering water quality improvements in Doctors Lake and the Lower St. Johns River Basin.

Teen Court graduates get

scholarships, visit by

Clerk Tara Green

LAKE ASBURY – Teen Court seniors were in for a number of different surprises, including driveway greetings and scholarships.

Grace O’Neill opened it to find some Teen Court staff and Clerk of Courts Tara Green. O’Neill was first presented with a yard sign congratulating her on finishing senior year. That alone brought a big smile to O’Neill’s face but shortly after that, Taylor presented to her a $1,000 scholarship.

The scholarship, the Clerk’s Award, is a $1000 scholarship that O’Neill can use on anything she wants in college – books, tuition, class supplies and more.

Other award recipients include Timothy Sinclair and Jonathan Lopez. Sinclair received the Star Scholarship award and Lopez received the Jim Thies Scholarship award. Teen Court staff visited the other seniors in Teen Court that day, too. They stopped by the houses of Erica Carnegie, Inez Nieves, Melody Knight and Karl Stillword, as well.

July

After several delays, officials break ground on new Pace Center

ORANGE PARK – After several delays created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Pace Center for Girls is scheduled for July 24.

The Pace Center has been a talking point in the goals of both Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings for years. The two congressmen will be at the groundbreaking ceremony, as well as other county leaders, including Pace CEO Mary Marx and executive director Destani Shadrick.

Marx said Pace anticipated the groundbreaking in January or February before the pandemic changed the schedule.

Pace serves girls that are experiencing any number of risk factors. The top three risk factors facing girls in Clay County is poverty, with 96% of Pace’s girls living in the low to extremely low-income level, domestic violence and incarcerated guardians.

Unite Keystone organizers

committed to affecting change

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Zac Taylor wasn’t looking to start trouble when he reached out to four friends to start a discussion about social issues and racism in their hometown.

The original plan to meet on the Fourth of July at Keystone Beach was supposed to attract about 15 people. But thanks to social media, it quickly turned into story that made the national news cycle.

Unite Keystone Heights was created to turn racial issues from the hallways at the junior and senior high school into a public discussion.

The march never happened. Neither did the one planned for Aug. 8.

National Cycling Championships canceled by pandemic

CLAY COUNTY – The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another victim on July 2. This time it was the multiple events of the National Cycling Championships.

The scheduled events in Keystone Heights, Penney Farms and Fleming Island were canceled, after having previously been rescheduled for September 10-13. With the resurgence of the pandemic following the reopening of the state and Florida regularly posting record days of new COVID-19 cases, it was decided by USA Cycling to cancel the events until next year.

“We’re disappointed that we’re not able to have everybody come in this year,” said Joel Lamp, Senior Director of Tourism and Events for Airstream Ventures. “But we’re looking forward to next year and continuing our partnership with USA Cycling and having everyone come back in ’21 for what will be an exciting championship.”

USA Cycling had worked for months and gone through multiple plans to try and find a viable way to continue to have the athletes compete in the events as previously planned.

August

Michelle Cook, David Broskie, Diane Hutchings win key Clay County primaries

CLAY COUNTY – There’s a new sheriff in town.

Clay High graduate and former Atlantic Beach Police Chief Michelle Cook received 37% of the vote to emerge from a crowded field of candidates, including beleaguered Sheriff Darryl Daniels, to become the first woman to win the county’s highest law enforcement post. She’s will be sworn in on Jan. 5.

Cook met with supporters at Whitey’s Fish Camp while they waited for results to pour in. When she was declared the winner, she used a bullhorn to assure the raucous crowd she will strive to earn their respect.

In other key races, David Broskie officially dropped his interim label as superintendent after he beat former Superintendent Charlie Van Zant 47.66%-37.59%, while Diane Hutchings ousted Ronnie Robinson to become the next tax collector.

Daniels suspended as Clay County Sheriff following arrest

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels Aug. 14 after the embattled sheriff was arrested a day earlier following a year-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office.

Five days later, Clay County voters officially removed him from office by electing Michelle Cook at the next sheriff.

DeSantis selected Matt Walsh of the Jacksonville Florida Department of Law Enforcement office on Aug. 15 to serve as the interim sheriff.

DeSantis’ executive order states Daniels can’t serve as the county’s sheriff or be paid until a new executive order is issued after one felony charge of destroying evidence and three misdemeanor charges of making false claims a former lover was stalking him.

Clay County schools celebrate first day on campus since

COVID-19 shutdown

FLEMING ISLAND – The first bell of the schoolyear at Fleming Island Elementary rang shortly after 8:30 on July 25. Moments later, students, teachers and staff were welcomed with a thunderous “Good morning!” from principal Jennifer Collins.

Her voice was filled with excitement and energy. Months of frustration, isolation and preparation finally ended when 550 students returned to the classroom and another 150 joined online classrooms at Fleming Island.

About 30,000 students went to their traditional schools on the first day and another 9,000 opted to take classes virtually as a precaution to COVID-19, Superintendent David Broskie said.

Gold Head State Park listed on National Register of Historic Places

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The Florida Park Service’s Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation was made because of the 33 historic buildings, four sites, and 17 other structures within the 1,823-acre historic boundary of the park. The nine stone cabins, pavilion, overlook and bathhouse were constructed on State Road 21 by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1935 and 1942, and situated around five lakes and Gold Head Branch Creek.

Road improvements and the establishment of a campground were also performed by the CCC during this period. Additionally, the park is home to one of the few remaining stands of old growth longleaf pines in Florida.

September

End of watch:

Sgt. Eric Twisdale

MIDDLEBURG – The loud beep from the 911 call center emitted from every law enforcement, fire and rescue officer wearing a two-way radio throughout the county, followed by the following instructions:

“Attention all units. Attention all units. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office respectfully requests to serve a moment of radio silence in memory of Sgt. Eric Twisdale, who died brave on Sept. 16, 2020.”

Clay County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Eric Twisdale was laid to rest on Sept. 24, but not before leaving an indelible impression on everyone he met. He died in the line of duty of complications created by COVID-19, Sheriff Michelle Cook said.

The 49-year-old sergeant who supervised the led the agency’s crime scene unit, died Sept. 16 after being hospitalized with the deadly virus. He was survived by a former wife, three children, six grandchildren and a sheriff’s office that was devastated by his death.

Sheriff: COVID-19 breakout at jail was ‘a matter of time’

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said the recent outbreak of COVID-19 at the county jail was not only expected, but inevitable.

After announcing 18 positive cases of the deadly virus on Sept. 14, Cook said a new round of tests have turned up 156 infected inmates and eight detention deputies.

Counting between “60 and 70” inmates who’ve refused testing, nearly half of the jail population now is in isolation.

“As of [Monday] morning, we have 156 positive COVID-19 cases in the Clay County Jail among our population. This is among a population of 472 inmates. We have eight detention deputies that have tested positive, as well. We have 104 total deputies that work for us [in the jail],” Cook said.

County awarded $300,000 to fight growing opioid abuse

CLAY COUNTY – The county’s health department was awarded more than $300,000 to fight against opioid abuse.

The Florida Department of Health in Clay County in a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it has been awarded $322,000 that will run through August 2020 to fund the department’s work in obtaining comprehensive and timely data on overdose morbidity and mortality. That data will be used to help the county’s prevention and response efforts.

Community health services liaison Lisa Rogers said Clay County’s 2018 rate of 22.5 deaths for every 100,000 residents is higher than the 2018 state average rate of 18.7.

The money will help it determine why Clay County’s rate is so high and how best to fight to bring it down. This grant is an Overdose Data Action grant from the CDC and was awarded to Clay as “general prevention and community paramedicine.” What this translates to is the creation of a task force whose sole purpose is to tackle Clay’s opioid challenge.

October

Two dozen Clay County

educators share $20,000 grant

CLAY COUNTY – More than two dozen school district teachers received a portion of $20,000 of the Clay Education Foundation and the Community First Cares Foundation.

The two foundations delivered grants ranging from $500 to $2,000 to 26 educators in the Clay County School District to help teachers fund new and unique STEAM projects for their students this year. The goal is for the grant to cover the cost of this year’s project for each teacher and the goal of each project is to tap into unique STEAM ideas that can be replicated for future classes.

Grants were given to 26 recipients across 15 elementary, junior high and high schools. When teachers learned that their grant application was accepted however, they had no idea what was in store.

Clay High janitor pleads guild to filming girls in locker room

JACKSONVILLE – Jason Brian Goff, 44, of Starke, pleaded guilty to attempted production of child pornography. He faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 15 years – and up to 30 years – in federal prison. A sentencing date wasn’t set.

According to the plea agreement, in August 2019, two 14-year-old Clay High School students reported that they had seen what they believed was a camera lens, concealed within a locked gym locker, in the girls’ locker room. When school administrators unlocked the locker, they discovered a cellphone taped to the side wall of the locker with the lens pointed out of a pre-fabricated hole.

One of the girls said she noticed a hole in the locker while her friend dressed and she saw the cellphone through the hole. The lock on No. 152 also had a black face, while the other lockers had green-faced locks.

Fleming Island’s Carnegie to represent Clay at Miss Florida Teen USA

FLEMING ISLAND – Erica Carnegie, 18, has been selected to represent Clay County at the Miss Florida Teen USA competition next year.

Carnegie recently learned that she’ll represent the county April’s Miss Florida Teen USA pageant, and she couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity. It’s a chance for her to showcase years of personal work but also a chance to highlight something very important and close-to-home.

Miss Florida Teen USA will be the largest stage yet for Carnegie to spread awareness of AVM and the National Youth Ambassador Program for The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation she founded. Carnegie founded the first youth ambassador program for the foundation after simply reaching out to them to ask about whether a program like it existed. She was given the opportunity to kick the program off and assemble a team of other ambassadors.

November

Voters approve half-cent sales tax for schools

CLAY COUNTY – Voters turned out in record numbers in Clay County, and they overwhelmingly decided to repair local schools, send Kat Cammack to the U.S. House of Representatives and Jennifer Bradley to the Florida Senate and to keep President Donald Trump in the White House.

The numbers were impressive: 124,920 registered voters in the county cast ballots. Overall, their decisions were decisive.

As expected, voters supported Trump’s re-election more than two-to-one against all other candidates. They also backed Cammack’s election to Ted Yoho’s 3rd District seat in the U.S. House, Sam Garrison’s bid to replace Travis Cummings in the District 18 seat in the Florida House and Bradley’s campaign to replace her husband Rob Bradley as the District 5 representative in the Florida Senate.

Republican Bobby Payne defeated Kimberly Dugger for the District 19 seat in the Florid House. The district is comprised of portions of Putnam, Clay and Union counties.

They also put Beth Clark on the Clay County School Board. The real estate agent and first-time candidate defeated longtime school board Carol Studdard for the District 2 seat. Studdard had been on the board since 1992.

One of the most-important issues was a proposed half-cent sales tax to provide money for more than $300 million in overdue repairs and another $300 million to build new schools.

Clay County Teen Court Mock Trial Team wins state

championship

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Teen Court Mock Trial Team successfully defended its title over the weekend of Nov. 7-8 at the FSU Sunshine State Showdown. The team didn’t lose in four rounds, defeating 12 teams to become back-to-back state champions.

Teams from all over Florida competed, including Bolles, Miami Arts Studio, American Heritage, Stanton College Preparatory, Lakeland Christian and Hialeah.

The team was assigned a case they had to prepare according to normal legal procedures such as reading witness statements, exhibits, objections and evidence rules.

Coach Kendra New, a Green Cove Springs lawyer, is a veteran of the program, who practices corporate, civil and estate law.

Team member Linnea Stuart won an award for the top attorney and scored the highest points for the plaintiff and defense. Stuart is a home-schooled senior who also is enrolled at St. John’s River State College.

Studdard makes a tearful

exit after 28 years from

School Board

CLAY COUNTY – School Board member Carol Studdard said her goodbyes on Nov. 5 after serving for the past 28 years.

Beth Clark’s win earlier this month brought Studdard’s near-three-decade legacy that was cultivated with students and teachers.

The ehool board meeting had a light agenda. The meeting, however, was filled with memories and the tears. Most spoke fondly of Studdard. Clay County Education Association president Vicki Kidwell thanked voters for the passing of the half-cent sales tax, which will be used to fund more than $300 million in repairs and maintenance and another $300 for future construction throughout the district, before speaking to Studdard’s character.

CCSO wraps-up yearlong

murder case with seventh arrest

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A random act of kindness cost a man his life, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said.

Heights man who bought a boy a pair of shoes for his football banquet when Douglas Roe Jr. was apprehended by U.S. Marshals in Gloversville, Texas, on Nov. 12.

Arrest reports, warrants and investigators detail a gruesome tale of jealousy and depraved behavior that started when Stephen Dalton Perry Jr. was with his co-worker, Stephen Sherouse on Bills Way on Nov. 21, 2019. Sherouse’s neighbor, Alexsandria McNabb, asked if he had any clothes or shoes for her son to wear at a football banquet.

Perry bought the boy a pair of shoes, the arrest warrants said, which sent McNabb’s boyfriend, Kalvin Roe, into a jealous rage. He organized a group that beat Perry after ordering him out of his truck.

Detectives said five men – Kalvin Roe, Doug Roe Jr., Caleb Roe, Travis Roe and Augustino Morales – beat Perry lifeless with bats, pool cues and a large wooden handle.

Detectives said Jesse Roe put Perry in the back of his truck and drove him into Putnam County where the body was dumped. Jesse Roe and McNabb were charged with accessory after the fact.

December

J.P. Hall Christmas toy drive wraps up 39th year of helping local children

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Bickner family waited for nearly four hours to get three bags of toys for their children.

It was time well spent.

All three children from Keystone Heights had toys under their Christmas tree. Thanks to the work of J.P. Hll Children’s Charities Give the Gift of Hope, so did more 1,500 other county children.

Despite having to drop their annual Christmas party for a drive-thru event as a precaution to COVID-19, organizer Virginia Hall said the event was able to expand to its 39th year after local organizations and residents stepped up with donations to keep the tradition alive.

Hall said she hopes things will be back to “normal’ for the 40th installment at the Clay County Fairgrounds.

Facebook post, compassion to serve God leads to life-altering kidney donation

FLEMING ISLAND – Eddie Farhat visited the doctors six and a half years ago for what he thought was standard procedure. He learned day he had kidney disease and he’d need to be on dialysis until a new kidney was found for him.

A couple keystrokes on a social media site changed all that.

Although the average wait time on a kidney transplant, before a friendship that goes back over 30 years, Roger Higginbotham, discovered that he was a perfect match for him. Farhat’s nearly seven-year search for a kidney came to an end on Aug. 25 after the donor remembered one of Farhat’s Facebook posts.

Higginbotham learned in May that he was a perfect match and surgery followed three months later.

Both patients have recovered from their surgeries.

Salvation Army presses

forward despite unprecedented challenges

MIDDLEBURG – Maj. Phillip Irish slumped in his chair and stared at the calendar on his desk. The only thing listed on Nov. 18 was the word “FLOOD,” and it was underlined three times.

The season that’s define the Salvation Army’s fundraising efforts for more than 100 years was rocked with a one-two punch of COVID-19 and a broken pipe that flooded 75% of the building.

Despite the overwhelming challenges, Irish said the Salvation Army hasn’t stopped providing services to the community. The food bank is still operational, and the annual Rescue Christmas program that includes the Red Kettle, Fill-A-Stocking and toy distribution programs weren’t affected.

The toy giveaway scheduled for Dec. 14-15 proceeded as planned and all 32 Red Kettle locations were up and running.

Hendry retires (again) after serving the community for more than 50 years

LAKE ASBURY – Gayward Hendry’s U.S. Marines dress blues still hangs in his closest. The creases are razor sharp. His Company Grade White Hat is clean and crisp. At 73, his jaw is still firm, his handshake is powerful.

So much as happened in Hendry’s life, but little has changed. He still wears the same size dress blues he wore during his 20-year stint in the military. He’s still not afraid to speak his mind. And when he looks you in the eye, you know it’s the truth.

After spending his entire adult like serving the community in the military, law enforcement and county government, including the last four years on the Clay Board of County Commissioners, Hendry will walk away, yet stay involved.

For now, he’s finding tranquility on his farm making cane syrup. There also are plans to travel and fish to be caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

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