Gilchrist has over a century of experience to replace


Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 9:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 9:10 p.m.

More than 100 years of experience will be leaving public service in Gilchrist County later this year when five of the county's seven officers retire.

Facts

Salaries for elected officials in Gilchrist County

Judge:$134,280
Sheriff: $101,036
Clerk: $92,440
Property Appraiser: $92,440
Tax Collector: $92,440
Superintendent of Schools: $92,440
Supervisor of Elections: $75,717
County Commissioner: $26,689
School Board member: $24,467
Sources: Gilchrist County Supervisor of Elections and MyFlorida.com

Those choosing not to seek re-election and instead retire are Clerk of Courts Joseph Gilliam, 63; County Judge Ed Philman, 66; Sheriff Daniel Slaughter, 64; Superintendent of Schools Don Thomas, 64; and Tax Collector Marilyn Bruce, 59.

Having so many experienced officials leave at one time may be unprecedented, according to the executive director of the Florida Association of Counties, Chris Holley.

"I have never heard of that many (elected officials) leaving at one time, but unfortunately, there is a lot of turnover happening in Florida because there is a lot of stress and strain on the system, especially small counties without a lot of capacity," Holley said. "It's going to be very difficult because you lose a lot of corporate memory."

Holley said there is an upside to change.

"I'm not saying change is not positive in some situations, but there are going to be challenges," Holley said. "New people bring new ideas and new energy."

* * *

Edward Philman has been Gilchrist County judge since 1988, but he has only voted for himself once.

Philman ran his first — and only — political campaign in 2006 when he was challenged by David Miller "Duke" Lang, the son of the judge who Philman replaced in 1988.

In a county so small it only has one stoplight, Philman and Lang have often run into each other over the past four years and remained friendly. Now, Lang is running to succeed Philman.

Philman's retirement plans include travel, but his will be somewhat different.

Beginning July 1, Philman will begin his term as district governor for Rotary, a position in the civic organization that is expected to include a lot of travel to Rotary activities in 50 district clubs scattered from Lake City to Alabama. Philman has been a Rotarian for 30 years.

Philman said he is also looking forward to traveling with his wife to other parts of the country and spending more time with his adult children and grandchildren.

* * *

Gilchrist County's first-term sheriff Daniel Slaughter has decided to retire after more than a quarter century in law enforcement.

Earlier this year, he told The Sun that his retirement plans include traveling with his wife, Cindy, and focusing on his family, friends and the Gilchrist County community.

During Slaughter's tenure, the agency with 65 employees added two police drug dogs at no cost to taxpayers. Through grants and forfeited drug money, the agency also added video recorders, laptop computers, and surveillance and recording equipment to its patrol cars while installing new cameras and a surveillance system at the jail in Trenton.

When he announced his plans to retire at the end of this term, Slaughter had some advice for the candidates for the sheriff's job that he offered in an open letter to the county.

"Remember that you can clearly outline your strengths and visions in a positive way. Divisiveness and smear tactics retract from the message you are trying to deliver … Conduct yourself in a respectful and professional manner. Strive to unite and not divide."

* * *

Clerk of Courts Joe Gilliam has decided to step down after serving 16 years — four terms — and after overseeing a major expansion of the courthouse in Trenton.

"I'll be 64 in September, and I wanted to retire while I'm still young enough to do a few things," Gilliam said. "Maybe some traveling and some fishing, and also my brother and I have a 93-year-old father we like to help out."

Among the career highlights Gilliam likes to recall is the 11,000-square-foot courthouse addition. The $2.7 million project doubled the number of courtrooms — from one to two — and modernized security.

"This should serve the public for probably another 15 or 20 years until they have to do something else," Gilliam said.

* * *

Superintendent of Schools Don Thomas was especially proud of Gilchrist County's students, teachers and staff this week when state officials announced the district was ranked fifth best in the state on FCAT scores.

While the state grade showed Thomas led the school system to the top of a constantly changing school evaluation system, he said reaching the top has become "a moving target."

"These scores don't tell the whole story," Thomas said. "We now have increased federal involvement and more unfunded state mandates that are putting a lot of stress on our educational system at the same time we are dealing with budget cuts."

Despite his concerns, Thomas said he has mostly enjoyed his 31-year-long career in education, including two separate stints as superintendent that will total 16 years when he retires at the end of the year.

Thomas will be retiring for the second time. After 12 years as superintendent, he retired and spent four years working in real estate and doing other things he never had time to do during the school years. He was returned to office four years ago, but says this retirement will be his last one.

"I plan to slow down a little bit," Thomas said. "I'll find something to get involved in and probably will do some volunteering and some gardening and hunting."

* * *

Tax Collector Marilyn Bruce will leave her office at the end of the year, taking nearly 27 years of experience with her. She began working for the agency when records were exclusively on paper and is leaving behind — after two terms as the county's tax collector — a state-of-the-art tax collection system.

"I have no immediate plans to do anything," Bruce said, "other than not getting up in the morning at 6 a.m."

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