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Four local incumbents pre-file for re-election



SEBRING — It was a Super Tuesday of sorts with four local incumbents deciding to pre-file Tuesday to run for re-election in 2020.

Superintendent of Schools Brenda K. Longshore, Property Appraiser Carl Raymond McIntyre, Tax Collector Eric Thomas Zwayer and Supervisor of Elections Penny S. Ogg all are shown as “active and pre-filed” as Republicans on the Highlands Supervisor of Elections website.

Assistant Supervisor of Elections Karen Healy said the four had pre-filed on Tuesday.

Is there a significance or reason for pre-filing on Feb. 4?

“No,” Healy replied. “It is considered filing early if you file way back in 2019, but some people want to get exposure and get their name out there. So that is why some people file well in advance, because they need that time to get their campaign on the ground.

“It’s no magic date, it is just that they all wanted to get it on the books,” she said.

Currently there is a total of 21 local candidates who have pre-filed.

The petitions are due May 11, so candidates have a three-month window to get their petitions in if they don’t want to pay the qualifying fee, Healy said.

Normally January and February are busy months for people to announce they are going to run for that particular election cycle.

Thus far, none of the four incumbents who pre-filed on Tuesday have challengers who have pre-filed.

The qualifying period for the 2020 elections — Primary on Aug. 18 and General Election on Nov. 3 — is noon June 8 through noon June 12.

For a listing of local candidates, go online to votehighlands.com.

FHP Trooper Joseph Bullock gets hero's escort to Sarasota

LAKE PLACID — Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joseph Bullock’s hearse was escorted by scores of law enforcement and other first responders from all around the state as Bullock’s body was taken from the Port St. Lucie Medical Examiner’s Office to Sarasota, where it has been reported that his family lives.

In towns and cities both large and small along State Road 70, the roadway was lined with citizens of all ages and first responders waving flags and saluting Bullock as the motorcade passed.

Highlands County would also pay tribute as residents and law enforcement, EMTs and firefighters lined the sides of S.R. 70 with lights ablaze to pay their respects.

The scene was reminiscent of the motorcade that escorted Highlands County Sheriff’s Deputy William Gentry for his memorial services on May 15, 2018.

Friday’s procession made its way across U.S. 27 at 10:30 a.m. There were many who parked their cars along the highway and stood in silence while paying their respects.

One bystander said, “I’m just proud of our law enforcement. I think they do a great job and it’s a pretty thankless job.”

Other bystanders though saddened, expressed admiration that so many came out to show support and respect for Bullock’s journey back to his family.

Highlands County Public Information Officer Gloria Rybinski said Highlands County Fire Rescue had several units present during the procession, “to show our support and to honor the fallen state trooper.” The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office and Lake Placid Police Department were also among the law enforcement in attendance.

Lake Placid Police Chief James Fansler said, “It’s an unfortunate situation for any law enforcement officer getting killed in the line of duty, especially for something as nonsensical as this situation.”

Simultaneously on Friday as the motorcade made its way across the peninsula and despite the windy morning, Zechariah Cartledge, 11, was running in Winter Springs. Young Zechariah has pledged to run the first mile every time a first responder is killed. The young man has run over 300 miles since he started the commitment at the age of 8.

Bullock, 42, was killed in the line of duty at about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5. Trooper Col. Gene Spaulding said Bullock was a “leader” and a field trainer, “a mentor” and a”great guy.” Bullock was an Air Force veteran and a 19-year veteran of FHP’s Troop L in Fort Pierce. TCpalm.com reported Bullock being survived by his parents and two sisters.

Spaulding said Bullock was attempting to help a motorist in a disabled vehicle on I-95. According to Spaulding, Bullock approached the car and was with Franklin Reed III, 28, the driver, for a few minutes before Reed allegedly shot and killed Bullock. Witnesses have told law enforcement that Reed was upset over having to pay for a tow truck. An off-duty Riviera Beach police officer happened to be driving by and saw the scene. The officer stopped and interacted with Reed, subsequently shooting and killing him.

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office has taken over the case and has named Reed as the only suspect.

Senate wants orange juice to flow again

TALLAHASSEE — Travelers might again get a free cup of Florida’s homegrown beverage when they cross the state line, through funding tucked in the Senate’s proposed budget.

But helping the Department of Citrus bring back free orange juice could hinge on a bigger debate, as the operations of state welcome centers remain locked in a legislative battle about the fate of the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida.

The Department of Citrus last July eliminated free juice offerings at welcome centers along Interstate 10 west of Pensacola, Interstate 75 near Lake City and Interstate 95 near Jacksonville, as a $4.1 million cut in state promotional funding went into effect.

Shelley Rossetter, the department’s assistant director of global marketing, said in an email Friday that stopping the flow of free juice “was hard to let go of.”

“The department and growers are very clear that our visitors miss their juice,” Rossetter said.

The free juice accounted for about $250,000 a year from the department’s promotional spending.

In its proposed $92.83 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Senate is seeking to restore promotional funding to $5 million, an amount annually offered prior to the current year.

Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said in an email Friday that the department gave assurances to a Senate budget panel that if the $5 million is restored, it “would have sufficient resources overall to restore orange juice service at welcome centers.”

Similar funding doesn’t appear in the House’s $91.37 billion budget proposal, which also would eliminate funding for Visit Florida. The tourism-marketing agency operates the three welcome centers.

House leaders have long questioned some high-profile spending by Visit Florida and the correlation of state marketing and tourism numbers.

The Senate is seeking to spend $50 million on Visit Florida during the fiscal year that starts July 1, which would be the same amount as this year. The Senate also is expected next week to vote on a measure (SB 362) that would authorize Visit Florida to continue operating until 2028.

After a Visit Florida Board meeting last month in Tallahassee, agency President and CEO Dana Young noted that a casualty of shuttering the agency would be the welcome centers.

“It’s an unfortunate fact, but it is reality,” Young said.

Last year, operations of a welcome center along U.S. 231 in Jackson County was turned over from Visit Florida to eight Panhandle counties, as Visit Florida was hit with a 34 percent budget cut.