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photo: Merrillee standing in front of a mural she painted of Rum Island Spring and the Santa Fe River holding the July edition of The Observer local monthly community newspaper.

Many of us who read newspapers know that we are living in a time with many problems. We have seen in Florida how ineffective, evasive and unresponsive our leaders are regarding the well-being of the citizens and the state we live in. Industry and money take precedent here, at the expense of everything else. Two recourses remain to us, litigation (being used more and more) and changing the bad leaders.
Here is our chance to begin to change that. Here is a solution we can count on.

On June 20, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson successfully qualified to be on the ballot to become a candidate in District 10 for the Florida State House of Representatives for the general election on November 6, 2018. She is a No Party Affiliation (NPA) candidate, and as such, will not have a primary runoff in August. District 10 includes all of Columbia, Baker, Suwannee, and Hamilton counties and a small portion of northwest Alachua.

For those of you who do not know Merrillee, she is 54 years old, married with two boys, and co-owns and operates Rum 138, a kayak rental/art gallery/restaurant near Rum Island Park on the Santa Fe River, south of Fort White. She has a degree in Fine Arts, is a skilled trade cosmetologist, mycologist and photographer. She lives on the banks of the Santa Fe River and has a strong interest in water and the nature. She has lived in our community for 16 years, and all who know her will attest to her honesty and work ethic without reservation. She is among the most honest, hard-working people we know, and she is incorruptible.

No one has spent more time working for our environment than Merrillee. For more than 12 years she has frequented county and city commission, water district, and state DEP meetings. She has become thoroughly familiar with the proceedings and functioning of our governing agencies and the people who run them. She has learned the permitting process, what is required, when and why, and is thoroughly familiar with Land Development Regulations and Comprehensive Planning. For nearly four years she has made regular trips to Tallahassee during Legislative sessions to participate in ban-fracking hearings and water hearings. She knows firsthand what it takes to pass good legislation and exactly how bad laws have been passed.

She is co-founder in 2006 of Our Santa Fe River, which successfully stopped four bottling plants from being built on the river near Fort White. She continued fighting large water permit withdrawals, Sabal Trail gas pipeline, banning fracking by home rule, and she has been on record opposed to deep well injection, phosphate mining on the Santa Fe River in Bradford and Union counties, and the proliferation of industrial chicken farming in north Florida. She organized a meeting between citizens and government agencies and successfully obtained disaster relief for citizens who, three weeks after Hurricane Irma, were abandoned and still flooded.

All these activities she has done on her own time and money. She continued some of these and more (although very restricted) during her two-year tenure as a salaried Organizing Representative for a large Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Ten and 12-hour work days are commonplace for her.

If you do an Internet search of her opponents for this political seat, you will find that no one comes anywhere close to Merrillee’s public service. See what they have done for the community. Not only have they done little to nothing, but some have taken thousands of dollars in contributions from individuals who represent phosphate mining. Merrillee has received awards for community service, including the Sierra Club’s coveted Cypress Award.

Those of you outside of District 10 cannot vote for her, but you can help. As an NPA she has no party backing and needs our support. She accepts no PAC money and therefore has no debt to lobbyists. You can join her team, donate time and funds to her campaign and help put her in Tallahassee. Here is a link to her website: .

Merrillee is the best person to have working in Tallahassee for our goals and ideals. Here is the environmentalist we need. She is smart, honest, driven and dedicated. She puts the bar at the top.

In the meantime, you can check in on the following social media interfaces:

Facebook: Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson political
Twitter: @Merrilleefor10
Instagram: MerrilleeforHouse10

Printed with permission from author Jim Tatum. Distribution of The Observer can be found at local businesses within High Springs and the surrounding community.