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What we have been doing in July and August – Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson

Political candidates have busy schedules, and Merrillee is no exception.

We have been so busy with tons of things to do.  Please take a moment with us now to catch up here a bit.  

On July 11, 2018, We attended an exciting event, the Democratic candidate forum in Gainesville at the Thelma Boltin Center.  Hosted by Cynthia Moore Chestnut, various candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Attorney General and Governor of Florida were present and spoke.

Commissioner of Agriculture candidates Nikki Fried and David Walker both cited Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) as a solution to Florida’s agricultural problems, although we leaned toward Walker as an environmentalist, Fried won the primary race.

Representative Sean Shaw, candidate for Attorney General is an impressive speaker and is endorsed by Bob Graham.  Of the gubernatorial candidates, only Jeff Greene was here in person, but Candidate Gillum presented through a video.


In the blue shirts are Kate Ellison of Melrose, and Dr. Paul Still and wife Kathy.  Dr. Still is running for Florida House of Representatives District 19.




On July 23 we had the pleasure of traveling to White Springs on the Suwannee River to enjoy the 42nd annual celebration of the Hucklebuck Jamboree.  And a pleasure it was with the delicious food, prepared locally by the best cooks in the south, served in a beautiful setting in the shade of old oak trees.  We were accompanied by Mike Roth and Cindy Noel, OSFR president and treasurer, respectively.

The “Hucklebuck  Jamboree” has become an annual tradition for this pioneer African American community of White Springs.  First begun years ago by Mrs. Verna Mae Johnson, an avid political activist who supported the right to vote.  The location known as “Hucklebuck”,  a place to buy a drink, socialize, maybe dance a little or play pool.

Family members carry on the tradition of inviting politicians to this family event, to enjoy a great southern meal, socialize and get to know the concerns and issues of their community.

I was honored to be invited to attend and felt welcomed by everyone. I took the time to learn from everyone I met what was important to them.


It was off to Madison, Florida on July 27 as an invited speaker at the Madison County Democratic Candidates Forum banquet.   Although an NPA, Merrillee was also invited to speak on water issues and did an incredible job, polished, upbeat, forceful and friendly. Her message was strong and clear, and the only one there emphasizing water and the environment. She met with many people after the forum and found several constituents from Columbia and Hamilton counties. She also met US Representative Al Lawson, a local native who was in the Florida Legislature for many years, and just recently became a US Congressman. Merrillee was warmly received by a great group of people. Thanks to Madison Advocate Gale Dickert for her assistance, and all the area Democrats who share Merrillee’s goals to improve our state.

Jerome Wyche, Madison City Manager, chats with Merrillee.

Merrillee held everyone’s attention and got her message out.

US Representative Al Lawson, keynote speaker at the banquet and environmental advocate Pat Thomas

Merrillee is a pro and came across as someone they will remember as person who wants to protect our water now and for future generations.

Merrillee with Representative Lawson’s aide, Christian.


Another trip to St. Augustine to attend a ban-fracking rally which was sponsored by the Floridians Against Fracking Coalition on August 4, 2018.  Merrillee made the journey with Our Santa Fe River members Hilda Gilchrist and Jim Tatum to make their voices heard. 

 Ready for the rally with Hilda Gilchrist.

This is the west end of the Bridge of Lions, with the group entering the city.

 A large and enthusiastic crowd turned out in the heat to express their opinions on fracking in general and especially in Florida.  The march started on the east side of the Bridge of Lions and continued across to the west side and then to the court house, where there was a brief rally with several speakers.  Police cordially held back traffic at the intersections to allow the many advocates to advance.  Inspiration was augmented by a drum and chants.

The fight against fracking has been ongoing for several years, since the formation of Floridians Against Fracking.  Merrillee was one of the founders of this organization, and the only one of that early group present at the rally.

Somewhat sad to say also is that she was the only political candidate for office present for this important expression of concern for our water, and neither was there any political leader there.  However, a letter written by Senator Nelson supporting a ban on fracking was read by one of the organizers of the rally.

Where are our water leaders?  Everyone is taking note of the water woes in Florida, but it is mostly lip service.

The several speakers included a retired physician, the Matanzas RiverKeeper, and a representative from ReThink Energy.  ReThink is one of the leading fighters against fracking in Florida.  It was encouraging to see students taking note of fracking and getting involved.


Merrillee has fun wherever she goes

Political candidates have busy schedules, and Merrillee is no exception. Tuesday, August 14 found her in Live Oak  for a Suwannee River Water Management District meeting, Lake Butler for a phosphate mine meeting, and in between White Springs.  The latter venue was the White Springs Community Center and was an event hosting a visit by Congressional candidate Bill Nelson and his family.

Merrillee chats with Senator Nelson

Merrillee was introduced to the room as a viable candidate for State Representative by the former mayor of White Springs, now City Commissioner Helen Miller.



Awaiting her recognition by Commissioner Helen Miller, with White Springs Mayor Spencer Mofton.






Merrillee greets political opponent Ron Williams Jr., of Lake City.




Busy travel days just don’t let up.  Thursday Aug. 16 was an all day, three-meeting day with meeting and events scheduled in Lake City, Dowling Park and Jasper.

Lake City was a county commissioner meeting, at the unusual hour of 9:30 due special circumstances.

The Dowling Park event took place at Advent Village, where Merrillee spoke along with all the House candidates in District 10.  Afterwards, the large crowd had many questions for the five, ranging from Christian values to immigration, with definitely an emphasis on religion.  No mention of guns, nor energy, nor health care, nor environment.

Merrillee works the room and tries to reach out to every person there.

Very frightening and discouraging were comments indicating that many people believe that the Suwannee River, very near the premises, is a pristine river.  In fact, it is one of the most polluted in Florida, due mostly to the heavy agriculture industry, Valdosta’s wastewater spillage, and other land uses in the immediate area.

One can expect little else, as the DEP periodically issues editorials throughout the state extolling the health of the springs and rivers, due of course, to the excellent job that the DEP is doing.  And also our governor.

This was the first time Merrillee had experienced such a barrage of questions. Although it was new to her, she is a fast learner and was ready with the answers.


The Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Post 8095 of Jasper, Florida hosted a political forum on Thursday, August 16, at which our candidate, Merrillee, was invited to speak.  Nice people that they are, the war veterans also offered a delicious pork barbeque dinner for the a small $5.

A few local candidates for various positions spoke, but the main attraction was the group for District 10 State House of Representatives, all five of which were present including Merrillee.

Here the format was somewhat different, with Master of Ceremonies Bo Beauchemin leading the way, but with no Q & A period afterward.

Things were touch and go for a few moments when one candidate stepped over the line with racist comments, and was on the verge of being escorted from the room.  The moment passed and no more unacceptable speech ensued, and he was allowed to finish, although he was awarded no applause.

Our thanks go to the good people of Jasper for their hospitality and friendship.

Merrillee was the only one of the five who outlined the issues.  Most of the others told anecdotes about themselves, their grand daddies and other family members.  Merrillee is also the one who has worked by far most in the community to make it better.

Good friends and hard workers from Hamilton County, Chris and Deanna Mericle.


Moms Demand Action, Gainesville Chapter, met last night, August 27, 2018 in front of the Courthouse in Gainesville to hold a rally for the recent shooting in Jacksonville.  Merrillee attended as one of the MDA Candidates of Distinction at their invitation, and was introduced to the crowd.  Several other candidates were present, and several members of the city council, the mayor, and County Commissioner Ken Cornell spoke.

Merrillee chats with City Commissioner Adrian Hays-Santos and Sarah Younger

County Commissioner Ken Cornell                                  Mayor Lauren Poe

 Merrillee speaks with MDA leader Marnie Wiss         Sen. Keith Perry, Ken Cornell and Merrillee