Gala sets new record

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Williston school construction money in budget

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Hollywood was the theme at the annual STARS Gala for The Levy County Schools Foundation and the stars were shining on Levy County. 


Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, the youngest to hold that position in the country, was the featured speaker and he brought good news about the proposed Williston Middle High School.

“The governor has put $11 million in his proposed budget,” Weatherford told the record-breaking audience of 312 gathered at Williston Middle School's cafetorium on Saturday, Feb. 1.  

The speaker said it is the first of three annual payments totalling about $35 million to build the school. 

Weatherford said the money shows “the state has a responsibility to small communities” who may be fiscally constrained in raising funds for school construction. 

“We're going to do our best to make sure that would happen,” Weatherford said. 

The young Weatherford, also met the oldest person to hold elected office in the state, Dogan Cobb, 103,  of Bronson.

Cobb was revealed to be the Foundation's Alumnus of the Year for 2014 at the gala. Cobb, a Levy County native, is a graduate of Bronson High School. He served as Levy County tax assessor for 37 years, was Bronson mayor and served on the Bronson Town Council. He served on the board of directors of the Levy ARC for 27 years. He was born in Gulf Hammock and served in the Army, as part of the D-Day landing on June 6, 1944.  Cobb has worked in banking and has owned a grocery and a Western Auto stores.   

The Gala, one of two big fundraising events for the Foundation raised over $37,000 for scholarships and classroom materials, according to Foundation Executive Director Angela Q. Johnson. 

Weatherford, who will bring the gavel down to open the annual legislative session on March 4, said, “Florida is on a hot streak.” He said the economy is bouncing back, unemployment is down to less than half of what it was at the height of the recession and agriculture is booming. But underlying the good news is something the state will be working to eliminate: unemployment for those ages 18-30 is 13 percent and for African Americans in the same age group it is 24 percent. 

“The economy is changing and we need to train our kids for a future that doesn't exist yet,” Weatherford said.