Lawyer reconnects with Chiefland

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Special to the Citizen

It has a long road to Main Street for attorney Sunshine "Sunny" Baynard.

Now, the lifelong local resident, has her shingle out in Downtown Chiefland near the City Hall that played a role in shaping her career and developing an ongoing concern for the community.

The mother of two has been an attorney for nine years. She also served six years on the city commission, including a term as mayor. 

Baynard was elected to the commission as an undergraduate student at the University of Florida, concerned about what was happening in her city. She was 22 at the time, winning by a narrow margin, with the slogan "Let the Sunshine in."

She was re-elected in a tough race and finally earned a third term unopposed. 

Along the way she has switched her major from pre-med – she loved science and math – and was on track to law school, inspired by other lawyers in her family. She originally went to college on a golf scholarship.

"I was a new mom when I started law school, I had a 6-month-old baby, I was mayor, I was busy," she said. "My first baby and lots to do."

Law school alone was such a full-time commitment, students were not allowed to work. She recalled having to get school permission to continue being mayor.

"It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot," she said. "I was able to work a lot into it because of having that extra knowledge.

"There were issues going on in the city that I could apply to law school."

She would become well known for one of those issues, bringing a successful lawsuit against the city over a Sunshine Law violation regarding public meeting notice.

"There was a lot going on in our little town and I couldn't sit back and watch it," she recalled from her time on the commission. "You have to stand for something, when you're in those positions, you have to stand for what you believe in."

She also recalled going into labor during a commission meeting.

Baynard ended her commission career when she and her husband moved out of the city limits. Then, with two young children, she finished law school and began working at the public defender's office.

"It was a great experience," she said. "I really enjoyed it and stayed there for nine years. I started out in Alachua, but spent the majority of those years in Bronson."

As her time in Bronson was ending, she and her husband decided it was time for her own law practice in Chiefland.

"This was my goal," she said, looking her office, which she admits is a work in progress. The corner building is also the location she always considered for an office. "I really always planned to be here in Chiefland," she said.

As for the future, Baynard is not sure whether she is done with politics, but still has a passion for Chiefland. "I enjoy helping people," she said, "I enjoy community development, I enjoy all that."

"I have a general practice," she said, describing her law office. She handles criminal law, wills, probate, divorces, closings and custody issues and any legal matters in Levy and surrounding counties where people need to have a lawyer.

She is also a proud busy mom with a 13-year-old daughter who is a barrel racer, headed to the youth world championships in July. Her 8-year-old son is all-star baseball player, playing in Lake City this week for a shot at the state tournament. And in July, he starts football.

Last Saturday, she attended her 20-year class reunion from Chiefland High School.