Some of Leon County’s newest elected officials reintroduced themselves to voters Thursday at a local political forum. The newly minted public servants sat down with local politicos to outline their transitions and priorities.
This new class of local politicians marks a significant shift in leadership; many are taking over for public servants with decades of experience. And many want to get voters more involved in their work.
New superintendent Rocky Hanna announced he is walking back his statements on how candidates should get the job. At multiple forums during the campaign, Hanna said the superintendent should be an appointed office, not a political one. But Thursday he said he changed his mind, characterizing his previous statements to the Tallahassee Democrat as a fluke mistake.
“The Democrat kind of caught me off guard. I watched all of the ugliness, and what it was doing to our employees. And at the spur of the moment I said, appointed,” Hanna said.
But his statements to the newspaper were not a one-off. Hanna made this defense of appointed superintendents at another political forum hosted by WFSU and WCTV.
“It kills me what this does to our employees. Because they’re put in a heck of position when their boss asks them to donate. Or their boss asks them to stand on a corner and wave signs. So when you see abuses like that it begs for an appointed superintendent,” Hanna said.
But Hanna says if voters put the issue on the ballot, he would respect the outcome.
Gwen Marshall will be stepping in as Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, her first position as an elected official. Marshall is taking over for Bob Inzer, who has served in the county courthouse since 2001. Marshall brings seventeen years of experience working with the state association of clerks. After talking to countless voters over a long campaign season, she wants to increase public awareness of the office.
“So in four years I hope when I’m campaigning out on the trail, I don’t have to spend thirty minutes, it’ll be five minutes explaining what the clerk of court does,” Marshall said.
Local architect Akin Akinyemi will be stepping in as county property appraiser, as the long-serving Bert Hartsfield retires. Doug Will, Akinyemi’s former opponent in the race and Hartsfield’s chosen successor, will be staying in the office as the appraiser’s second in command. Like his colleagues on the stage Thursday, Akinyemi hopes to educate the public on his office’s role. And he hopes to adopt new mapping technologies.
“My last mission is…innovation. And for that I’ve created an office to explore and bring forward the best and greatest GIS and appraisal technology out there so we can do our job better,” Akinyemi said.
Meanwhile Mark Earley says he’s uniquely qualified to continue the work of nationally-respected elections expert Ion Sancho. Earley has worked in the office for decades, and says he’ll carry on Sancho’s voting rights activism as well.
“Restoration of felons’ rights. I look forward to working and advocating for that. We don’t have a big role in this, but that is something we can do here. We are always trying to improve the ability of voters…of people to vote. And that is a key concept we want to get done,” Earley said.
Meanwhile, incoming Sheriff Walt McNeil was notably absent from the forum. He will take over for Sheriff Mike Wood on January 3rd, marking the first major shift in the office’s leadership in twenty years.