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Orien Hills retires after 15 years on Alachua Commission

W_-_Alachua_Hills_Coerper_DSCF5850_copyW_-_Alachua_Hills_Commission_Group_DSCF5854_copyPhoto 1: L-R: Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper presents a plaque to Commissioner Orien Hills in recognition of his 15 years of service on the city commission. Photo 2: 

L-R:  Commissioner Gary Hardacre, City Manager Traci Cain, City Attorney Marian Rush, Commissioner Orien Hills, Mayor Gib Coerper, Commissioner Ben Boukari, Jr. and Vice Mayor Robert Wilford.

ALACHUA – Monday night at the Alachua City Commission Meeting was a night of change.

Orien Hills, a commissioner for 15 years, retired from his position on Seat 4, sitting through his final meeting on Monday, April 23. The City of Alachua honored him with a plaque in recognition of his service and with a special presentation of pictures taken throughout his career.

Mayor Gib Coerper presented the plaque, which stated the years Hills was in office and the date the plaque was presented.

Being a Commissioner, said Coerper, is not about sitting on the dais and waving.

“It’s about getting out and speaking to the people in the community,” he said. “There’s no better connection than that.”

Coerper said that Hills embodies that idea. When Hills was needed, Coerper said, he was there.

Former Alachua City Manager Clovis Watson, Jr. said Hills was a mentor when Watson was a young man as well as when he was working with the City.

“I miss seeing you here,” Watson said, adding that those were special times.

Jean Calderwood, Alachua’s former mayor, started working with Hills on the Planning and Zoning Board. Both eventually moved on to serve with the Commission. She called Hills a man of few words.

“But when he speaks, people listen,” Calderwood said.

When school children in Alachua were going to have to be bused elsewhere because of capacity issues, Calderwood said Commissioner Hills battled the School Board of Alachua County to ensure that the neighborhood children would stay in the schools located in their neighborhood.

“You have created a legacy here in the City of Alachua,” Calderwood said, “a legacy that leaves big shoes to fill for those remaining in the Commission.”

All four of the commissioners thanked Hills for the years he served the City. Commissioner Gary Hardacre said he appreciated the time Hills spent teaching him, both on the commission and at the Alachua Lions Club.

“I just want to thank the people of the community for allowing me to serve this many years,” Hills said. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here, aggravating everybody in City Hall.”

After the commission thanked Hills for his service, newly elected Commissioner Shirley Green Brown was sworn into office, assuming Hills’ former seat on the dais, and Hardacre was sworn in for his second three-year term. During the commissioners’ comments period of the meeting, all of the commissioners welcomed Brown.

According to election rules, because Hardacre ran unopposed in the April 10 election, he must vote for himself to be re-elected to Seat 5.

“It was a tough decision, but I would vote for myself,” he joked.

The city commission selected a new Vice-Mayor on Monday as well. Former Vice-Mayor Ben Boukari nominated Commissioner Robert Wilford. No one else was nominated, and through consensus, Wilford became Vice-Mayor.