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Last updateSun, 10 Aug 2014 9pm

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A real town that needs real solutions

LTE2012 Mayberry was fiction; and Barny Fife is dead.  Andy is not doing much better. This continuous desire to return to the fifties on the part of some High Springs resdient is a worthy goal for the culture of our town; but as far as governing a city, it’s unrealistic.

Mayberry worked because Andy and Barny didn’t have FEMA and the State Legislature dictating policy from the state capital. Since the fifties and sixties, a host of new laws, certifications, specifications and labor acts have been imposed from outside from which the city government has had to contend. We can no more roll back the time and culture, than we can use Mr. Peabody’s “Way Back Machine.”

And, the railroad that originally created the need for High Springs is pulling out, too. The hard fact is that this process began when steam engines went away. Contributing to the problem was a lack of vision, with a good dose of reality. No one ventured to wonder what would happen to the budget if 20 percent of the homes in High Springs became vacant and subject to foreclosure. Now, a major asset to attract industrial investment is disappearing because no one looked at the consequences of a decision five years ago not to allow its extension.

Alachua adapted to a changing world when Copeland and the battery plant closed and IBM’s plans disintegrated. Alachua looked around at its potential; made itself into a distribution center.  The core issue for High Springs is that it has been searching for an identity ever since the Atlantic Coast Line pulled up stakes as a major employer.

The idea of a mayor and commissions managing High springs is so ludicrous that it defies imagination. Why? Because of the complexity of the day-to-day management of running a city (or business for that matter – ask your employer). Andy didn’t have the Sunshine Laws. He could hold court at Floyd’s barber shop. Today, he’d have to publish his meeting in advance, have it recorded and allow room for the residents. And, oh, he’d be forbidden from discussing anything with the other elected officials unless it was part of an open meeting.

We cringe at the thought of a city manager whose only concern is his career building; but, if he or she is any good, why not? The core problem hasn’t been their ambitions; but a lack of clear vision and direction on the part of the commission.

Every year or so a new bunch is elected; and it seems like there is a tug-of-war going on where the ultimate victor is never decided. Meanwhile, the staff ducks for cover; and the manager shifts with the tide to try to manage the process. Any professional manager looking in laughs, and thanks their Lucky Charms that they don’t have to put up with High Springs.

The sum is this: Commissioners – stop worrying about the culture, and focus on the management of the town. For that you will need a direction. Figure out what that direction for the town will be. Put that vision to the residents. Residents – have a healthy debate, and then either support it, or vote it down.  But, if accepted – then everyone get behind it. Let’s build High Springs on the Santa Fe, not Mayberry on the Santa Fe. Our town will be real.

John Manley

High Springs