Photo courtesy KIM WORLEY/Special to Alachua County Today
Left to right, Florida League of Cities President and Hawthorne Mayor Matt Surrency, Diana Davis, E. Harris Drew Award Winner Waldo Mayor Louie Davis, Florida League of Cities First Vice-President and Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie.
BY CAROL WALKER
HAWTHORNE/WALDO – Alachua County stood out this year as two local mayors were honored at the Florida League of Cities 89th Annual Conference in Orlando. Hawthorne Mayor Matt Surrency was sworn in as president of the Florida League of Cities, which acts as a united voice for Florida’s Municipal Governments.
This year's conference, “Florida Cities – A Public Conversation,” drew a crowd of approximately 1,000 city officials from across Florida. Participants gather to share ideas, attend educational workshops and sessions, discuss strategies for Florida's future, determine League policies and visit the Municipal Marketplace.
The League's goals are to serve the needs of Florida’s cities and promote local self-government.
Surrency became second vice-president of the Florida League of Cities in 2013 after campaigning throughout the state. In 2014, he became first vice-president of the organization and this year will serve as president.
Each year a presidential initiative is proposed for the League. “This year, we're organizing throughout the state and promoting cities to work together on regional issues to solve issues state and federal government agencies are usually responsible for solving,” said Surrency.
A good example of that is the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. “A federal grant was available to deal with sea level rise. Instead of three or four cities in southeast Florida competing for the grant funding, the cities worked together as a unit to compete for the grant for the city that would benefit the most from winning it. Because of the joint effort, it threw a lot more weight behind one community fighting for the grant against the rest of the country,” he said.
Surrency was elected as commissioner in Hawthorne in 2009, elected as vice-mayor in 2010 and has served as mayor since 2011. When he is not serving the needs of the people, he is in sales at Florida Septic, a local concrete manufacturer in Hawthorne. He and his wife met in high school and have three sons.
Waldo Mayor Louie Davis also was honored as he received the prestigious E. Harris Drew Award during the League conference. The award, sponsored by the Florida League of Cities, recognizes and honors a local elected official who has made a lasting and worthwhile contribution to the citizens of Florida through their efforts and dedication in the performance of their duties on the local level, thus fulfilling the FLC’s motto, “Local Self-Government - Keystone of American Democracy.”
“This is pretty much a Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Ben Boukari, Alachua City Commissioner. “It's a really great honor to win this award. We are very proud that this year's recipient is from Alachua County,” he said
Each year an honoree is chosen from nominations received by the three-person selection committee appointed by the League's president. Mayor Davis’s name will be added to the permanent plaque located at the FLC's office in Tallahassee. Davis has served the City of Waldo for 33 years, 29 of which were as mayor.
During that time, Waldo has seen many changes, some more positive than others. “One of the best things we did was to get a branch of the Alachua County Library in Waldo,” said Davis. Another issue he feels has improved service in Waldo is that the city “went with the county for fire/rescue services. I think we are experiencing better service now.”
Davis also sees the development of the recreation parks in the city as a wonderful change. “The city established the Sid Martin Park in the 1980s. We decided to name the park after Sid Martin since he helped us to get it,” he said.
Some of the less than desirable changes he's seen during his tenure include the closing of the train station in Waldo, closing of the police department and the closing of the school. “We're hoping to get another school here at some point,” he said.
Davis became Waldo's mayor in 1985 and has remained in that position ever since with the exception of two years serving on the council. He also has served as a member of the Volunteer Fire Department and acted as Fire Chief for a while. “I grew up in Waldo and I have enjoyed serving the public for a lot of years,” said Davis.
He says he is thankful to his wife, Diana, and his family for their support throughout the years. He proudly announced, “We will be married 50 years this December.” Of his family, he just as proudly said, “We have two girls, six grand kids and two great grand boys.”
While also serving as mayor, Davis also worked for the University of Florida as Facilities Director for the Department of Zoology for 35 years. Although he retired from that position seven years ago, he still can't seem to sit still. Currently, he is working as purchasing agent and maintenance manager for Ray's Metal Works in Alachua.
“I am honored to receive this recognition from the Florida League of Cities. Throughout my career I have worked closely with the Florida League, as well as the Alachua County League of Cities and the Northeast Florida League of Cities to try and make Waldo a great place to live, work and play,” said Mayor Davis. “I am grateful for the help and support I’ve received along the way from Florida League staff, the Alachua and NE Florida League of Cities, the City of Waldo, my wife Diana and family. We’re all in this together and together we can accomplish great things.”
There is only one thing Davis would like to have changed about his lifetime of work and service. “I wish I had kept a journal all these years so I could write a book about small town politics,” he quipped. “That would have been a real barn burner.”
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