CLEWISTON — The audience and his fellow members of the Hendry County Board, meeting Tuesday, April 9, witnessed a bombshell announcement from Commissioner Michael Swindle and expressed its pleasure with a loud ovation.
During the commissioners’ comments, Mr. Swindle said, “I want to take this opportunity to make a few statements and wrap it up with a nice announcement, hopefully. I started five-and-a-half years ago on my path of a Hendry County commissioner. It’s been a phenomenal journey.”
He said he’d enjoyed having “the ability to watch this county come out of an economic time that was trying for America and the state. I think that we’re flourishing today, head and shoulders above where we were. As I talk to our fellow colleagues around the state and the commission, it’s obvious to me that we have a unique board and we don’t always agree … but we always shake hands and hug and say ‘I love you. I’ll see you in two weeks.’ And I think that that’s pretty special, and the ability to work for the constituents of Hendry County has really shown, I believe.
“We wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t have the great staff that we have. The staff in Hendry County is phenomenal, second to none. I’ve been honored to work with, learn from, be a part of (them), and I hope that the footprint that I’ve brought to the table … has been positive.
“Tonight, I’d like to inform the public and my fellow board members that as of November 2020, I’ll be resigning from the commission, so that gives me about 18 or so months to stay in your presence and continue the legacy of whatever we leave. It’s been a phenomenal opportunity and I’ve learned from it, and I look forward to continuing.
“And I am pleased to announce, and I’m giving plenty of resignation time to allow (Elections Supervisor) Brenda Hoots and her staff to do whatever legally has to happen. That’s two years short on the election cycle, so that gives time for Ms. Hoots and the elections process to figure out, will this position be on the election-cycle ballot? Will it be a gubernatorial appointee. That gives them plenty of time to figure that out.
“I’m very excited to announce that the reason for the resignation is because effectively immediately, I’m going to be (running for) superintendent for Hendry County schools. My love and passion, my training and education (are) as a teacher. I’ve been involved with education system for north of 20 years now. The footprint I’ve brought to workforce development has grown and hopefully serves as an example of engaging the process and what can happen when proactive, positive leadership takes ahold. I look forward to being a formidable candidate for superintendent of schools.”
Commission Chairman Mitchell Wills was first to react. “I can tell you it’s been an honor and a pleaseure to serve with you on the board; I have learned a lot from you. Your professionalism and the excellence with which you do things has been a pleasure to be a witness to. I think you’ll make an amazing superintendent. God bless you.”
Commissioner Karson Turner said, “I look forward to aggravating the fool out of you.”
He meant “continuing” to do so, Mr. Swindle responded. “Let the data drive the discussion,” Mr. Turner finished.
Commissioner Darrell Harris said in a serious tone with an eyebrow-cocked kind of wink, “I’ll talk to you privately.”
“Oh, boy,” Mr. Swindle replied.
Commissioner Emma Byrd said: “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with you. You’ve been a great asset to me, so I appreciate you and I’m going to appreciate you even more.”
On another education-related matter, the commissioners OK’d a proclamation to honor the life and community services performed by the late Florida B. Thomas.
After all the “Whereas” clauses that extolled her lifetime achievements, including being the first black librarian in the interated school system and winning the Hendry County Golden Apple Heritage Award in 2019, the proclamation concludes: “Florida Bryant Thomas is hereby accorded this memorial of the board’s great respect, esteem and appreciation for her lifetime of contributions to the citizens of Harlem and Hendry County and hereby acknowledges the extraordinary commitment, dedication and involvement that Florida Bryant Thomas brought to her community and the positive impact she had with everything with which she was involved.”
It also issues the board’s sincere condolences and sympathy to her family that she had died and notes that the Harlem Library was “aptly renamed the “Florida B. Thomas Library in honor of her more than 34 years of work on behalf of the library after 40 years with the Hendry County School District that ended in 2014.
Chris Felker can be reached at email@example.com.