St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Prodigal pup's return has family rejoicing
  • Panel downplays arsenic-treated wood
  • Governor rolls into Chiefland to lend an ear; residents bend it
  • Bush endorsements rile primary opponents
  • Daytona weary of baring carousers
  • Lawsuit: Death row inmates suffering in hot cells
  • Women fight law requiring them to publish sexual past
  • Around the State
  • Indictments break up prostitution circuit

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

    printer version

    Governor rolls into Chiefland to lend an ear; residents bend it

    Levy County loves the governor, but that doesn't stop residents from rising early to speak their mind.

    By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 8, 2002

    CHIEFLAND -- A governor, up close and personal, is a rare sight in this isolated little town by the Suwannee River. But Gov. Jeb Bush made up for lost time Wednesday.

    He spent four hours listening to real people with real problems, from the high cost of prescription drugs to the misuse of Social Security numbers. It was part of Bush's program of holding office hours in more than a dozen cities and towns, many in out-of-the-way places, to close the gap between taxpayers and state government.

    Townsfolk began showing up at 5:30 a.m. at a community college center, next door to a discount store. A makeshift welcome sign said "Please form a line toward Sav-A-Lot."

    People took numbers and ate pastries while they waited, some for as long as four hours, to tell their stories to Bush or Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan. Others simply wanted to be photographed with the governor, or shake his hand.

    "This is the biggest thing that's ever happened in Levy County," Galen Unold, who works at a nearby blood bank, said as a drab strip mall became a beehive of activity.

    Rufus Meriwether, 76, told Bush that when he got his commercial fishing license, the state gave his Social Security number to nine vendors trying to sell him products. An official sent Meriwether a letter of apology last March, blaming a "computer programming error," but Meriwether wanted to talk to Bush personally.

    "I've just been as mad as I can be," Meriwether said. Bush apologized -- twice.

    Meveree Pope of Trenton desperately sought help for her 25-year-old grandson, who is disabled from an inflammation of the pancreas, but was turned down for Social Security assistance.

    Chiefland, population 1,993, is about 100 miles from Tampa and Tallahassee.

    The town has a shopworn look. Jobs are scarce in a place where a Wal-Mart Supercenter is the largest private employer, and City Hall has been in turmoil since officials discovered that police lack arrest powers under Chiefland's charter. All seven officers were put on paid leave last month.

    Bush got 55 percent of the vote in Levy in 1998. Two men from Newberry coaxed Bush into posing with them next to their pickup truck, which had a sandwich-board sign in the bed reading: "Thank God for the Bush brothers."

    Some visitors are familiar. Nicky Berman of Cape Coral, who's waging a one-man crusade against gambling on Florida Indian reservations, was No. 9 but was put at the end of the line. "I've chased him all over the state. They know me," Berman said.

    Grace Kronyak, 86, of nearby Old Town, told Bush about flooding from past rainstorms and alcohol and drug use in her town. She left smiling from ear to ear after being photographed with Bush.

    "I'm just a common little nobody with holes in my shoes," she said.

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk