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Midway: Year in review

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CURT WILKERSON

Times 

Correspondent

On Aug. 15, federal and state law enforcement agents raided Midway City Hall and the home of then-city manager as part of an ongoing investigation. The city manager was subsequently arrested on an unrelated probation violation and resigned. Midway faced chaos and financial duress.

To add to the city’s troubles, Midway’s police chief was arrested and convicted of theft and misconduct in office, and was fired. All this turmoil attracted the interest of Dorothy Inman-Johnson, who came out of retirement after serving as executive director of the Capital Area Community Action Agency to take the helm as interim city manager. Throughout her career, Inman-Johnson, the former mayor of Tallahassee, has become an expert in dealing with difficult situations.

“From past work experience, I’m used to operating in crisis mode, and I learned to handle a lot of urgent situations at the same time,” said Inman-Johnson. “Usually I do it without losing my cool.”

Her first and most urgent issue to confront in Midway was getting the city back on track financially.

“All of the money from 2012 and 2013 had been depleted from the general revenue fund when I took the helm, and we were holding our breath between pay periods in September, praying that some state revenue sharing would come in time to make payroll,” she said. “We also had quite a few people breathing down our necks who had begun to lose their patience and were threatening lawsuits. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate installment payments as money started to come in with the new fiscal year. Now that the new fiscal year has started and our property tax revenues and other fees have started coming in, we’re back to a balanced budget and not sweating bullets leading up to payroll.”

Now that the financial situation has stabilized, Inman-Johnson can turn her focus to other pressing matters, such as Midway’s sewer system.

“Our problem is Talquin’s sewer lines and infrastructure were not extended into Midway where most of the population could hook up to a sewer system,” she said. “The last subdivisions that were built, like Rustling Pines, were built on septic tanks that are starting to fail. I’ve sent an inquiry to USDA, asking if they have money that could be made available in their community facilities grant program. I’ve also scheduled a meeting with Talquin to try and reestablish what once was a good partnership.”

Additionally, Inman-Johnson will turn her focus on other projects that have long been on the books.

“I would like to see all of the issues with the fire station addressed,” she said. “I would also like to see the storm water facility completed so I can concentrate effort on getting on other projects that Midway had under consideration like the senior center and charter school.”

Looking into the future, the interim city manager has big ideas for economic growth to help make Midway one of the best small towns in Florida.

“I’ve had a few landowners come and talk to me about their vision for what they want to do with their property,” she said. “They want the city to advise and direct the kind of development that we think would best serve the needs of the citizens: grocery stores, restaurants, a laundrymat and maybe even a drugstore. Ultimately, we’d like to move development towards a Midway central city area.”

Clearly Inman-Johnson has made a huge impact in a short amount of time. However, she is quick to point out she has had much help along the way.

“I walked into a city with deep troubles, but the few employees that were here were very dedicated,” she said. “I can’t say enough about Angela Goldwire (finance and human resources director) and Jerome Turner (newly appointed chief of police). I also feel very lucky to have the city council we have because they seem genuinely interested in moving this city forward, and Mayor David Knight is probably the perfect person to have in that seat right now because he is thoughtful and invested in what is going on in this city. There isn’t a councilperson here that doesn’t have the best interest of Midway at heart.”