Agatha Muse Salters says she's more than just a Midway native – she's someone who loves the town enough to see its future, built on its strong past and supported by an ever-changing present.
Salters, who began working as the town's city manager in December 2008, interviewed for the position more than once, and when they called her back for another interview, she was hesitant. But after some reassurance that the town meant business, she interviewed a final time in November, and was offered the job.
“If God keeps bringing it back, it's meant to be,” she said of the opportunity to serve the town she loves.
The position vacancy was created when Angela Poole, who had served as city manager and as interim, decided to vacate the position in favor of becoming a partner at her CPA firm.
Salters, whose parents, James and Ernestine Muse, still live in Midway, worked for almost 30 years in city government. The University of Florida graduate, who is also a Havana Northside High School alumnus, also went to Seattle, Wash., for almost a year, but came home following the death of an uncle and the realization that she felt the distance from her family much stronger than she'd realized. She then worked with Leon County, working in budgeting and contracting, later serving as the business director of the Minority Women organization.
She also worked in the tax collector's office, in business receipts and occupational licenses, as well as in the budget department.
Salters said all of that experience has prepared her for her current position.
“It's like being CEO over a company,” she said, adding that her responsibilities include overseeing the day to day operations of the city government, personnel, grant acquisition and budgets. She's also in charge of the public works and growth management departments, as well as recreation and the volunteer fire department.
Salters considers herself a trailblazer in her current role.
“Many of my predecessors were interim and didn't have the time to devote to the city, but I'm from the city and I love it. I'm constantly trying to think of ways to make it better,” she said.
And she has big plans for the small city.
She is currently working to position Midway to get funds via grants, the president's stimulus package and networking.
“I am trying to be sure that Midway is positioned to receive whatever help is available to help it toward growth,” she said. “I am having all of my meetings here (in town hall), so that people know Midway is here. I have become a big PR person for Midway.”
The city's greatest needs, Salters said, are practical. Infrastructure improvements and the addition of a sewage treatment plant are just two items she is concerned about.
Salters has been working with the Tallahassee regional stimulus group, and has submitted a list of needs on behalf of the city, in the hopes that Midway will receive monies from any stimulus funds that come to the Big Bend.
Those submitted items include road improvements, sewer extensions, rail crossing improvements, a basketball pavilion and water park addition at the Eugene Lamb Community Center, the construction of a public works building and addition of a fleet for the department, construction of a shopping center with an urgent care center and a grocery store and home weatherization for 30-50 low income homes to promote energy efficiency. Also included on the list was neighborhood stabilization in the form of the purchase of 30-5- foreclosed and abandoned homes in the city limits to create more affordable housing and reduce blight, the addition of an emergency food and shelter program to provide food and shelter to residents in emergency and economic crisis and provide shelter for Midway and the surrounding areas, utility and mortgage payment assistance for residents, and the construction of an elementary school in the city.
Salters knows it's a tall order, but she's optimistic.
“We may not get everything, but if we just get something off of that list, it will help us,” she said.
And while she waits, she will continue to promote the town she says is a “Mayberry RFD” town.
“It's a safe place to live. We are so fortunate to be in Midway. We're close to Tallahassee. We're close to everything. Interstate-10 is there. It's a great place to bring up a family. A beautiful, great place.”