State Sen. Bill Montford was right at home Thursday, July 18, when he officially opened a satellite office in Quincy. While most of his work will still be nailed down at his office in the state capitol, the new office at 29 E. Washington St. (the C.E.D.O. Building), in Quincy will be more accessible to constituents who live outside of Tallahassee.
Just about everyone who walked through the doors knew the senator from previous meetings, campaigns or political functions. Others, a handful of relatives and longtime acquaintances, simply came to the event to “welcome him home.” Montford was a stranger to only a few people very briefly, and he soon had them at ease with his folksy manner and down-home way of making people feel welcome.
“Some people have asked me why I opened this office here. Well, the truth of the matter is that I love Gadsden County. I grew up over in Blountstown. Whether ya’ll know it or not, the people in North Florida are different; we’re different from those folks down south. We all just eat, sleep and have fun together,” he said.
On a serious note, Montford said he and state Rep. Alan Williams, who represents this district in Florida’s House of Representatives, have a very difficult job. The two, he said, are up to the task.
“We do everything we can to make sure Gadsden County is out front. We have to be very creative to be successful, but we know what people are thinking in North Florida,” he said, “and we know what’s going on with our constituents.”
And for what he doesn’t know, he said he has his capable staff members to stay on top of things — including keep him on track.
Melissa Durham, who many people know from her years as a staff aide to former representative and former state Sen. Al Lawson, is in the Montford camp. So is Gadsden County resident Marilyn Barnes, who recently joined his staff after Berta Kemp of Havana retired. Barnes replaces Kemp, who had also been an aide to Sen. Pat Thomas and Al Lawson prior to her retirement. Taylor Gilbert is from Kansas and started working for Montford as a college intern and was hired after college graduation.
“People want to know why I have an all-female staff, but as most of you men know, they can get things done,” he said, adding, “seriously, I have one of the best staffs at the Florida Senate.
“But that doesn’t mean we don’t need all of you here. My district is seven counties, and I need you to help us get the word out,” he said.
During the open house, which came complete with heavy hors d’oeuvres, Montford received two nice surprises.
Sheriff Morris Young pinned a silver star on Montford’s lapel, making him an honorary deputy in Gadsden County.
“Now you don’t get a gun with this,” Young jokingly said.
Secondly, Chris Doolin of Chris Doolin and Associates, a lobbying firm that represents the Florida Association of Counties, presented Montford with the 2013 Leadership Award presented by FAC to members of the Legislature who have worked hard for small counties in the state during the previous session.
“I’m just one person. I can’t do anything alone,” Montford said. “But everywhere I go, I point to Gadsden County for the success you all have accomplished in Gadsden County. Ya’ll do a wonderful job. You have what it takes to make a good community.”