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Year in Review:March 2012

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West  Point grad returns, teen saves family from fire

By Alice Du Pont

It’s a long way from the old James A. Shanks High School to the Pentagon.

Just ask Quincy native U.S. Army Major Gen. Frederick B. “Ben” Hodges, a graduate of Shanks.

Hodges came home in March to the delight of many and visited the school. Classmates remembered him as a big, blond kid, smart in school with a good sense of humor. From the James A. Shanks Class of 1976, he went to West Point and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1980.

He has been a soldier for 32 years with tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He got his start as a second lieutenant in the infantry and has commanded infantry units at the company battalion and brigade levels, all at the 101st Airborne Division in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Things were not so good for former Havana Police Chief Brian Mitchell and the officer he took with him when he was hired as Crestview, Fla., police chief. Mitchell and former Havana officer Joseph Floyd were suspended following allegations of misconduct.

The city of Crestview’s mayor, David Cadle, placed both men on immediate suspension March 1 and ordered an independent investigation into allegations, which included harassment and intimidation of witnesses to matters related to criminal charges.

Gadsden County native Dr. Candace McMillon-Dantley also returned home in March. The former James A. Shanks valedictorian, Class of 2003, returned to open her medical practice in chiropractic medicine.

Florida’s Education Commissioner, Gerard Robinson, visited GEMS and presented a plaque to the school’s principal, Erica Starling, naming the school the 10th-top elementary in Florida. 

A quick-thinking teenager saved his family from an early morning house fire that destroyed everything the family owned. Donvan Mitchell, 17, was able to get his mother and cousin safely out of their Hamilton Street home as flames raced through the wooden structure.

The Gadsden County Senior Citizens held its inaugural Older Americans Act Recognition Banquet at the Simon Scott Senior Citizens in March. Five women, all active in senior citizen programs were honored. They were: Lennie Withers, Lucille Shotts, Inez Francis Robinson, Odeal Lewis and Katie Baker. Between the five, they have close to 450 years of living.

The Quincy Fire Department was only a few years old when it got its official bell in 1900. Once used to alert firefighters, it sat idle and out of sight in the old bell tower that now houses the Supervisor of Elections Office. The old bell was taken down in March and cleaned up to be taken to its new home at the new fire station on Joe Adams Road.

The 2012 Forgotten Coast Tour, named one of Bicycling Magazine’s Top Multi-Day rides came to Quincy in March. Bike Florida’s Forgotten Coast Tour was a weeklong 295-mile tour showcasing Florida’s back roads. The tour began and ended in Tallahassee and took cyclists around the Apalachicola National Forest and bayside along a section of the Panhandle called the Forgotten Coast. Hundreds of cyclists made Quincy their home for the night before continuing the tour.

Quincy’s Mayor Derrick Elias narrowly escaped having his title snatched a month before the ceremonial term would have been officially at an end. By a vote of 3-2, Elias was allowed to keep the title. Commissioner Keith Dowdell prefaced his motion to can Elias because he said he had “no confidence” in Elias any more.