Top 10 in ‘21

A year of ups and downs

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Franklin County had a pretty darn good 2021 when you think about it.

There were no major hurricanes, no destruction by storms to ravage businesses and residents.

The unemployment rate, heightened by 2020 closures due to the coronavirus, continued to improve to where at 3.3 percent, it ended at a third the rate it was in early 2020.

The county’s tax base grew about 8 percent, the best increase since 2004, with combined taxable value for the 2021-22 budget cycle at about $2.31 billion, an increase of about $163 million over the previous year.

Tourism roared back and restaurants began opening their doors to sit-down diners.

Still, all was not rosy for many. The COVID-19 epidemic reared its lethal head early on, with a major spike in the early months before the vaccination roll-out took hold and cases began to drop.

By year’s end, the delta and omicron variants loomed, but the steady increase in vaccinations and booster shots had their intended effect, to lessen hospitalizations and deaths.

In addition to the coronavirus deaths that took far too many lives, there were several tragic accidents on the highways. A 17-year-old girl was killed in a one-car accident on U.S. 98, and a Kindergartner perished after the car in which she was traveling with family was struck from behind in a multi-car collision on the causeway.

Sheriff A.J. Smith continued his crackdown on meth, and continued to be an instrumental supporter of a new human services complex adjacent to Weems Memorial Hospital where fighting drug abuse will be a major component.

Other tragedies included a murder-suicide in Lanark Village after a 71-year-woman was trying to extricate herself from a troubling relationship, and the man killed both her and himself.

A March fire in Eastpoint behind Ard’s Service Station, suspected to be arson, engulfed a house and was attacking a day spa before it was extinguished.

In political news, the county turned red for the first time, as Republicans outnumbered Democrats in voter registration. It was a statistic that would have interested Doris Shiver Gibbs, the longstanding supervisor of elections, who passed away in June.

Apalachicola City Commissioner Anita Grove was re-elected, and Donna Duncan won a full term without opposition. Mayor Brenda Ash was unopposed in her bid to fill out the remaining two years of the term of late Mayor Kevin Begos.

Carrabelle saw a new face, Sebrina Brown, elected to the city commission, and the city got a new police chief, Kevin Shuman..

Aside from Apalachicola having an all-female commission, it was a big year for women, as Camp Gordon JohnstonAmerican Legion  Post 82 installed Navy veteran Rachel Murphy as its first female commander.

Kristy Banks stepped down as Apalachicola’s city attorney, and as did  Leo Bebeau as finance director, but then he reconsidered, prompting City Manager Travis Wade to fire him.

The year ended on an upbeat note with the news Carrabelle native Buck O'Neil had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December.

The local community has had its share of news in 2021, but some stories affected, engaged and caught the attention of readers more than others. Here is a look back at the Times top 10 stories from this year.

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