Malone Mayor Gene Wright receives state recognition

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Shelia Mader

Shelia Mader

Sports Editor

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Malone Mayor Gene Wright receives state recognition

Residents of Malone and surrounding Jackson County cities/towns know the impact Malone Mayor Gene Wright has had on ‘his’ town for the last 18 years, with four years on the council prior to his mayor position in 2000.  

When the news broke of the strength and path of Hurricane Michael, Mayor Wright put the wheels in motion to minimize the recovery time once it passed through. Years of experience played a huge role in Wright’s staging of personnel following Michael’s destruction. Volunteer fireman, all town personnel reported to work just as soon as they were able to leave their homes and make it to town hall. Wright was a permanent fixture there. Within days, trucks were coming into Malone with supplies for the residents in need of the very basics such as water, non-perishable food, baby formula and diapers. 

In the November/December issue of QC (Quality Cities) magazine, Jenny Anderson, executive director of the Northwest League of Cities said about Wright, “It is amazing what one small town mayor can achieve in such a short amount of time.” 

With damage to the main stay grocery store and pharmacy, no power and water for days, blocked roads, Malone faced challenges many of its residents had never seen.  Of the donations received, Wright said 80% of them were from his contacts from his Northwest League of Cities and Florida League of Cities families. 

Wright orchestrated a drive-through service where residents simply lined up in their vehicles and drove by tent stations requesting what they needed. National guardsmen and volunteers loaded into the vehicles and they were on their way. 

Freeport Mayor Russ Barley provided 14 vehicles of staff and volunteers to assist in clearing the streets in Malone. Jamie Jones, director of utilities and public works for Newberry drove three hours to supply Malone with a generator to help keep the Jackson County Utilities water system operating. Pilots from northwest Florida flew in supplies to the Marianna Airport where they were met by Wright and volunteers to unload the aircraft and load onto trucks for delivery to Malone.

Two months after Michael, Wright sings praises to his association with the Northwest League of Cities and Florida League of Cities, “These are great people. We’ve got a lot of friends, a lot of friends who came through for us when we needed it more than we would ever have thought.  My heart was full with all the kindness and generosity shown to our town.” 

And the county winner in lady hoops is Cottondale

  • Published in Sports

In a week that saw county battle after county battle after county battle, it was the Graceville Lady Tigers taking on the Cottondale Lady Hornets on Cottondale territory last Thursday night.  Cottondale propelled a 19-point fourth quarter to take the 67-52 win with Graceville trailing by one at the end of three quarters. 

Cottondale got the jump start with a 20-point first quarter with Graceville answering with nine points. Kayla Morris was on her ‘A’ game, knocking down four threes and a basket for 14 points, while Quiniyah Granberry added a three, a basket and one from the line.  Niyaa Martin led Graceville with a downtown shot and a bucket.  

It was Graceville flipping the table in the second quarter with 23 points, thank in large part to 10 points by Jazmine Bellamy and nine by Niyaa Martin while Cottondale answered with 16.  Morris had eight points with Granberry adding four points.  At the half, it was Cottondale with a 36-32 lead.

Graceville came within one in the third quarter, winning the quarter 15-12 narrowing Cottondale’s lead to 48-47 with one quarter to go. Granberry shined with 10 points in the third for Cottondale while it was Martin with seven points to lead Graceville. The Lady Tigers ran out of gas in the final quarter and watched the game get out of control. Cottondale outscored the Lady Tigers 19-5 to take the 67-52 win.

Graceville was led by Niyaa Martin with 24 points for a D1 kind of night, followed by Jazmine Bellamy with 14 points.  For Cottondale, Quiniyah Granberry was looking for a spot in the WNBA racking up 33 points, including four threes, while Kayla Morris was keeping pace with a D1 kind of night posting 26 points.

Malone hosts Marianna in a Friday night rivalry game

  • Published in Sports

This past Friday night was rivalry night in Jackson County and the Malone – Marianna basketball rivalry is at the top of the list. Marianna made the trip north to Malone to take on the Tigers.  This was the first meeting of these two teams this year and the win went to the visiting Bulldogs.  Malone ran out of gas in the final quarter, with Marianna securing the 71-43 win.

The Bulldogs and Tigers were at a dead-even heat in the first quarter with 14 points on the board for each team. For Marianna, it was Ny’Keem Gainer and Steffon McMillian with four points each while Malone’s Taylor Brown garnished four points, with Ocasio Murff with three points and Jarrod Southwell hitting one from outside for the Tigers. 

Marianna found another gear in the second quarter posting 17 points while Malone was held to nine points. McMillian continued his scoring fury with six points, including a three. For Malone, it was Spencer Sneads with four points to lead the Tigers. Halfway through the game, Marianna held a 31-23 lead. 

It was the home team Tigers with a burst of energy when they took the court in the third quarter, posting 19 points with Marianna countering with 16.  Stefon continued to lead the Bulldogs with four points, while Keegan Jones and Tavis Grooms both nailed a shot from downtown.  Malone’s Taylor Brown was in the spotlight with eight points, while Spencer Floyd was on board with five. With one quarter to go, Marianna’s lead had narrowed to 47-42.  

The fourth quarter was all Marianna with the Bulldogs putting up 24 points, with McMillian pacing his team with six points while seven other Bulldogs put up points in the quarter. For Malone, it was Taylor Brown with a three and Jarrod Southwell with a basket.

Leading the Tigers on the night was Taylor Brown with 18 points, followed by Spencer Sneads and Ocasio Murff with six points each.  On board with five points each were Jarrod Southwell, Spencer Floyd and Josh Rivers.  Marianna was led on the night by Steffon McMillian with 19 points, followed by Tavis Grooms in double digits with 13. On board with nine points was Ny’Keem Gainer, with James Davis, Kegan Jones, JJ Jackson, and Ahmaad Johnson with six points each. 

Marianna Toyota rebuilding after 35 years

Monday morning was the ending of a 35-year era!  The equipment was in place, Marianna Toyota president Jorge Garcia was on sight with his hard hat and a few tears in his eyes.  City manager Jim Dean, employees, and the media were all present for the tear down to begin. Although plans were in the works to remodel the dealership prior to Hurricane Michael’s arrival, the process was put into action a little quicker following Michael’s departure.

Garcia said, “I am very emotional right now. The building has been here for a long time but it’s time to rebuild and move on, 850 Panhandle Strong.”  Garcia said he had been in that location since 1983.  When asked what the plans were, Garcia said, “We plan to rebuild but the sales and parts department are open, come see us.”  Garcia said the rebuilding process will take most likely until the end of the summer.  As far as changes, he says, “We are going to make it more friendly for the customer, easy to come in and out, and provide a better service and we will have business as usual.” 

City manager Jim Dean was asked what impact the rebuilding of Marianna Toyota would have on the City of Marianna, “I’ve had a personal conversation with every single one of my city commissioners about this facility. Every single one of them are so proud and so pleased that Jorge made the decision to stay on the west end of the Marianna and did not even consider abandoning the west end. We are really proud of Marianna Toyota and we are really proud of Jorge and we thank him so much for his commitment to the city of Marianna.”  

Jorge is iconic in Jackson County, “If you can’t come to us, we’ll drive it to you,” or “How many times did I say Marianna Toyota?”, and of course there is his passion to contribute to Backpack for Kids so no children go to bed hungry, along with many other worthy organizations..  Garcia came to America when he was 14 years old to live with his uncle Dr. Cabrera in New Jersey. It was shortly after that when Cabrera relocated to Marianna and Jorge made the move also, graduating from Marianna High School.

Garcia began his career at Marianna Toyota as a salesman in 1983.  By the late 1980s, then owner Quen Rahal knew he had something special in Jorge and partnered with him. Jorge eventually became the sole owner of Marianna Toyota. 

Garcia feels strongly that “this is home”.  He is a frequent speaker at the installation of U. S. citizens and openly and frequently says, “America is the land of opportunity.”  

Jorge is married to June Garcia and they have four children and five grandchildren that are most assuredly the apple of his eye.

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