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.”