Mayor who signed 75′ resolution objects
Arthur H. Runk, Sr.
St. Augustine, FL
In case some of the newer Commissioners are not familiar with the origin and intent of the La Florida award, I would like to tell what I remember.
Back in the late sixties to early seventies the City had quite a few visitors from Spain. A major problem for us was the fact that most of them did not speak English.
Fortunately the Head of the National Guard was Major General Henry McMillan, who spoke fluent Spanish.
He graciously offered to assist us in being our Spokesman. He went far out of his way and did an excellent job. He was to retire in 1975, the same time I finished my five year term on the Commission.
We all felt that we wanted to thank him, but had no way, other than a letter to do this, and that seemed inadequate. After much discussion we decided to create a very special medal to bestow on him.
Not knowing what to call the medal, we asked Dr. Michael Gannon for his suggestion. Dr. Gannon was a History Professor at the University of Florida, and had spent much of his childhood in St. Augustine. He suggested “La Florida”, which was adopted.
The intent of this Medal was that it would be very sparingly awarded to people who made great contributions to the City. When we set the maximum number of living recipients at 8, we never intended to necessarily have that many. By increasing the issuance of Medals, it is demeaning to those people who already have been honored.
Through the years, a few of the Commissions abused the awarding of this Medal. This leads me to question the legality of revising, on the drop of a hat, a Resolution that has been law for over 35 years.
It is my hope that the present Commission will take steps to restore this medal to the very special award it was meant to be. I have spoken to several other former mayors who all feel the same way I do.