Historic City News readers turned out by the thousands on Saturday November 17th at 6:30 p.m. in the Plaza de la Constitucion to participate in the 25th Anniversary celebration of holiday music and lights when Mayor Nancy Shaver of the City of St Augustine counted down to the official lighting of the city’s Christmas tree, then one of the world’s greatest holiday light displays.
For this the 25th year of the Nights of Lights, the mayor selected someone to honor who for decades has given much to her own community; Carrie Johnson. Also honored by the mayor were city employees who left their homes to assist communities in the Florida Panhandle that lost so much during Hurricane Michael.
“One would be hard pressed to find a better example of real, honest joy than Miss Carrie’s radiant smile and cheerful greetings that always improves the day for anyone she meets,” said Mayor Shaver. “Her health won’t permit her to attend in person this year, so members of her family appeared to turn the switch that lights our city’s tree.”
Carrie Johnson is a Lincolnville native who graduated from Excelsior High School, and is a longtime, enthusiastic community leader. For over 20-years, Miss Carrie led an annual holiday caroling event drawing hundreds of participants. Until her health limited her mobility, Miss Carrie was a familiar sight throughout the city on her oversized tricycle exchanging greetings and waves to everyone she met. Long known as “The Voice of Lincolnville,” Miss Carrie is always ready to sing solo or lead a chorus in song which she did during a vigil held in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine just two days after September 11, 2001. In 2010, she started the Carrie Johnson Foundation to provide educational assistance for homeless school children.
Joined by the mayor and Miss Carrie were representatives of the teams of city employees who traveled to the Florida Panhandle in the wake of Hurricane Michael to assist communities in their recoveries. The City of St. Augustine sent a total of 30 skilled professionals from the St. Augustine Fire Department, Police Department and Public Works Department to assist devastated communities in search and rescue missions, supporting local law enforcement agencies, and restoring vital water and sewer systems. Representing their departments on Light-Up! Night were Lt. Brandon Seymour, St. Augustine Fire Department; Patrice Drinkard, Dispatcher, St. Augustine Police Department; and Josh Fixl, Pipe Layer, St. Augustine Public Works Department.
“In our town we consider it an honor and a privilege to help those who need it whenever and wherever we can, and I am proud of the work of our city employees who volunteered to leave their own homes and families to help our fellow Floridians,” said Mayor Shaver.Nancy Shaver, Mayor
The St. Augustine Fire Department deployed a total of six personnel to Liberty County including, in addition to Lt. Seymour, Capt. Mike Fittipaldi, Engineer Josh McKenzie, and Firefighters Ryan Costeira, Rob Murphy, and Chris Chester.
- While on site, these members of the fire department assisted residents with downed trees, secured protection for roofs of homes and businesses alike, and responded to multiple calls for fire suppression. In addition, the crew assisted in repairing damage to the local fire department and worked with fellow firefighters handing out relief supplies at several points of distribution.
The St. Augustine Police Department had 16 personnel who served in two cities in Bay County, Southport and Lynn Haven. In addition to Patrice Drinkard, the deployment included Sergeants Brian Frasca, John Niederriter, and Richard Warner; Corporal Kevin Carroll; Detective Wayne Ferrell; Officers Jonathan Brown, Brittney Garmon, Kasey Keen, Daniel Lui, Frankie Shipp, and Eric Yarborough; Dispatchers Loren Bolante, Diane Forman and Jacob Godfrey; and Public Information Officer Cecilia Aiple.
While on location members of the police department supported the Lynn Haven Police Department and the Bay County Emergency Operations Center in a wide variety of duties including search and rescue operations, patrol and security at command posts and distribution centers, organizing media briefings, and managing dispatch and communication tasks.
From the City of St. Augustine’s Public Works Department eight personnel traveled to Bay County’s City of Callaway. In addition to Josh Fixl, others from the Transmission and Distribution Division were Foreman Scott Gessel and Utility Worker Joe Marcano. The crew from Waste Water Collection Systems Division included Supervisor Danny Hodges, Foreman Sean Burski, Equipment Operator Damon Ratterre, and General Maintenance Worker Thomas O’Boyle. Supervising the operation was Wade Giddens, Utility Operations Manager.
- While in Callaway, these utility crews reestablished water to the city’s residents and businesses, checked for leaks in the system, assessed damage and coordinated response to dozens of requests for repairs each day. These same crews worked to establish emergency sewage bypass systems and assessed damage and made repairs to all of the Callaway’s 36 lift stations which were without power because of hurricane damage.
For more information about Nights of Lights, visit www.NightsofLights.com