The city of Hampton was nearly dissolved in 2014, but new leadership and community improvement projects are putting the small Bradford County city back on the map.
Hampton made national news in February 2014 when former mayor Barry Layne Moore was arrested for selling oxycodone just before an audit revealing 31 violations was released by the State of Florida Auditor General. Violations included a lack of required city policies, insufficient training of police officers, misappropriation of city funds and inappropriate documentation of the hours and payment of city employees. Lawmakers considered abolishing the town altogether.
But Mayor Gene Braddock and a new city council are trying to put Hampton back on the right track with regular meetings that are open to the public and providing opportunities for residents to voice their concerns.
“We’re far from perfect, but I love to see the positive,” said City Clerk Mary Lou Hildreth.
The city was awarded a $1,500 grant to improve the safety of the public playgrounds and parks by the Florida League of Mayors and the Florida Business Watch. Sixty-four cities applied for the City Catalyst Grant, and only five received the award, Hildreth said.
“For our small community, every little bit helps,” Hildreth said.
Representatives from the organizations visited the city on Tuesday to formally present Mayor Gene Braddock and the city council with the award.
“We continue to apply for grants,” Hildreth said. “We look high and low for additional revenue sources.”
Hampton was awarded $25,000 from the Department of Economic Opportunity in September, Hildreth said. This money will be used for future community development projects.
Grants like this are important to the city because they do not have diverse revenue streams, Hildreth said.
The City Catalyst Grant money was used to lay down new mulch under equipment at City Park and Bobbi Sheppard Memorial Park, and the city agreed to match the the rest of the funds, approximately $600, needed to finish the park improvement, Hildreth said.
Community volunteers and the mayor helped lay down the new mulch at the parks.
Lucian Bradley visits City Park several times a week with his son.
“I got him a bike for his birthday,” he said. “He’s always asking me if he can ride it up here.”
Bradley said he’s glad the park is well kept and gives children an opportunity to get out of the house.
“The kids like it,” Bradley said. “Some people come up after school.”
Hampton residents have used the space at City Park for birthday parties, community bake sales and barbecues.
The park is especially popular with families and Hampton Elementary School students, Hildreth said.
Bradley said parties used to take place more often, but lately, he has not seen that many.
Chris Wilburn visited City Park on Sunday for a child’s birthday party. Guests enjoyed a cookout, cake and watching the birthday boy open presents under the gazebo.
“It looks good, what they’ve done,” Wilburn said. He said he was interested in seeing what was done at Bobbi Sheppard Memorial Park.
Wilburn said he’s happy with improvement that have been made in the community, and he hopes the city will continue to improve.
“You come back in six months; [Hampton will] be totally different” Hildreth said.