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Florida Votes 2016: Union County Commission District 3

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Come Nov. 8, the voters of Union County will be able to cast their ballots to elect the county’s next District 3 commissioner.

Democrat Eric Hall will face the incumbent, Republican Jimmy Tallman, for the position. Both candidates live in Lake Butler.

Hall was unavailable for comment. A number listed under his name was disconnected, and the county supervisor of elections office did not have a number for him, either.

Tallman first ran for commissioner eight years ago. He said the reason he decided to run was because he felt like some of the commissioners at the time weren’t paying close attention to the needs of the community. On several occasions, grants of about $500,000 that came to the county’s rec department weren’t used and turned back, he said.

“We didn’t have any leadership in there that was interested in making the right decisions,” said Tallman, a father of four. “Union County is limited in what we have for kids to do. … This was one of the reasons that I felt was very important that I run.”

Tallman said he actually wasn’t initially going to run this year but said the county’s present issues were too much for him to ignore, including the phosphate mining controversy.

“We have to make the right decisions,” he said. “These are some things that will affect the county for way beyond 2022. This will affect our county for thousands of years if it’s not done properly.”

As for what stand he takes on the issue, Tallman chose not to comment.

“Union County is small,” he added. “Every decision we make is critical.”

Tallman’s plan for creating jobs within the county is to give small businesses tax breaks. The point of his plan is to create an environment that welcomes more businesses into the county.

He also said that in upcoming years, the county is planning to be a part of a new highway system from Tampa all the way to Jacksonville.

In addition, Tallman said the county has been working very closely with the department of corrections. There are currently no hotels in Union County, so for people coming to visit incarcerated loved ones, there’s no place to stay.

“I’d like to offer some type of a program that we can encourage people to come in and build a hotel in this community,” he said. “It’s unlimited the things that we need to do for Union County to promote growth.”

However, at the heart of it all lies a way of life in Union County — farming.

“I’m a farmer,” Tallman said. “That’s what I do.”

Like many of the farmers in the county, Tallman, who owns Tallman Farms and has been in the farming industry for over 20 years, is in the hay business. He is also the owner of North Florida Custom Meats, a slaughter house in Lake Butler that processes cows, pigs, sheep, goats and wild game.

He has noticed a growth in the cattle and hay industries in the county. From 1997 to 2015, the county has experienced a 122-percent increase in hay production, according to Tallman.

As a man who makes his living off the land, protecting the environment is a must for Tallman.

“We want to keep it as pristine as it is,” he said. “It would be wonderful to keep it this way.”

For Tallman, creating overall positive growth in the county is a top priority.

“It’s just a positive area to live,” he said. “We’re just blessed to be here in Union County.”

This story is part of our guide, Florida Votes 2016, leading up to the Nov. 8 election.Check your voter registration status here.

About Raymond Boone

Raymond is a reporter for WUFT News and can be reached at news@wuft.org or 352-392-6397.

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