Title: Mrs. Earlene Watkins
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005796/00001
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Title: Mrs. Earlene Watkins
Series Title: Mrs. Earlene Watkins
Physical Description: Book
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Bibliographic ID: UF00005796
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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-1-- Beginning of Side 1

W: And that's going to be my first question.

I: Okay. The purpose of this study is to investigate the inpact of the

black.vote in' Florida since 1965, and to investigate the effects of

the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, and also then to look into how

effective the vote can be for a minority. In other words, how far
can / vote take a minority and how effective can minority members

who get into politics and who are elected-how effective can they be.

The first group of questions are just to find out how well the

Voting Rights Act of 1965 has helped blacks to take part in Florida

politics. What year did you first register to vote?

Wt I don't even remember. I:'d have to subtract for you. I'd have to

subtract twenty-one from thirty-five.

I: Twenty-one from thirty-five?

r: Uh huh.

I: Twenty-one from seventy-five, you mean?

V: Yeah, okay. Twenty-one from seventy-five.

I: Okay. What year were you first eligible to vote?

V: We weren't eligible to vote until we were twenty, I believe. I think

that I became registered to vote at twenty-one.
I: Okay. So you registered then / year aften you were eligible?

W. Right.

I:: Okay. Was that here in Eatonville?

W: No, that was in Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida.

I:: Uh huh. How long have you lived in Eatonville?

W: I've lived in Eatonville five years.

I: Okay. Did the local registrars, either here or in Jacksonville, ever

turn,you down-when you applied to register?

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W: No, they didn't.

I: Okay. Have voter registration drives been held here in Eatonville?

W: Well, that could be a yes and no, depending on how you would classify

a voter registration. I think this past March was the first time any

real effort was put toward getting people to register to vote, and the

reason that was done is because the incumbents were trying to stay

elected, you know, in office. So we put forth more of a voter

registration effort then since I've been in Eatonville.

I: What organizations were involved?

W: We had a group called the Young People Pushing for Progress. And then

youehave another group called The Citizens for Better Government. So

you had two community groups. The Young People Pushing for Progress did

get the young vote out which I thought was very good because for the

first time in the history of the town of Eatonville, you got more youth

involvement in the past election than any other election they've had.

I: Okay. Were there any voter registration drives before last year?

W: Uh uh. Not to my knowledge.

I: Okay. How successful were these drives?

W: I think the drive was very successful.

I: Can you give us some numbers or-

W: I can't give the exact number, you know because-

I: Estimates?

W: Well, I can't even estimate. The only thing I could base my opinion on

is, for instance, when I came to Eatonville five years ago after I'd

been here a year, I ran for mayor. And we had maybe about 200 people

to turn out to vote. Prior to that you never really had any real



W: motivation in the community as far as getting the vote out. And we've

gone, say, from a 200 turnout to a 500 turnout in a registration, you

know, in voting.

I: Uh huh.

W: This past election was the first time we got 500 people out to vote

when we didn't have a mayor election. We only had commissioners being
elected. So It/say that was pretty good. That's over seventy-five percent.

IT Are there any things which prevent the people from registering to votq

W; No, there's nothing to prevent them from voting. I do feel that a lot

of people are unaware of the fact that they can go right at town hall

and register because so many people when you've approached them about

becoming a registered voter and getting involved, they say, well, I

don't want to go way to Orlando and register. Then once you tell them,

well, you only have to go as far as town hall. If you get in the car,

I'll take you there. and I'll take you back home. You know, then, you

know, once awareness base is increased in any community, I think you

get a better response.

I: Okay. We have a list here of factors that have traditionally impeded

people being able to register, particularly preventing blacks from

registering. Now this is a unique situation in that this town is all


W: Right. Is all black.

I: But, still some of these factors may apply. Could please rate each one

of them in terms of either being very important, fairly important, or

not important. The first factor is economic dependence on whites. How

important do you think this has been?

W: Not very important in Eatonville.

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I: Okay. What about fear of physical violence from whites?

W' Not very important.

I: Okay. Complicated registration forms?

W: Not very important.

I: Not important?

W: Not important because the town clerk--she asks the questions and you

answer them for her, and she puts the little X's in and all you have

to do is sign your name.

I: Okay. What about poor registration hours. Let's say someone has to

work and registration is only conducted when they're working so they

can't go register-something like that.

W: : don't see that as being very important, and the reason being town hall

is open from 8:00 to 5:00. And if at any time our council, mayor or

council sees fit that it should be open on Saturdays for people to

register then we have that. We have control of that, too.

I: Is that ever kept open on Saturdays.

W: No, we've never felt the need to keep it open because we were doing very

good with the 8:-00 to 5:00 hours.

I: Have there ever 'beennighttime registration--open at night for it.

W: No. No.

I: Okay. So you would say that that is--how important would you say that

that last factor is for registration hours?

V: Not very important.

I: Not important or fairly important or-

W: Well, like I say, based on the thing we did in March, you know, leading

up to the closing of the books in March, we didn't find any problem with it.

I:: Okay. So you say that's not important.

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W: Not important.

I: Okay. What about registration not being held often enough? In other

words, the books are not;-they're not opened up often enough.

W Well, the Books are open often enough because-like the books are

always open up until I think it's ten or fifteen days prior to an

election-whatever the state law is on that.

I: Okay. What about the indifference of blacks to voting? In other words,

the feeling that it's not worthwhile for them to vote.

W: This is a very fair problem in the black community because you run into

the-you get the-you get feedback such as, whether or not I vote they're

going to do whatever they want to do. My vote won't count. And then I

always come back and say, well, when I was first elected to the city

council I won by one vote so that shows that every vote is important.

But you're going to always have people who feel that their vote is not

important, and regardless to who they put in office you know, that the

politicians are going to do whatever they want to do. So that is a


I: Okay. HSow often is re-registration required?

W I don't know. After you miss so many--after you miss voting in so many

elections, but what the number is I don't know. And I haven't ever

missed voting in the elections so I've never been confronted with the

problem so I'm not familiar with the answer.

I: Okay. The following group of questions is asked to gather information

on the election campaigns of black officials in Florida. Were you

able to campaign freely, that is, were you threatened in any way during

your campaign?

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W: No, I wasn't threatened any during my campaign. During one campaign I

was put in jail. I don't know whether you would consider that a threat

or not, But I was put in jail when I ran for mayor of Eatonville on

election day. And they put me in jail because they said I was using a

mechanical device on a moving vehicle without a permit, hut my attorney

as well as the PR firm and myself that was handling me had studied the

state election laws as well as the city code for the town of Eatonville.

And it did state that you needed a permit to attach a mechanical device

on a motor vehicle, and I was only using a megaphone that cheerleaders

use which is no mechanical device whatsoever. But they did-

I:F Just regular shouting out your window?

. UJh huh. On a moving van. And we were saying like thank you for supporting

Earlene Watkins in the election today. Vote for someone who will vote

for you. If you haven't gone to the polls and voted, free transportation

to and from the polls are right behind you. And then we had this long

caravan of cars.

I: Okay.

W. They put us all in jail.

I: So do you consider that to have been interference?

W: I considerfinterference and harassment, you know. It happened five

years ago.

I: Okay. Were you handicapped by a lack of campaign money?

W: I've never had a problem with campaign money.

I: Now how many times have you run. You ran for mayor once five years ago.

M: I've run three times. I ran for mayor and I ran for city council twice.

I: And you've ke4once-

W: I've won both of my council seats. I'm serving my second term on the

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W: city council.

I: Both of your council-- Okay. How much did you spend in your first

mayor campaign?

W: We spent close to $1,000.00 in that campaign.

I: Okay. And in your first council race?

W: Three hundred dollars.

I: And in your second one?

W: It was three of us running together and I imagine I spent about $300.00

in the second campaign.

I; Okay. Why did you decide to run for office?

W!: felt that I could do something about the needs in the community.

I wanted to bring about some positive change in Eatonville. I did not

like the all black community. I recognized the limited tax spaee which

I've been fighting s inu_) ever since I've been out here of course.

Nothing's been done about it. I feel that Eatonville needs some-- a

larger tax space. They need to broaden their tax spaee. They need

some supportive services in the community and none of these things
have been done. / other communities all around Eatonville have

grown and Eatonville has brought us to a still. This sort of bothered

me. I felt that we should apply for federal money in order to do

some of the things that need to be done in the town. But of course,

this has not been accomplished. So at this point I'm totally

frustated, disgusted, and I doubt if t will run again.

I. To which political organization do you belong? Are you a Bemocrat or


WT. I'T a Democrat.

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I: Okay. What were, do you think, the two or three most important issues

on which you campaigned?

W: Well, each time Itve ran-well, the first-

I: Okay, let's say the first time and take it from that.

W: Okay. The first time my whole thing was centered around it's time for

a change. It was 4-t-^. o-z for the horse and buggy machine. I

looked at the finances of the city, expenditures versus income. And I
6e c-,aLSe.
really fought against the sanitation departmentAthat department itself

has never been self supporting. It sort of been like an eating cancer

to the community. I felt like they should have gotten rid of it. You

know, contracted that service, out. You know, take that money and do

something constructive in the community. Okay, the second time I ran

I ran for city council. It was-they had it set up like a finance

commissioner so I ran for the finance seat. And the slogan then was

to watch your money, you know. And when I ran-the second time I

used the same thing--she will protect your money.

I; Uh huh.

W: Because once I got in office I did make the community aware of how their money

was Being spent and what it was being spent for, and you know, started

distributing a news-letter for the community being more aware and

abreast of what was going on as far as the money was concerned.

I: T'h huh. What about the third time that you ran.

W' The second and third time was the same.

I: The same?

W. Right. The same.

I: You're still on the finance seat?

W Right.

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I: Okay. Do you think that these issues were/really big problems facing

the people here in Eatonville?

W: I do really feel that these were big problems, but my feeling it and

then other people not feeling it is something totally different. But

based on the number of votes I received, I do feel that there are a

lot of people in the community who had the same concept as I did.

And that is that the monies have not been used wisely in the town

of Eatonville. And we have done too much in house policies as

opposed to, you know, policies where we're going to really benefit

the community. There's been too much in house fighting.

I: Okay. The next group of questions here are asked to determine some

of the conditions which have enabled blacks to win office in Florida.

Now, elections in Eatonville are at large, right?

W: Right.

I: How many people are in the district-just population?

W! The- last count we had I think it was 2,300. We'd like to say 2,500,

but it's more 2,300.

I: Okay. What--well, all of the people in the district are black, right?

W': Right.

I: What percentage of blacks of voting age in Eatonville are registered to


I: Would you say half, two-thirds, a third--can you give us a rough?

W: I would feel at least two-thirds.

I: Two-thirds?

W: Uh huh.

I: Okay. What percentage of the people who are registered to vote do

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-1 Q-

I: you think actually voted in the elections either for you or your

opponents? In each of your elections--say the first time and--

W: I don't remember the first time. Let's go over the last time. The

last time the number of people that voted-I would say we got 98

percent of the vote out of the number of people that were registered

because we had about 700 registered voters and we got 500 out.

So that was pretty good.

I: And then what about the time before that--the first time you ran for

the council?

W: The first time I ran for council, I would say fifty percent of the

vote turned out.

I: Okay. In the election in which you won office, the first city council--

the council seat election, how many opponents did you have?

W: One.

I: And in the second election-the second--

W: One.

I: One again. Okay. What, in each of those elections, what percentage of

the total vote did you get?

W: Let's see I had 268 and he had 200.

I: Okay.
W: I get over fifty percent.

I: So 55 or 60?

W: Let's put 60.

I: Sixty. Okay. Was it the same both times about or--

W: NO, a little-the first time around I only got one vote more than he


I: Okay. How many votes were c --how many votes did you get in that

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I: election?

W: I got 113. He got 112.

I: Okay. In what ways do you think that you have helped the people of

Etonville by holding office?

W: That's a tough one. Can we come back to that one?

I: Well, I'd rather not.

W: You have to follow a certain sequence?

I: Yeah, just--yeah.

W: Well, I would say since I've been in office, we've employed more

qualified people in key positions. And I would consider that as being

a help. There were certain grants we received since I've been on the

council that I'm sure we would not have received had not-

I: Were these federal grants or state grants?

W; Federal grants. We would not have received if I had not been aware

of the funds being available and having the expertise to develop the

proposals. That's about it.

I: Okay. What, if anything, has prevented you from doing a better job,

especially in regard to-well, everyone in your district is black, but

as benefiting the people here, what things have kept you from doing more?

W The--what's the right word-the dissention between the mayor and myself.

I': Okay. Anything else?

W; That's it.

I: Okay. We have a list of factors here that studies have often shown

prevent officials-elected officials from doing a better job. And so

what I'd like you to do is rate each of these factors as to whether or

not itts very important, fairly important, or not important in preventing

you from doing your job. The first factor is the office has no real

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I: authority. In other words, it's like a figurehead position.

W: Now tell me how you want me to rate those again?

I: As being very important, fairly important, or not important in preventing

you from doing your job.

W: In Eatonville that's not very important.

I: Okay. What about not enough revenue available?

W: Very important.

I: Okay. What about being unfamiliar with administrative duties?

W: Not very important because I'm familiar with administrative duties.

I: Okay. What about lack of cooperation from whites. Say maybe the

county or local sheriff or somethi-g like that.

WT Now:, it's hard to rate that as not being very--it's hard to rate that in--

I; Has this factor prevented you from doing your job?

W: That factor has not prevented Eatonville, I would say. Do you want me

to ad lib on that one?

I: Go right ahead.

W: Okay. Eatonville being unique as it is and it being all black, again,

you know, sitting up here and having set out there as a citizen.

Eatonville if we had cooperated with whites more than we have, we would

have grown more than we have grown. But their whole thing is to stay

all black and I disapprove of that.

I: Okay. What about lack of cooperation from blacks or the people here in

Eatonville. Have you had trouble--had that prevented you from doing a

better job?

W: Lack of cooperation the mayor and council, you know.

I: What about the rest of the people in the town?

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W: You don't have any lack of cooperation from the rest of the people in

the town Because the people in the town have sort of a lacadaisy

attitude, you know, if you do it's,6kay:and,.if you.don't it's okay.

They don't attend council meetings and the only time you get the

people to turn out is when it's time to vote. You know, then your

council meetings are packed and everyone wants to get on the

bandwagon for his or her opponent--candidate.

I:: Okay. What about lack of cooperation from state officials?

Wi That's--that hasn't been a problem.

IT Okay.

W: 'Cause any state official that I've ever contacted to do anything,

they've always been very cooperative.

I:: Okay. And the final factor, lack of cooperation from federal officials?

W; I don't see that as a problem either.

I: Okay. Has criticism or lack of support of particularly the people--the

,voters believing that you're only a token in government and that you

really have no real authority--has this prevented you from doing a

better job?

W: That's sort of a bad question for Eatonville because we don't have

that problem. You know-

I: Well, the lack of say, voter's support. They come out and vote for you

but then after that, they don't do anything or they just criticize. Has

this been a problem at all?

W: You're not--I haven't gotten criticism from people who supported me. I
only get criticized by people who have opposed me, and -o-oaee all

the things I stand for.

I: Okay. Do you feel that when you go to conferences or when you go to

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I: apply for a grant or whenever you deal with white officials, do you

feel that they treat you differently from, say, other officials

because you're black? Do they consider you a spokesman for the blacks

and does this prevent you from raising other issues?

W: No, I've never had problems communicating with white elected officials.

I: Okay. What services, now in terms of things along the lines of fire

protection and health and things of that nature-street paving-what

services have you provided the people here in Eatonville that they

did not have before you took office?

W: The only one I can partially take credit for is the $42,000 grant that

we received through the Community Development Act, and that money is

to be used to upgrade our water systems as far as paving of the streets.

Hopefully, when we get some .c_-y money next year, we're going

to take that money and start paving the streets.

I1: Okay. All right. Can you think of any other services that you've been--

W: We got a community service grant and that grant picked up the salary of

our librarian and supports our recreation department. And that's about it.

I: Okay. Would you please rate how effective you think you've been in

each of the following service areas, either very effective, somewhat

effective or not effective. In the area, first,apolice protection?

W4 You mean personally or the council?

I: You personally on the council as a member of the council.

W: Very effective.

I: Okay. And in the areas of streets and roads?

W: Not very effective.

I: In the area of housing?

W: Not very effective.

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I: In the area of welfare?

W: Not very effective.

I: In the area of employment?

W: Well, because of that grant I wrote, I would say very effective

because that was able-we were able to keep people on payroll that

we would have had to lay off so I would rate that as being very


I: Okay. In the area of parks and recreational facilities?

W: Very effective.

I: Specifically what have you done there?

W: For instance, we just received another grant from the bicentennial which

I helped the. employees work on. And so we're in the process of

developing a mini-park right here on the corner. And again, that goes

back to the grant that we received from the Department of Community

Affairs where we kept the recreation director, the librarian, and an

assistant recreation director on payroll to provide recreation.

I: Okay.

W; programs for the community as well as through the library we provided

remedial and tutorial as well as other things that are involved in a

librarian's duties.

I: Okay. How about in the area of water, sewage and garbage?

W: Water, very effective. Sewer and garbage, not very effective.

I: Okay. And in the area of health and hospitals?

WI Not very effective.

I: In the area of education?

W: Not very effective.

I: And finally, in the area of fire protection?

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W: Well, I'm going to say effective.

I: Effective--very effective or somewhat effective?

W: Somewhat effective.

I: Okay. Why do you say somewhat effective?

W: Well, based on--I'm not saying very effective because based on the

financial situation that we have now, we had to lay off some of our

firemen. And our fire department is understaffed and there are a

lot of firefighting equipment that we need which we do not have the

money to purchase.

I: Okay. Now you mentioned that you've gotten federal grants for your--

for the district here in Eatonville. Could you list some of the more

important grants that you've gotten. Could you list the revenue sharing

that you've gotten, and could you list some of the amounts?

W: Revenue sharing would not be considered as a grant I got because the--

I: Yeah, that's another federal fund.

W: Yeah, that's something that you're going to automatically get based on

populations and in your needs and assessment so one individual could (

not take credit for, you know, negotiating on revenue sharing. So

the only thing I could, you know, take any half of the credit for

would be the $42,000.00 we got from the Community Service Grant, and

the Community Development Grant, and the Community Service Grant--I

believe that was $115,000.00. I'm not sure. I think it was $115-

that's been almost-well, it's been two years ago since we got that.

I: Okay. Have you as an elected official as part of a local committee

been able to bring industry or retail stores into the area?

W: No. They do not want it.

I: Has there been any growth in the area as far as industry or retail?

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W: No.

I: Why do you think this is?

W: Because Eatonville has made it very clear that they don't want any

whites in Eatonville, and that's where the money is. You know, your

developers are white and the money is behind the white businessmen

and the white power structure. And they do not want it, you know.

rifaas come out publicly, you know, stating they don't want no white

folks in here .

I1: Okay.

W: They don't even want them on the payroll. I almost lost the last

election for recommending a city planner who was white.

I: You wardu want to elaborate on that one?

W Well, when we received resumes in looking for a city planner-most resumes

now don't have race, creed, or color on them, you know, it's just a

resume. So looking at the resumesand knowing what we should look for

in a city planner, I selected Charles McKenzie who was really over-

qualified for the money that we were offering for the position. And I

made a motion that he be appointed city planner. And of course, then,

the mayor started jumping up and down and saying, you know, we don't

want no white folks working in Eatonville, he wanted a black to have

the position. And then I said who do you have in mind? So the guy he

had in mind only had a background in drafting. I said we don't need

anyone to draw pictures. We just want to plan the city. So two of

the other commissioners felt the same as I did so it was a 3-2 vote.

I: So Mr. McKenzie was hired?
c pou-jc-r;
W: Mr. McKenzie was hired. Then after a switchaums Bfgi the council-

this past March-he's been forced to resign his position.

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I: Have you been able to see that blacks have been or that, let's say--

have you been able to see that local government hiring practices

here in liatonville have been fair either to blacks or whites or to

in groups or out groups?

W Have they been varied?

I: Have they been fair? Have you been able to do anything as far as

making the. city hiring practices more fair?

W: I was when I had-it was when you had commissioners who were more

independent thinkers than what you have now. Because right now I

would personally label the other commissioners as being rocking chair

commissioners. And they're going to more or less follow suit. They're

not going to look at the individual's qualifications or expertise in

the area, you know, it's going to be based on favoritism, you're a friend

of mine, or you're a friend of one of the other commissioners and that's

how you're going to be hired beBe.

I: Okay. How much has federal revenue sharing helped Eatonville?

W; Revenue sharing hasn't-it has helped Eatonville, but it hasn't helped

Eatonville like it's helped other communities. In other communities

revenue sharing has been spent for capital improvement. Most of our

revenue sharing has been used to pick up employees' salaries more so

than any capital improvement.

I: Okay. Have there been any black protests, sit-ins, boycotts or riots

in Eatonville in the last ten years?

W: Not to my knowledge.

I: Okay. Briefly, what is your opinion of Governor Ruben Askew?

W: Well, I think he's a good govezer. You know, and I always supported

him. My "_7
hiA. my__ _ ___ _ _ _

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I: Okay. Do you think he's been favorable in attitude and policy

toward blacks in Florida?

W: I do.

I: Do you have-are there any other state legislators or senators or

congressmen that particularly stand out to you as being either very

favorable to blacks or very unfavorable?

W: Now I would say Lou Fry has been very favorable to blacks because any

time he's been called on to help with any community project or a city

project, he's supported it. I've had the opportunity to work with

him in his. last campaign. And pror o that I met him when I was

working for the YMCA for Central Florida, and whenever we called him

he aimed to help us in any effort we had for the YMCA or another

community based program that was called Rent-A-Youth. He was always


I: Okay. This is a big question. What the thing is partially all about.

Do you think that winning and holding office in Florida has been

worth the effort?

W: That's a question I'm still asking myself, and unfortunately, I haven't

been able to answer it,--not holding an office in Florida but holding

office in Eatonville. And like I said earlier in the conversation,

I am at this point a bit frustrated. I don't know whether it's because

I expected sudden change or I wasn't able to really face the fact

that I was opposing a very strong machine--a machine that has been in

existence for twelve years. And you know, and this is something that

I haven't really been able to deal with mentally. So as a result of

that, I don't intend to run for office again in Eatonville because

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W: I feel like the community as a whole is sort of taking in the neail

f t n-_r when everything is closing in around us. Everyone is

progressing-Eatonville isn't progressing, you know. And I see that

as a problem because of the poor leadership.

I: Okay. You referred to the machine of the last twelve years.

W: Right.

I:: And the poor leadership. Do you want to elaborate on that?

W: Well, when I say the machine for the past twelve years, I'm speaking

of the leader, you know, and that is the mayor. He's been there

for twelveiyears and I look at-you know, try to put everything in

its proper perspective. And if he had just paved one street for each

year he's been in office, we would have twelve decent streets in

Eatonville. Everything that has taken place in Eatonville, if you

go back and do an evaluation of the past twelve years, the only

thing we have to show for it is the jail which he built, the sewer

system which was: mandatory. So what have you really accomplished?
And you can't say we didn't do a because we didn't have the

money because other communities or other municipalities improved and

they didn't have the revenue either. But they went out and made--

applied themselves properly and they went seeking further funds.

They applied for funds and they received these funds. And what

you're hollering, you know, we're all black when they should have

been capitalizing off the blackness, they did not capitalize off of

it. And now to sit here and say you're all black and you want to

stay all black, I think is ignorant. And when you continue to' involve

yourself with this type of leadership I don't see it as being an

FB 36A Bridges


W: asset to an individual because eventually people are going to put

you in the same category as they are putting the people you

associate with. And you know, Eatonville~ had an opportunity to
bring industry in. They had an opportunity to bring/small components

plant in.GE wanted to come in and build a small components plant in

Eatonville. Charles Clayton presented a beautiful package for the

city council and the mayor. They turned it down because he was

white. Ke came with another beautiful idea to annex so many acres

of land into the city limits of Eatonville and they told him that

you know when you annex the land it could be annexed as proposed by

the developer. Once the land got in here from Eaton Springs--that's

the development that he wanted to bring in here,kicked out the door.

So it's little things like this that I'm finding very frustrating.

And I'Vve sat on this city council and I've seen it done continuously.

You know, you tell a person, well, they call a building moratorium,

for what? Then thirty days later they come back and no real

evaluation is done. No real good has come out of it,-but then you've

got a sewer moratorium on. SoJ F sewer moratorium is on then naturally

no one can build. Okay. You go on a pollution control

board ...... ? ... put a separate tank in, then you can build.

You go through all this red tape and each time you come back, they

throw another loophole in it. So when you sit up here and you see all

these things happening, and you take off the blinders, you know, you

say, hey, you know, is it worth my Tuesday nights twice a month. Is

it worth a special -meeting? Is it worth me, you know, missing out

on a business function or a business appointment or out making some

FB 36A Bridges


W: money when evidently they don't really want to grow. That's the

extent of my frustration.

I: Okay. These questions are asked just to compile an overall group

profile of black officials. No individual answers area going to be

reported. You are a commissioner-finance commissioner?

W: No, let me clarify that now. When I ran for office the first time

you had a street or road commissioner, we had a water commissioner,

we had a sanitation commissioner, we had a finance commissioner, and

a rules and ordinance commissioner. Okay, when I was elected to the

council I questioned that because in reviewing the charter, the

charter says you have seat numbers one through five so I proposed

the question to the city attorney at that time as well as the mayor

and other elected officials as to how did we come about, you know,

receiving the subtitles. I researched the minutes and I couldn't

find, you know, where an ordinance was done, a resolution or anything

tb that effect. You know, they tell me well, the book that it's

recorded in, you know, we've misplaced it. Okay, so everyone was

gung ho on these subtitles. Okay, after the last election this past

month then the subtitles were done away with. We're all commissioners

one, two, three, four, five. So you know, right now your guess is as

good as mine as to aA= 1- r-, u j. .k~ I'm

commissioner..number four. Or depending on which way you want to run


I: Okay. You were first elected in what year?

W: March of '72.

I: March of '72?

FB 36A Bridges


W: Uh huh.

I: And you take office three days after you're elected, right?

W: Uh uh.

1: No?

W: We take office one day after you're elected.

I: Oh.

W: We have our elections the first Saturday in March and then you come

to a work session-well, at that time it was set up--we had the

elections the first Saturday in March. We come to a work session that

Sunday and we take office that Monday night.

I:; Okay. You've run for office in Eatonville three times, right?

W: Right.

I:: Okay. Do you mind my asking your age?

W: No, I'm thirty-five years old.

I: Okay. What is your occupation aside from being a commissioner?

W: I work for the YMCA of Central Florida, the Urban Action Department

and I have my own janitorial corporation.

I: Okay. What's the level of your education?

W: I have sixty-six and a half hours of college credit. My major was

sociology and my minor was in education.

I: Okay. What.is the salary your elected position pays?

W: Twelve hundred dollars a year.

I: Were you active in the civil rights movement of the early sixties?

W: No, I was not.

I: What church do you belong to?

W: I belong to St. Lawrence AflP4 Church here in Eatonville.

FB 36A Bridges


I: We~k -.sttt. Here in town.

W: Uh huh.

I: And are you an official in the church or do you do anything in the

church besides-

W: Nothing. I'm just a member.

I: Okay. Are there any other community organizations or activities that

you're involved in?

W: I'm in-not in the community--I'm a member of the Winter Park

Democratic Women's Club. I serve on the Muscular Dystrophy Board

of Directors. And that's it other than PTA meetings.

I: What was your father's occupation?

W: My father was a cook. at the junior college in St. Petersburg. And

-my mother is a housewife. She's always been a housewife.

I: What effects have running for and holding office had on you and

your family-your social life, your interpersonal relationships?

Wl It's been quite a strain on my family because I have three children

and I:'m divorced. I've been divorced now almost three years. And

it takes a lot out of the children because of the negative things

people, you know, say about me because I am a woman and I am single.

And of course, we have the rumor clinics which, you know, I've had to

deal with the kids about that. You know, you hear it and you don't

hear it. -But 6ther than that, you know. The biggest problem you have

in Eatonville being an elected officials, being a woman and single you

have the rumor clinic-which we've overcome that.

I1 Okay. Besides--you've stated occupation and your elected office, do

you have any other source of income?

FB 36A Bridges


W: No. Uh uh.

I: Okay. What do you think is the biggest detriment to blacks gaining

political power in the state of Florida?

W: Say that again?

I: The biggest

End of Side 1

FB 36A Bridges


Beginning of Side 2

I: Okay. Getting into elective office and then after they get into

elective office actually being able to do things?

W: Well, I feel once you get into office if there's something you

really want to do, you can do it. And then in a sense, you can't

do it depending on what your elected position is. And by that I

'mean, for instance, when you sit on a--if you're a commissioner and

you're going one way and the other commissioners are going another

way, you become ineffective because you don't have any voting power.

It's just your one vote. You know, all you can sort of be is a

thorn in everybody's side so that's sort of a hard question for me to

/really deal with.

I: Do you think there are other--efore you get elected in the election

process, do you think there are any really big factors that prevent

you from getting elected?

Wt If we look at county elections it's a problem because in Orange County

there still exists quite a bit of, you know, prejudice. And black

people don't really turn out to vote as well as they should. And

unless you can, you know, get some of the white vote you aren't going

to be elected in any of the county elections. And that's about the

only way I can answer that one.

I:: Okay. The results of this, of course, are totally off the record and

will not be published, broadcasted, disseminated; however, there is a

project at the University of Florida called the Oral History Project.

Now what they're doing is they're collected tapes and transcripts of

elected officials of Florida and other famous people in Florida and

saving them for use by scholars and researchers in the libraries.

FB 36A Bridges

I~ They e not a -atter of public record. Now what they would like to

do because in many cases the black elected officials we're talking

to in this study are the first group really interviewed since

reconstruction. And in many cases they are the first officials in

that area since reconstruction. They're interested in--when we're

done with these tapes-after we're done with it, in taking the tapes

and transcribing them, then what they will do is they will send you

a copy of the transcript and you can edit it, change it, delete parts,

add parts, clarify, whatever you want to do. And then you can either

decide not to release it or you can decide to release parts of it or

you can decide to release the whole thing as edited. Would you have

any objections to our giving it to them to transcribe and then giving

it, you know, back to you and then letting you sign a release on it.

would you haye any objections to doing this and do you think you

-ig ghtbe willing to eventually release part of it or all of it.

W I would not have any objections. I would be willing to release all

of mine because everything I have said on this tape I have said

publicly already. The majority of everything I have said to you on

this tape has been printed in the Winter Park Sentinnel as well as the

lMetro News with the Orlando Sentinnel. So I would have no second

thoughts about releasing mine.

I': Okay. Thank you very much.

End of Side 2

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