LIVE OAK, Fla. — One day, two presentations and two flags.
On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Neal Dunn and State Representative Chuck Brannan both were in Live Oak to honor the late James Sommers, Suwannee County’s former public safety director and fire chief.
Tuesday morning Dunn, the Republican representative from Florida’s Second District, presented an American flag to Sommers’ son Gavin in a presentation at Suwannee County Fire Rescue headquarters. The flag flew over the U.S. Capitol in Sommers’ honor the day he was laid to rest, Aug. 13. Sommers was killed Aug. 6 in a motorcycle accident.
During the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday night, Brannan, the Republican representing the state’s District 10, presented the flag that flew over the state Capitol that same day, also in Sommers' honor, to Gavin and his sister, Leigha.
“It is my honor to present this flag to you,” Brannan said, adding it was on the behalf of a “grateful” state. “This is a special flag. We want to present this to you to commemorate his service to the community, his public service, his selfless service.
“We will never forget his service to this community.”
That service to Live Oak and Suwannee County caught Dunn’s attention as well, even though he had only briefly met Sommers.
“I’ve heard so many great stories about Chief Sommers, I feel like I know him,” Dunn said. “But the stories that came up after he passed from a lot of people like Chief (Eddie) Hand, but so many people here around the city, all said such amazing things about all the things that he did for Suwannee, all the things he did for Live Oak.
“He stood out.”
Sommers served as the county’s fire chief and public safety director for seven years and spent 18 years working for SCFR. In his time as chief, a fire station was opened in Wellborn and just two years ago, 16 additional firefighting positions were added to the department. Additional fire and rescue vehicles have also been acquired to improve the service.
“Your dad did a great job for us and he will be missed,” BOCC Chairman Ricky Gamble said after the second presentation. “I’m at a loss for words.
“All I can tell you is that when my grandfather died, his military flag was something I was proud to have and a cherished memory for me to this day.”
That is Dunn’s hope for the flag he presented as well.
“I hope this reminds you of just how great he was and brings you some smiles at times for your whole family,” he said.