White: Milton improves, but keeps its great spirit

Published on May 23, 2013 with No Comments

Clayton White had a feeling about Milton as soon as he arrived here for duty in 1951 at Whiting Field.

“I liked it from the day I got here,” said White, a longtime member of the Milton City Council.

Back then, Santa Rosa County’s population was a mere 19,000. It’s multiplied many times since then, of course, and the City of Milton alone provides various services to 25,000 people, including its 8,000 residents.

“Everything was pretty different then,” he said of the Milton he saw 62 years ago.

White was sitting in the living room of the Park Lane home he and his wife Betty have shared since 1957, the same home where they raised their three sons.

White, an Indiana native, finished his tour of duty with the Navy after a few years and by 1957 he had opened Top Appliances in Milton, which his son Barry now operates.

Getting involved

Over time, the young businessman became interested in various government activities. He served on the Santa Rosa Elections Commission and the Navarre Beach Board before he was appointed to a vacant seat on the City Council in 1979.

White has been there ever since, except for one gap that he jokes was due to “heath reasons.”
“The voters got sick of me,” he said.

But White ran again in four years and won election to a post that lets him help shape Milton’s future.

He’s proud of Milton’s improvements – a new City Hall and other city facilities, Carpenter’s Park, Riverwalk, ball parks and new tennis courts.

When it comes to parks and recreational facilities, “I think we’re ahead” of many other communities.

The city also is fixing streets and other infrastructure. Now he’s happy that Sanders Street is getting a $2 million upgrade.

“It’s really going to improve that area,” says White, whose 83rd birthday is June 3.

The future

To White, the city began making strides when it did away with the old Civil Service system and opened the door for professionally trained employees to come on board. He especially liked the work of the late City Manager Russell Harber.

“He really did great in getting the city up to date,” White said.

White is looking forward to a report this summer outlining potential improvements along Blackwater River from Bagdad to Carpenter’s Park.

“It’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money,” but the report’s proposals could let more people enjoy the river, one of the area’s best natural assets.

White has seen a lot of changes since he was 26-year-old businessman selling appliances in the days when televisions were only black-and-white and no one had heard of stereos.

He’s seen a lot of changes in government, too. As a council member he’s had to wrestle with economic ups and downs, the Civil Service issues, unions and insurance costs for employees and city property.

Even so, Milton hasn’t lost the charm that attracted White six decades ago.

“It’s still a very friendly, down-home town,” he said.

 

 

 

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