ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — During a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 22, Mike Kohler was sworn onto the Escambia County Board of Commissioners. Reelected commissioner Robert Bender was sworn into office and the gavel for chairman switched hands.

Tuesday was the eleventh time that Kohler said he has taken an oath.

“I took two as enlisted, eight as an officer, but I’ve never had one like this, with a judge, a Bible and my wife,” said Kohler. “It is very special and that means a lot to me. I understand the gravity of this oath and loyalty and how it should resonate with this board every time we meet, and I’ll do that.”

Kohler went on to thank the voters in District 2, as well as the veterans, military and neighborhood groups backing him through his campaign.

“When you run for office, you get to meet a lot of people,” said Kohler. “I look out and see some of the special people I met out there, walking door-to-door, and now, we have become friends. I hope you know that you have a friend up here now. I hope you know that I will listen and try to do what’s right by District 2.”

Kohler said he is fortunate to have two former commissioner’s who will give him advice as he moves into the position.

“I plan on using those people to make the best decisions,” said Kohler. “I believe in creating a decision space to make the best decisions. I’m not into reactionary governance. You’re going to see a guy who processes things to try and make the right decision.”

When talking about his sister and family, Kohler teared up, saying he is honored to have his sister at the swearing in ceremony.

“My mom and dad can’t really travel,” said Kohler. “So, they have missed out on a lot of my successes over the years. But it’s an honor to have you here. My wife has been there for me all along the way. I’m fortunate to have a warrior who will stand with me. I’m blessed. You can tell that I lead with my heart, and I’m OK with that.”

Bender said he couldn’t have done this without the support of his family.

“Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to devote so much as I do to this position, this office and to the citizens of Escambia County,” said Bender. “This position takes a lot away a lot from the family, but I know it is worth it to give all of us a better community, hopefully a great community when my kids grow up.”

Looking forward to the next four years, Bender said the hard work is starting to pay off.

“The wheels of government do turn slowly, but I’m really excited for the progress we have made, and we are continuing that,” said Bender.

Commissioner Lumon May took over as chairman of the board, taking over for Commissioner Jeff Bergosh.

“Lumon has been an excellent colleague for the past six years on this board,” said Bergosh. “He is one of the hardest working men you will ever meet. He cares about his community. He cares about his constituents. He cares about this county and he cares about this country. I look forward to the next year of him being in this chair role.”

May said it is an honor to be the face of the county and to lead the county.

“As one commentator said, ‘How can a Black, liberal, Democrat lead a Republican county?’ I said simply because we all care,” said May. “We care about this community. Whenever you’re elected to these positions, it is real easy to lose yourself and to lose everything around you. You get so caught up in all of the work we have to do. Many people say it is a part-time job, but it is more than a full-time job. Those that suffer the most are the people around you.”

When it comes to his successes, May said it is because of the people he surrounds himself with.

“I make no excuses for my failures, nor apologies for my successes and my successes are surrounding myself with amazing people,” said May. “A hard-working staff and a hard-working crew. My commitment to this county is to represent this county in the best way I can. To not always agree but agree to disagree to do what’s in the common and best interest of our community. Red, yellow, black and white, we are all precious in God’s sight. We can’t allow for partisan politics to separate us. It should be based on what’s best for Escambia County. Each and every day I wake up, I look to see what I can do to make Escambia County a better place to live, work and play.”

Commissioner Steven Barry took up the post of Vice Chairman for the Escambia County Board of Commissioners.

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