Hawthorne honors former mayor at historic park

Hawthorne’s city commissioners pulled down the dark green cover on Thursday morning to reveal the new sign for the city’s historical park.

The sign displayed the park’s new name as homage to Eleanor “Kit” Randall and New Hope United Methodist Church of Hawthorne.

The proposal came to the commission last year, presented by the mayor at the time, Matt Surrency, who took over as mayor from Randall in 2011.

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Surrency said Randall’s tenure as mayor may have been shorter than most but her impact was greater.

Mayor Jacqueline Randall speaks at the ceremony

“When she took over, we were in a financial state of emergency, and that’s basically borderline on losing our charter as a city, our identity as a city,” Surrency said in an interview.

Surrency said Randall’s tough choices as mayor put the city back on track toward a stable financial situation. She also taught Surrency the basics of being a commissioner and then mayor.

“Mayor Randall took me under her wing and guided me,” Surrency said to the crowd at the ceremony.”

Now, Eleanor Randall’s daughter, Jacquelyn Randall, serves as mayor after being appointed by the commission in August.

“All the pieces just made sense, and when the rest of the commission got on board…I was just overwhelmed,” Jacquelyn Randall said. “I remember that meeting very vividly.”

Eleanor Randall served as a commissioner of Hawthorne from 2004 until her appointment as mayor from 2009 to 2011. She then returned to the commission until she died in 2013.

She was also an assistant pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church.

The church’s old building shares the corner of SE 73rd Avenue and SE 221st Street with the park, and the building now houses the Hawthorne Historical Museum and Cultural Center.

Jacquelyn Randall said these connections―commemorating her church, her mother and the city’s only museum―gave the experience a “trifecta effect.”

“The city is committed to preserving this gemstone,” Jacquelyn Randall said, referring to the museum. “Staff has already and will continue to find resources to help with the upkeep and other future projects.”

Jacquelyn Randall referenced the museum’s $26,000 matching grant from Florida’s Division of Historical Resources that the city received in June and thanked the museum staff for their dedication.

Alachua County also placed two other signs around the park that include the new wording honoring Eleanor Randall and New Hope United Methodist Church.

Jacquelyn Randall said her mother’s footsteps are hard to follow at times, but she needs to go through the journey her way while pulling from the lessons taught her.

“You’ll hear a lot of people say that she was quiet and soft-spoken, and I’m loud and boisterous,” Jacquelyn Randall said. “It was just two different types of courage, a quiet courage and a bold courage.”

Jacquelyn Randall said she can still pull a lot from her mother, learning when to sit back and take things from a reserved standpoint.

Hawthorne also received a $500,000 grant in July for downtown improvements and is currently working through the bidding process.

Eleanor Randall's family and city staff around the new sign

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