The City of Dade City recently paused to pay honor to Eunice Penix, one of its longest-tenured public servants, educators and community activists in the East Pasco town’s history.
Family, friends and community leaders gathered outside the City Hall building on Nov. 6 to recognize the many accomplishments of Penix, a longtime city commissioner.
The proclamation ceremony provided an opportunity to formally thank the 79-year-old Penix “for her dedication to improve Dade City for its residents and future generations to enjoy a prosperous, sustainable community.”
Dade City Manager Leslie Porter welcomed the large gathering, and Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez read the proclamation, presented the plaque and gave closing remarks.
Guest speakers of the event included Florida State Senate President Wilton Simpson and Rev. Clyde Carter, president of the NAACP-Pasco County chapter.
Penix’s lengthy record of public service, included serving as a city commissioner from 1993 to 2020.
In August 1993, she was appointed to the commission to fill a vacancy. She then was unopposed in her bid for election in April 1994, to fill out the remainder of a two-year term. She went on to win reelection seven times, including six contests that were unopposed. She held the title of mayor pro tem from 2009 onward.
During Penix’s time in office, the city hired five city managers, three city attorneys, two clerks and a finance director.
She also played an instrumental role in numerous enhancements to the municipality over the years, including:
- Annexed lands for commercial and residential development
- Paved and resurfaced streets and sidewalks
- The acquisition and restoration of the Atlantic Coast Line Depot, now used as the Dade City Heritage Museum
- The creation of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency
- The initiation of plans to move the city’s wastewater treatment plant
- The reduction of flooding issues downtown with the construction of Beauchamp Pond
- Progress on numerous park improvements, including the land purchase to build a downtown splash park/bicycle hub
Penix was a mentor for the Dade City Youth Council, and served in public office during the time of the development of a Hampton Inn and a Publix Supermarket within the city limits.
She advocated for the Morningside Drive extension project and construction of the new City Hall/Police Department facility.
As a government representative, she was involved in the Florida League of Cities, Women in Municipal Government, Florida Black Caucus of Elected Officials, and Suncoast League of Cities.
Aside from her civic duties, the now retired Penix spent four decades as a schoolteacher — the bulk of her time at the now-closed Floyd Academy in Lacoochee and Pasco Elementary in Dade City, where she earned “Teacher of the Year” during the 2001-2002 school year.
Penix herself graduated from Mickens High School in 1958 and Bethune-Cookman University in 1962, earning a degree in elementary education. She went on to obtain a master’s degree from the University of Tampa in administration and supervision in elementary education.
Her other volunteerism and community engagement is notable, too.
Penix has served on the Martin Luther King Scholarship and Moore-Mickens Scholarship committees, including 10 years as president.
She’s been a member of the Dade City Community Alliance-Charter, Dade City Rotary, and Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco County. She also has served as vice president of Beta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Pi Chi Sorority.
Penix is an active member of her church choir at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, in Dade City.
She chose not to seek reelection to the commission this year.
Her Group 5 seat is now held by Normita Woodard, a first-time elected commissioner and secretary at Lacoochee Elementary School.
Penix’s final commission meeting was on June 23, held in a virtual format amid the coronavirus pandemic.
During her final meeting as an elected official, Penix took time to deliver some parting words to thank the Dade City community. She said: “I’m grateful for the citizens of Dade City for allowing me to serve them for 27 years. I am so honored. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love all of you.”
Penix remains involved with citywide affairs, regularly attending commission and other pertinent meetings as a concerned and vocal citizen.
Published November 25, 2020