Long-time Palm Beach County commissioner aide Johnnie Easton is resigning from her position on Commissioner Melissa McKinlay’s staff and moving to back to her hometown of Sumrall, Mississippi.
Easton’s resignation comes in the aftermath of the death of her daughter, Tasha McCraw, a 33-year old who struggled with drug addiction.
McCraw died on November 18 in Oswego, New York. No official cause of death has been determined.
Easton, 52, said she is moving to Mississippi to be closer to family. She has worked as a commissioner aide since 2003.
She has worked for commissioners Tony Masilotti, Jess Santamaria and now McKinlay, who announced Easton’s resignation at the close of a commission meeting on Tuesday.
McKinlay described Easton as her “absolutely outstanding, not-going-to-be-easy-to-replace aide.”
“We’re losing in Palm Beach — and especially District 6 — we’re losing a big person,” said McKinlay.
Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, herself a former commissioner aide, said of Easton: “I will greatly miss Johnnie. She was a great help to my staff.”
Easton was noted for her work in the western portions of the county, particularly in the Glades, a poor, rural area with many challenges.
Last year, she was involved in the effort to draw attention to and solve problems at a dilapidated housing complex in Belle Glade. She also worked to find a solution to the problem of how to dispose of the excess horse manure generated in the county.
Some of that manure is dumped illegally, threatening the area’s water safety.
“I really, really enjoy what I do,” Easton said. “I’m hoping to get back into it. I want to continue helping people navigate their way through government and helping people any way I can.”
Easton said she’d like to get a job doing similar government work in Mississippi. Her last day on the job will be January 2.
Easton’s departure will be the latest for a commission that has lost several experienced aides.
In June, Cindy DeFilippo, a long-time aide who worked for former Commissioner Karen Marcus and her successor, Hal Valeche, died in a car crash in Savannah, Georgia.
None of former Commissioner Priscilla Taylor’s aides, all of whom had worked for her since she joined the commission in 2009, were retained when Taylor was defeated in her bid for re-election.
Taylor said the aides — Willie Miller, Martha Lee and Gladys Whigham — have all found other jobs in county government.