Respect your elders. It’s a concept found in many religions and across several cultures.
I am working on humility here in Citrus. When I see things like what the community is able to do with the roughly $200,000 raised for the Jeremy Strong fundraiser or any other countless examples, it is easy to be humbled by those who have been here longer and who have the community clout to make such an incredible difference possible.
What frustrates me is when this community goodwill is then used as a social capital shield to cut corners for some to enact a personal agenda with the weight of their professional organizations.
This is not currently happening with any fundraiser, but tends to occur quite a bit as elections draw nearer. My outspoken opposition to this practice can understandably be misconstrued as disrespect for those who have served this community for much longer who do deserve deference, though not at the expense of ethics.
It’s an extension of this concept that has led me to be utterly baffled by some of the decisions both the county and the school board have made over the last few years. The county will be the focus of this column but let’s start with an example from the school board.
Many pictures are now circulating on social media of trucks with the Citrus County School Board Police Department decals on them and the district continues to hire more full-time employees in these roles. The vote to start this initiative was made several years ago, and the board has remained unchanged through two election cycles following the decision meaning the public appears to be in agreement with the program, but there was one board member who was repeatedly in opposition to this idea.
That was Doug Dodd, a former Citrus County Sheriff’s Office captain who had oversight over school resource officers and was serving on the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school safety board following the tragic shooting.
Captain Dodd should have been the most respected voice in the room. He was strong and articulately thoughtful in his opposition on several occasions, yet the board inexplicably steamrolled him at every step until we landed with a new agency that continues to grow with a still undetermined expense.
Let’s shift to the county. The two most senior officials on the board are Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchen, both elected in 2014, yet it feels that these two are often at odds with their newer colleagues.
Now, you may be having a hard time separating objective experience from subjective emotion.
When Commissioner Carnahan announced his intention to run for reelection, there were 39 Facebook comments on the Chronicle Facebook page and not a single one was positive.
Commissioner Kitchen, who repeated in Tuesday’s meeting that he is not seeking reelection in 2022, is often the target of letters to the editor/sound offs and is a frequent villain of the Chronicle’s own editorials so I understand that the feeling toward these two is not one of universal community warmth although I do think the discontent are most likely to be vocal and there is an underestimated silent base of support.
Objectively, though, there is no denying they are the most experienced. They are the elders.
This is what confuses me about the actions of the board so far and concerns me about the direction for the future. The animal shelter was a 3-2 vote with Carnahan and Kitchen in dissent, not because they were in opposition to the project, but because they were unconvinced a detailed enough plan was in place to move forward and didn’t want the project to turn into an uncontrollable cost to the county.
If they vote against an issue and lose, that’s okay. That is how the board is supposed to work. However, the amendment to the travel policy discussed in the last column demonstrates a troubling trend.
The two most experienced commissioners are in opposition to an idea, on reasonable grounds such as with the shelter, but instead are now only vocally so and still vote to unanimously support a decision which hurts transparency to the public.
Change is inevitable. New perspectives can be the right ones. I can do better to be more respectful. But all of these things can be true and it still be true that our local leaders need to pay more credence to those who have experience before some decisions become irreversible burdensome costs to the public.