Olympian Ben Davison, an alumnus of the Rowing Organization of Citrus County Students (ROCCS) crew team, finished just outside of the medals coming in a close fourth place this week.
The U.S. men’s eight, the race in which he competed, exceeded the expectations of what many in the rowing community thought they would do and proudly represented our country even without the hardware for their efforts.
Davison, who just turned 25-years-old, may have another Olympics in his career as many boats at this highest level of competition featured rowers in their late 20s or even early 30s. His commitment to a goal many years in the future will determine his path forward.
This turning point in his athletic career is an apt metaphor to the way our county chooses to govern. Before I explain the comparison, let’s take a detour. An active conservative grassroots volunteer stopped by my office this week to grab some Concurrent papers to give to his fellow workers on the frontline and we had a good discussion about our commission.
“They’re managers,” he said. The comment wasn’t said condescendingly or with anger but was rather straight-forward analysis of how best to describe the BOCC. It’s a slightly different perspective but along the same lines of something I have said often. Our commissioners’ entrepreneurial spirit is a strength of who they are as people but not without its tendency to at times become a liability as elected officials.
This commission’s ability to see all the work that needs to be done to fix areas of the government that have been ignored, to get projects started that need to be addressed now and to prepare for future growth is a testament to their business acumen. This knowledge of complex systems is what qualifies them for the job.
What Don, the insightful volunteer, meant by calling the commission managers though was that it takes more than that to truly represent people well. It takes adhering to principle even if it hinders immediate action.
Let’s rewind to a meeting a couple weeks ago. When Sheriff Mike Prendergast initially asked for more marine patrols, Commissioner Ron Kitchen said that he has no doubt that any money allocated toward additional CCSO resources would be used effectively whether it was for one marine patrol or thirty. The problem wasn’t how the money would be used; the problem was the money wasn’t in the budget.
I said on the podcast that week that his words are a compliment but one you have to squint to see. The same goes for the county.
While I haven’t agreed with every decision such as the handling of the new animal shelter (that looks like it is starting at square one with a potential location change) to the subsidies for certain neighborhoods,
I do think it’s fair to say that the commission has identified what needs are and started allocating money to those projects. If more revenue was given to them, they would steer it toward the projects that aren’t getting attention now.
It takes more than managing the budget though. It takes adhering to principle.
This Board’s business experience, along with everyone being the hero of their own story which I am as guilty of as anyone, leads them to believe they can solve all the county’s problems in a single year of a single term if the residents would give them the revenue to do so. I agree with the confidence in their abilities and respect their genuine motivation to improve the county.
But government is incremental. You simply can’t cure decades of problems with a single 5-0 vote. There is a reason commissioner’s terms in office are four years. These projects are meant to take time so that the residents aren’t burdened with overwhelming costs.
Ben Davison’s rowing career is at a crossroads. He can start training now, putting in three years of brutally hard work with no recognition or attention from the national stage, for a chance to marginally improve - just one more spot - to earn an Olympic medal. Or he can change his lifestyle into one more comfortable for him, but that will inevitably fall short of once again representing others. Regardless of his future choice, he’s already made me incredibly proud to be a U.S. rower.
The commission is at a similar turning point. They need to adopt a four-year vision toward action guided by principle rather than managing a single year of a single term approach to county governance.