Two ways of starting this column crossed my mind but both were rejected for different reasons.
The first way was as an open letter to Commissioners Ron Kitchen and Jeff Kinnard. I hate open letters though. Something as wonderful as the collective works of Hemingway could be written, but if Old Man and the Sea had started as an open letter to fishermen, I would have despised the book.
The second was as a tribute to Veterans’ Day. Unlike the hatred feel toward open letters, I love Veterans’ Day and its significance will come up throughout this column. I didn’t want to start it with Veterans’ Day, however, because while today should be recognized and celebrated; this isn’t just another writer’s take on what the day means.
So instead I will start it like this: I am a hypocrite. The consistencies of positions I hold can be contradictory and my fidelity to principle can, at times, be flexible. Here’s why.
To provide some quick context, Tuesday’s County Commission meeting was about to adjourn when Commissioner Holly Davis brought up one more discussion point. She asked Commissioner Kitchen to consider not accepting the nomination for Chairman at the next meeting.
The Commission changes its officers every year in November. There are three positions: the Chair, the First Vice Chair and the Second Vice Chair. Commissioner Scott Carnahan is currently the Board’s Chair with Commissioner Kitchen as Vice Chair and Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach as Second Vice Chair. Typically everyone moves up one seat in an unceremonious routine vote. What Commissioner Davis proposed was to break that protocol.
Chairman Carnahan and Commissioner Kitchen immediately went on the defensive. Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach backed Commissioner Davis. Commissioner Kinnard sat silently, but later told Mike Wright that, “Ron Kitchen is in line to be the chairman. He needs to be the chairman.”
I should agree with that statement. The entire premise of the Concurrent is based on the idea that institutions are more important than the individuals who comprise them. To change the order of hierarchy in the system, to break protocol, because of feelings about an individual is everything I’ve argued against doing.
And yet, it’s what I feel needs to be done in this case. Commissioner Kinnard should change his mind.
On Veterans’ Day of all days this feels like an impossible position to take. We honor our men and women who have served and who are currently serving because we understand they are the few who willingly give part or all of their career to something larger than themselves. They are the very embodiment of the institution being more important than the individual.
My first thoughts were the same as Dr. Kinnard’s conclusion - that nothing should be done. And while I can’t speak for how he felt, my gut reaction to Ms. Davis’ comments while watching live were that of disgust.
As rational thought caught up to immediate emotional reaction though, I realized I had written several pieces that claimed Commissioner Kitchen’s tone is not going to help the communication direction of the county. To be consistent in arguing we need a change in tone, I would also have to contradict my belief that the system is always more important than the individual.
I’m willing to do so. The Board has been willing to do so in the past as well when Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith was left out of the hierarchy rotation.
This column started by saying it could be an open letter to Commissioners Kinnard or Kitchen. Let’s end it by focusing on Commissioner Kitchen.
He understandably took the suggestion as a question of his ability. It’s not. He has served the Citrus community well for over a decade. He’s earned the right to go out on top.
He’s also the commissioner I align with closest ideologically. Too many times I find myself loving what he says but hating how he says it though. It’s not time to silence his views, but his demeanor will undoubtedly hurt the Board more than help it if he is the public face of the Commission for the next year.
Sometimes true service is sacrifice. Our veterans teach us that. They set aside the comforts of everyday free civilian life for the uncertainty of military rigor and potential danger. That’s what makes this the greatest country on earth.
Our county can strive for greatness. However, it has a better chance of success with Commissioner Kitchen as one of five votes rather than its leading voice.