A feeling that this will go well
Strange noises emitted Tuesday from county commission chambers.
Laughter. Not at commissioners but with them.
And applause. Try that in the past and you’d be scolded like a third-grader.
Also, spoken and felt: Optimism. Encouragement. Imagination. Success.
There is nothing like the day new commissioners take office. Especially when their entry has the potential to significantly shift the conversation, as these do.
Can anyone remember a year we were so stoked for a new board direction than this one? Two incumbents weren’t running so we knew change was coming but that election season seemed to last forever.
Finally, Diana Finegan and Rebecca Bays each stood with her hand on the Bible and became commissioners before our eyes. Political affiliation, who voted for who, that kind of thing — gone in the moment as we all applauded both new commissioners.
Then it was pick a chair time, and Commissioner Holly Davis nominated Ruthie Davis Schlabach, someone who really deserves this opportunity considering the nonsense she’s endured the last two years.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard kept his same seat on the far right. To his right are four women commissioners — first time that’s ever happened. Kinnard said he was asked what he expects that to be like.
In true Kinnard fashion, he was complimentary, noting that each of his colleagues is a successful businesswoman who will bring drive and determination to the county’s business.
Finegan, the lone true newbie in office as Bays had served a four-year term previously, said she was looking forward to working with everyone.
Kinnard noted the energy in the room, but made a point of mentioning the “heavy lifting” that has to take place with this board.
(In case you’ve forgotten, in no order: roads, traffic, concurrency, growth, environmental protection, taxes, affordable apartments, animal shelter and the Chassahowitzka boat ramp. Plus a host of odds and ends that crop up daily.)
But that’s for another day. Tuesday was about the pendulum swing, the natural occurrence that takes place every so often with elections when the public says it’s ready for a new direction.
The pendulum swing started two years ago when Kinnard was re-elected without opposition, Holly Davis defeated an incumbent and Schlabach won a grueling primary. Seemed obvious voters wanted change, but that word didn’t get down to two sitting commissioners who mucked up the process so that little was accomplished.
To her great credit, Schlabach wouldn’t go there other than to say she plans to “leave behind” the frustration and confusion of the past.
All in all, a tremendous start.
The question is, of course, will it stick?
Can’t really use an opening board meeting two days before Thanksgiving as a gauge of things to come. I mean, we can certainly hope that each meeting is filled with deep discussion, light hearted banter and citizen input. Logic says it won’t always be that way.
Tuesday’s meeting was quick — about an hour. Mainly commissioners were trying to get used to the microphones and speaker timer, and generally feeling their way through this process.
It was all a little awkward but in a comfortable way — our new commissioners and chairwoman trying to figure it all out with the new county administrator, who isn’t on the clock for another week, sitting in the front row.
Later Tuesday, I went to the school board meeting to see Joe Faherty take the oath. Faherty, the longtime school resource officer who retired from the sheriff’s office just this week, is the first new board member since 2016. His colleagues welcomed him warmly.
Tuesday was a good day. I’ve seen these come and go but there’s something about 2022 that we’ll look back and see that we got it right.
Now it’s time for work.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.