The Citrus County Chronicle candidates forum is Thursday and I couldn’t be more excited.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that publisher Trina Murphy requested I ask questions of county commission District 4 candidates because her husband, John, is one of the candidates and she wanted as much Chronicle separation of that race as possible.
Well, not just District 4. Editor Jeff Bryan said late last week that the Editorial Board would like me to ask questions of candidates in both county commission districts. I told him I would be delighted to do that.
The forum is at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Citrus County Auditorium at the fairgrounds on U.S. 41 in Inverness. It is THE political event of the campaign season; both the Chronicle and Just Wright Citrus will stream it live on our Facebook pages.
I’m writing this week about some of the challenges in Citrus County that we’re going to be looking to these candidates to address.
Before going there, though, let’s talk about what we’re looking for.
These last two years have been tough and disappointing. When Jeff Kinnard was reelected unopposed, Holly Davis beat an incumbent and Ruthie Davis Schlabach outlasted a host of primary challengers, it sure seemed like that pendulum swing was well in force and we would be headed in a new direction.
That didn’t happen. First Scott Carnahan, then Ron Kitchen Jr., were tyrants as chairmen, virtually shutting down both of the new commissioners. And, while we can blame Carnahan and Kitchen, the truth is they were allowed to behave that way by three other commissioners who didn’t seem to gel either.
So, two years of very little accomplished. A win here and there, but no real traction.
That means the two new commissioners elected this year in Districts 2 and 4 join a county commission without a whole lot of momentum. They need to come in with fresh ideas, an understanding of how this place operates, and an ability to work well with others.
We tend to narrow down our local election choices based on specific issues, like roads, growth, the turnpike, etc. I suggest we pull back a little further. A candidate's opinion an issue means very little if he or she isn't ready to step in immediately.
Here are some traits I look for in candidates:
That’s a good question for candidates: What’s your experience with working on a team? If the candidate has to think about it, well…
Fortunately, we seem in good shape here. All five commission candidates — District 2 Diana Finegan and Stacey Worthington; and District 4 Rebecca Bays, John Murphy and Winn Webb — have some sort of county government connection.
Bays and Webb are former commissioners; Worthington serves on the planning commission; Murphy handled government affairs at the chamber of commerce for years. Finegan is the least connected to the government, but she’s the only candidate at every commission meeting, so she’s seeing how it works in person.
(Speaking of which...the county commission meets today (Monday) instead of Tuesday this week. Here's the agenda.)
It’ll take courage to raise taxes for our needs. Courage to say no to the Library Guy Gang’s anti-Citrus County rhetoric. Courage to tell developers they can’t build mega communities without making some of those houses affordable for working folks.
Courage to say no. Courage to say yes.
Those are just some traits but you get the point. Before we start asking candidates how they’re going to fix this and that, let’s make sure they first possess the tools.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.