One thing about government writing is we don’t get a whole lot of feel-good stories.
Government reporters deal with statistics and politics and terms like ad valorem. We cover the ribbon cutting of sewer plants. We know more about reapportionment than humans should.
So when one, or even two, good ones come along it’s time to celebrate.
And that’s how I’m feeling about Library Director Eric Head.
It's just so darn cool to see good things happen to good people, especially when their reputation and livelihood has been sullied so publicly as our friend Eric Head has endured these last few years.
In case you missed it, Eric is in line Tuesday to be named director of the Department of Community Services. The person who had that job, Mariselle Rodriguez, was named assistant county administrator.
More about Mariselle in a minute. But I’ll say: If this is how new Administrator Steve Howard judges the talent who works for him, we’re off to a pretty good start.
I’m not going to go through Eric’s resume, but this is a man who has faced trials and tribulations, none of his own doing, and came out both times as a beacon of how to behave under pressure.
Briefly, for our newcomer Citrus Countians:
Eric grew up in the libraries. His mother was librarian in Homosassa (that’s Eric’s mom in the picture with her son) and that’s where he spent most afternoons during the school year. I’ve never met a more enthusiastic librarian. And that enthusiasm rubs off on staffers and volunteers who work tirelessly making Citrus County libraries the envy across Florida.
The library was just, you know, a library until October 2019 when the county commission voted down a $7,000 digital subscription to the New York Times that could be accessed by library card holders. That decision hurled our little slice of paradise into a virtual reality world, with commissioners receiving hundreds of rather unflattering correspondence from across the country for weeks on end.
Eric was caught in the middle of something that shouldn’t have taken more than 30 seconds to approve. He had commissioners saying what a wonderful job he’s doing, while in the same breath criticizing him for trying to bring that "fake news" into our conservative community.
Then this last year with the Library Guy Gang saying all sorts of ugly things about Eric, the all-volunteer library board, and staffers. Eric never flinched. He took the hit for his people knowing that truth would win out eventually.
We had a few chats during those times, just a few quiet moments, and he shared the discouragement of hard-working people targeted by citizens who believed lies told by hate groups. How did Citrus ever get in the middle of that mess?
But you know something? The library people never flinched either. Those folks showed up at county commission meetings in their yellow “Friends” T-shirts, ready to do battle for the sake of free speech and the library. They followed their leader’s vision and that’s why those bullies went home with nothing.
And if ever there’s the job to be battle tested, it’s director of Community Services. While all county departments are overseen by true pros, it’s the community services department that deals with what I call real people. Almost all divisions under community services serve citizens who need these programs as part of their quality of life.
Some, but not all: animal shelter, senior services, Nature Coast Center, veteran’s services, parks and recreation and, of course, libraries. The community services director is someone who really knows his/her stuff but also communicates well and can smile during difficult times.
That leads me, briefly, to Mariselle Rodriguez. I say briefly because Mariselle doesn’t want the attention. We have a good natured agreement: I promise to keep her name out of the blog as much as I can and, well, that’s the end of the agreement. Mariselle is the consummate professional public servant and Citrus County is most fortunate to have her on the payroll.
Someone said it best when reacting to my Facebook post Wednesday about Eric’s promotion:
“There are really more good things about our community than bad. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of that.”
Have a great Thursday, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.