Truth: In over three decades following Citrus County politics, I’ve never run into a commissioner like Holly Davis.
I have her email string this week. It’s enlightening, to say the least.
If Holly has time, she will answer each email, ESPECIALLY the critical ones, with the argumentative force one expects from an attorney. Or someone who really wants to prove a point.
This is SO RARE of commissioners. I mean, the public calls them out all the time for their votes and positions on stuff.
I’m not saying other commissioners don’t answer criticism and try to sway someone’s point of view. Of course, they do.
Not like this.
It’s the library issue, of course. The American Library Association membership and the predictable vitriol that came with it.
The anti-library crowd is struggling for public attention and acceptance, figuring this ALA thing was a winner. Well, yes and no. The community outcry in favor of ALA and the county libraries was so overwhelming that it can’t feel like a win.
Holly is the lightning rod commissioner on the topic. And, to her credit, she’s earned it.
Her email response to one citizen included this observation on the Inverness man who’s stirring the pot:
“This person has been a cancer on the soul of our county since June 2021, when two weeks after moving here, started whistling a gaslighting tune to entice his flock to follow him.”
“Cancer on the soul of our county.” That’s pretty direct. No misunderstanding of the commissioner’s opinion on this particular person.
A few called for her resignation.
One email read: “We will graciously accept your sincere apology for your derogatory remarks about our motives. If you do not wish to apologize we will be as gracious accepting your resignation.”
Instead of backing down, Holly doubled down.
“Were you in chambers to hear my remarks in full? Or if not, have you pulled up the meeting video to listen to them that way?”
And it goes from there.
“A recent transplant with a sketchy past is creating controversy on the backs of taxpayers with lies and misdirection for his own personal gain. We do not have drag queen story hour, nor will we ever. There are policies already in place to prevent this.”
What I like about this is it’s direct. Again, no foolin’ around. Whether you agree with Holly’s take or not, the approach is refreshing.
That said, most commissioners will avoid public confrontation except to score political points, and this would seem to have the opposite effect so I doubt that’s Holly’s motivation.
Holly wants to convince people she’s right, or at least understand her point of view. That’s a slippery slope. On one hand, it’s fair for her to expect the public to have its facts right before making assumptions. On the other, a commissioner risks alienating herself from the public by focusing so much on those inside baseball details.
Three final thoughts:
— The word “courage” is way overused by politicians who believe they deserve applause for doing their jobs. Courage is rare, for it means leadership in the face of overwhelming opposition.
No offense to commissioners past and present, but no one comes to mind. You’re all courageous just for serving and I mean that.
Standing up to ugly, though, takes some stones because the other side doesn’t play fair. Doing it publicly and directly draws a line in the sand for all to see. Holly’s gone where few commissioners venture.
— Politically, it is difficult to tell how this shakes out in 2024. Holly hasn’t announced her re-election plans but she is sensitive to any suggestion that she’s not a conservative Republican.
Overall, not a good idea for any incumbent to be bickering with a constituency. Because this particular, um, cause has nothing to hang its hat on, it’s possible they’ll flail away in 2024 against Holly hoping to find something that resonates beyond their narrow borders.
— The risk is saying too much. Simple. More she talks, the more opportunities for an opponent to pounce. This is Holly’s biggest challenge. She always seems on the precipice of saying something that’ll be quoted on the front page of the paper, infuriating groups of people.
I’ve made a lifetime of studying the political habits of Citrus County commissioners. Commissioner Holly Davis gets her own wing.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.