Here’s a flashback no one enjoys: forgetting homework.
It’s Sunday, beautiful weather, tossing the old pigskin in the yard and your friend who, up until that point, seemed a decent, kind human being, calls out, “Didja get that math homework done?”
And, boink, football goes off your forehead with the realization you’ve not only forgotten the homework, you left the textbook for the homework back in school.
Nothing can be done about it, but now you need a Plan B. Can’t just show up without homework done. Skipping school is out of the question (not that you’re familiar at all). Now what?
I had that flashback Monday afternoon. Buddy had a little mishap on Sunday (he’s all good!), so I was keeping an eye on him Monday morning. I had just settled in to read a batch of weekly County Commission emails — oddly, they weren’t there.
I receive those things like clockwork every Monday morning. Doug Wright, the county commission’s executive assistant, is extraordinarily efficient. My weekly records requests for commissioner emails are routed to Doug, and we keep in constant communication about snafus on either end.
Nothing from Doug. Hmm.
I’ve started this email review during Commissioner Scott Adams’ days, and it turned out to be a huge bonanza. Like everything else, there’s an art to this, and I’ve gotten into certain habits that work really well for Just Wright Citrus.
Here’s what I mean: As a Chronicle reporter, Commissioner emails gave me story ideas. Quite often, the interaction between the county administrator and commissioner is newsworthy. They’re usually talking about something worth 15 inches of news copy.
I could normally count on commissioner emails to give me at least one story a week, sometimes more. Or direction on stories. They also provided some insight into a commissioner’s thinking on a particular topic.
(To all budding local government reporters out there, a wise tip: Your job is to know what the commissioner is going to do before he/she does it. Not the exact vote, but the mannerism he/she carries into each major decision. The best local government reporters can read like a book the politicians they cover.)
When I transitioned from newspaper reporter to independent blogger, I kept up with the commissioner's email requests. That, and attending board meetings in the back row, were basically the only mannerisms I saved from the old days.
Both take on a much different role, however.
For email review as a blogger, I'm not looking for story ideas but rather blog ideas. I’m big on trends. Commission emails are a great way to gauge citizen interest on issues. This is a highly opinionated community, and citizens are not shy about expressing themselves in blunt terms to county commissioners.
(Sometimes a little too blunt. If you make any threatening remarks, even ones you think are funny or not meant to be taken seriously — guess what? It’s taken seriously. I’m not remotely kidding. Threaten an elected official and expect a visit from Sheriff Prendergast’s finest.)
I also enjoy the exchanges commissioners have with citizens. That’s why this ex-parte thing in zoning cases is so infuriating. Citizens send commissioners their heart-felt opinions on the land-use case down the block, and they receive either a form reply or no reply at all.
The commissioners all know I request their emails. I don’t know if others request them as well, or for what purpose.
I recalled talking with Doug a few weeks ago about a change. I decided to add Chairman Holly Davis’ emails to the mix every week instead of simply every five weeks. I did that because Holly regularly interacts with citizens who write to her. Plus, there’s something about chairmen. They tend to attract attention.
Doug and I chatted, and he would have no trouble with the extra email request. All I had to do was file it with the online public records portal.
File it. Oh yeah. Oops. This is one of those things I MEANT to do and never did. Took care of that before Monday ended.
Semi-related, our photo today is of a house under construction. I intended to write about the building department. By the time I realized I wasn’t writing about the building department, it was 7 p.m. — that’s why it’s a house.
And that’s how you get 700 words forgetting the homework.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.