Someone reached out Thursday to have a chat. Nothing special, just ideas he wanted to toss about and wondered if I’d be interested to listen.
This isn’t someone I know. We may have met but I’m not sure. He’s a Just Wright Citrus reader and interested in local politics.
Converse we will and, perhaps, a blog will follow.
I want to say this while I’m thinking of it: My observation is that personal discourse has risen considerably recently and folks like my new friend are really zeroing in on what’s happening around here.
Here’s what I mean:
It’s been a few weeks and I let the county commissioner email lapse. The random commission email usually provides a decent picture of what citizens are expressing to their county government. Some are commissioner-specific but most aren't.
The batch I grabbed came from Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach who as we know has been out on medical leave and not answering emails. It came from last week, so it was after the hurricane but before the board meeting where they took the American Library Association vote.
Now, as you know I’ve sort of steered somewhat clear from this particular library debate. Some things are worth the fight. This seemed like one where someone wanted a fight just to fight, and the wiser course is to avoid that for another day.
Which was generally the county’s view. Once it blew it up, the administration simply said, “OK, we’re not doing that,” and end of story.
Citizens, though, they’re not thrilled. Other than the handful who said get rid of the ALA, I saw a ton of emails to Commissioner Schlabach that in straightforward, non-nonsense manner laid out to commissioners exactly what’s going on.
— “I am trusting that you see…inaccurate and misleading remarks for what they are, a self-serving attempt to incite fear and anger, to disparage our diligent and highly professional staff, to create his own lobbying career out of the seeds of discontent he offers, without any regard for the truth.”
— “Let’s support our librarians. Let’s call out those who malign them with imported and sinister falsehoods.”
— “I am very concerned that a small group of extremists, led by someone who cynically feeds their unfounded fears, is changing policy regarding how our libraries are run. I am even more concerned that our County Commissioners seem willing to do whatever this…small group of extremists say to do.”
— “I am disturbed that he who screams the loudest gets all the attention.”
You know what I like about all those comments? They indicate a sense of community standing up for itself.
I’ve been writing for nearly two years about outside upstarts trying to make somethin’ out of nothin’. And I know there are many Just Wright Citrus readers who feel the same way because you’re rather upfront about it, as we should be.
It’s encouraging after yet more library talk to see such direct reaction from citizens to their commissioners. It suggests leaders are on the rise, regular folk who realize their well-reasoned voices resonate.
Earlier Thursday I took a drive out to the end of Turner Camp Road at the Withlacoochee River. Hadn’t been there for some time, and for some reason it’s one of my calm spots. No more than a five-minute visit to breathe and appreciate a slice of Citrus County beauty.
Later, I wandered down to the Train Station on Thursday evening for a Leadership Citrus event. I’m a member of the 2004 class (best class ever). It was a chance to get together and to recruit future leaders, which is what this program is designed to do.
Speaking with one such recruit, I told her that I had been a Chronicle reporter for many years before joining Leadership Citrus, so there wasn’t a whole lot in this county I hadn’t seen.
But to spend time in fellowship with others who are also exploring their views of the Citrus County world was a real eye-opener. For one, I didn’t realize how much I lacked confidence until my Leadership Citrus classmates pointed it out to me, and then went about fixing me for the better. I’ll never forget it. Someday I’ll tell that story.
Hanging with these folks Thursday evening just warmed my soul. We have such a wonderful, caring, insightful community. We help others and we’re not afraid to take on the tough stuff. We are not alone in our mission.
The agitators are going to agitate. Have at it. I’ll stand with Citrus County’s leaders. They’re everywhere.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.