It’s Wednesday so let’s talk about Commissioner Jeff Kinnard.
Kinnard filed his paperwork Tuesday at the supervisor of elections office signaling a re-election campaign in 2024. He’ll be seeking his third four-year term, which we rarely see around here.
In fact, the late Dennis Damato was the last three-term commissioner. And, bet you didn’t know this: Damato announced in 2016 he wouldn’t run again. His successor that year at the ballot box? Jeff Kinnard.
I realize the rhetoric in Tallahassee is that we the voters want term limits. The truth is, we only want term limits on legislators and those in state government because they are so out of reach of the normal voter.
Term limits on local races? Oh please. What a dumb concept. These commissioners and school board members are our neighbors, friends, colleagues and fellow pickleball players. Last I checked Citrus County voters have no issue bouncing incumbents from office no matter how long they’ve served.
Kinnard caught my attention in 2020 when he was re-elected unopposed — extremely rare for a county commission incumbent (our friend Vicki Phillips was the last unopposed commissioner 16 years prior). Those races usually attract some challengers.
So for someone to sit on that body and get another four years without an opponent — well, that makes a guy like me take notice.
— Kinnard is approachable. What I mean by that is he’s unassuming. You’d never know Jeff’s a commissioner unless he said something. He doesn’t push his way around.
That can be a drawback as well. Lots of people were out of their minds the last two years while Kinnard sat back and did little to stop the Carnahan/Kitchen circus from spinning out of control. I called him out for not standing up to the merciless badgering that Kitchen, in particular, piled on Commissioners Ruthie Davis Schlabach and Holly Davis.
To do otherwise, though, would be against his nature. Kinnard doesn’t jump into the fray unless he can steer the conversation back to something meaningful. While staying on the sidelines politically hung Davis and Schlabach out to flap in the wind, it was probably his most prudent move.
Kinnard knew it was only a matter of time before a change in board makeup was coming and the emotions would simmer down.
— That said, Kinnard asserted his senior role shortly after the changeover in November. He repeatedly reminds commissioners of decisions or directions prior boards have taken so as to not veer off course. He’s fairly pushy about the stuff that’s high on his list. He’s much more engaged with the full board and once on a position, he’ll debate it forcefully but fairly.
What comes to mind recently is the LifeStream Baker Act deal. It’s a big ol’ can of you-know-what right now, but guess who opened it? Kinnard, the mild-mannered commissioner, bucked protocol to push through a decision on something that most people weren’t ready to decide yet.
I wasn’t happy about that and let him know. It’s good we’re having the conversation now, but it still has this quasi-political feel to it as if people who have other agendas are pulling the strings. That may be perception, and you know how we feel about that. Rushing through votes doesn’t help.
(Speaking of votes, check out this clerk's web page that has every single Kinnard vote. For those who truly have no life.)
— Flat out: I just trust the guy. I don’t recall him making up “facts” on the spot to support his cause. The LifeStream episode aside, he plays by the rules. He comes from a good place.
We’ve become friends, particularly this past year, and he’s a faithful Just Wright Citrus reader. It’s not unusual to get texts from Jeff 15 minutes after posting the blog, telling me how wrong I am. I respect his opinion whether or not I agree with it, and he offers me the same courtesy.
After seeing that he filed his re-election paperwork, I sent Jeff a text saying that was the best news I’d heard all day.
Anything can happen between now and November 2024, but the bar is already set in one commission race. And it’s way up there.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.