Write about Citrus County local government for 35 years, you’d think I’ve seen it all.
Then I have Cindi Guy and Ken Frink sitting across the table at Cattle Dog, and realize the learning never stops.
Cindi is a Crystal River city councilwoman. Ken is the Crystal River city manager.
Cindi is also Ken’s fiancee.
And Ken is Cindi’s fiance.
You read that correctly. The city manager is dating a councilwoman.
They’ve been an item since 2021, three years after Cindi was elected to office and a year into Frink’s contract as city manager.
I was hoping for some strange governmental love-at-first-sight thing.
“You had me at ‘comprehensive plan!’” Cindi would say.
Turns out it was something far more human.
Cindi ran for office in 2018 based on a poor interaction with the then-city manager. That happens frequently — someone’s personal experience with local government spurs their wanting to do things differently.
She defeated an incumbent and joined the city council only to find that the longtime members weren’t too keen on the upstart. It was rough going for Councilwoman Guy.
The manager eventually resigned and in 2019 the council went looking for his replacement. The finalists included Frink, a Crystal River High School grad and former assistant county administrator.
The applicants had round-robin interviews with each council member. When Cindi interviewed Frink, she explained the challenge of trying to get things done.
Frink jumped up and grabbed her hands, looking her in the eye promising to help bridge the differences on the council if she chose him as manager.
That stayed with her.
The council hired Frink and all was routine for a while.
Then tragedy. Cindi’s son, Carson, was killed Aug. 23, 2020 on U.S. 19 by a wrong-way driver. At the funeral home, Ken and Cindi’s eyes met, filled with tears. In her darkest moments, Cindi found comfort with Ken.
Ken was going through a divorce when it became obvious that he and Cindi were more than friends. The manager notified Mayor Joe Meek and the other council members and no one seemed to raise a fuss.
This is apparently not news in Crystal River. Several months ago someone sent me a note, asking whether it was proper.
I had never heard of such a thing so I asked around. Turns out Cindi had removed herself from voting on Ken’s job evaluation or pay raises, and I couldn’t think of a single reason why this was a conflict other than, well gosh golly, logic says it is.
That alone wasn’t enough to write about it. Who am I to raise trouble when city taxpayers didn’t see an issue?
The happy government couple also ran it by the city attorney, who said it wasn’t a conflict of interest for the city manager and councilwoman to date.
“Just don’t get married,” the lawyer said.
If the city manager marries a council member, one of them has to resign. That’s what the lawyer told them.
Ken and Cindi announced their engagement in February and are planning a Caribbean island wedding in August. Cindi is expected to hand in her resignation to the city council just before then.
I don’t know Cindi that well but I see a change in Ken. We go back many years in his roles with county government.
I told him Wednesday: “I like you a lot better as Crystal River city manager than county public works director.”
Ken agreed. He is happy and content. He is a man with purpose, a woman at his side.
The city manager. The councilwoman. They found love at City Hall.
Talk about strategic planning.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.