PART 1 OF 4
Despite protestations from one side, I’ve been reluctant to point out all of Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr.’s failings that make him a poor chairman. In no general order: He talks down to people, he’s terrible at maintaining decorum despite his demands that others do, and his sarcasm borders on downright meanness.
Commissioners Holly Davis and Ruthie Davis Schlabach both feel bullied by Kitchen on occasion. His demeanor does not encourage healthy debate. Kitchen doesn’t play fair and he repeatedly brings up issues he’s already lost (animal shelter comes to mind) in an attempt to embarrass or harangue other commissioners, particularly Davis and Schlabach.
He is constantly playing gotcha with people he considers adversaries, and that’s practically anyone who disagrees with him. Kitchen brags that he doesn’t talk to the chamber of commerce, builders alliance or the Chronicle.
Still, despite all that, I was ready to give Kitchen a pass after Davis’s seemingly unsuccessful attempt last week to block Kitchen from assuming the chairman’s gavel on Nov. 30, as is customary for the vice chairman, which Kitchen now is. I give Davis a lot of credit for facing the Chairman Kitchen issue publicly rather than just bury it, but I figured once aired, it was done and best to move on to tackle the many issues on their plate.
And then on Friday I saw an email that changed things.
“I also want to thank Commissioner Ron Kitchen for nominating me to the Library Advisory Board,” the email reads. “Unfortunately none of the other commissioners supported my nomination, so I was not appointed, which means the overwhelmingly liberal board will remain overwhelmingly liberal for now. I hope the lack of support from the rest of the commission doesn’t mean they believe having just one conservative on the nine-member advisory board is more than enough in a county like Citrus.”
The email author? Library Guy.
I read that and thought, holy cow. Kitchen is Library Guy’s hero. That’s fine, weird as it is. But it also means that come January, Library Guy’s hero will be county commission chairman when four of the library advisory board’s nine positions are up for appointment.
Library Guy is the former Miami-Dade public official fired for airing his offensive views about LGBTs. Since moving to Inverness he’s set his hateful eyes on the Citrus County Library System and its director, Eric Head.
Library Guy craves publicity so you won’t see his name here.
Besides, this isn’t about Library Guy. It’s about his favorite commissioner and the likelihood he’ll be named board chairman later this month.
I spoke politics with someone last week for whom I have a great deal of respect. He told me being county commission chairman was no big deal and not worth any fuss.
At first I agreed with his reasoning. But after reflection over the weekend, I decided it was worth spending a few days talking about it.
I’m breaking this into four parts, starting with this one. The next three:
Tuesday: What went down with Library Guy
Wednesday: Does chairman really matter? Heck yeah!
Thursday: Protocol only matters when you want it.
I’m going to be very clear. Just Wright Citrus blogs are based on my research, observations, insight (if any), experience and speaking with actual humans who are in the middle of it. I’m not advocating any side here at all. Yes, Kitchen and I have had our differences and he hasn’t spoken an on-the-record word to me in about two years. That’s totally on him. I've reached out several times hoping for a breakthrough and been met with silence each time.
(And the door is still open, Commissioner Kitchen.)
I know there are a lot of anti-Kitchen people out there. And there are many, many who buy into his no-tax-increase-ever-ever-unless-it’s-something-really-small-or-we-call-it-a-fee-then-it’s-OK way of thinking.
One of five on the board is one thing, holding the gavel is something else.
Kitchen always says the county should not fear scrutiny because it only proves they’re doing something right or not. Well, let’s try that a little this week.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.