We had a little weather the other day.
A week ago Tuesday we all went to bed with visions of hurricane cones in our heads. Wednesday morning was a relief for most in Citrus County, but the trouble was just starting in Crystal River.
Flood waters from a 7-foot storm surge combined with high tide brought kayak-only traffic to U.S. 19. I’m sure for those residents and business owners, the images of life’s belongings underwater are now planted in their souls.
But here’s the thing about a disaster, such as Hurricane Idalia was to Crystal River’s neighborhoods and businesses. That’s when true selfless leadership rises to the top.
Such as what we’re seeing from Mayor Joe Meek.
I realize tons of people in this community rushed to the aid of their neighbors last Wednesday. Over 100 people were rescued from their flooded homes by various government agencies, and who knows how many others were rescued simply by a guy down the street with an airboat.
Many other emergency professionals, both at the EOC and on the road, got us through the rough days and nights.
As mentioned last week, I monitored numerous Facebook pages at one time on Wednesday, including Mayor Joe’s. His page was (and still is) extremely active with up-to-date information tailored to Crystal River.
Joe at first brought video messages from his car about the pending storm. He spoke openly of the tide and potential impacts. When the flood waters came, he reported on video by airboat down Citrus Avenue.
(I mean…c’mon Crystal River…that’s a MAYOR!)
As the waters receded, Joe made sure the city went right into recovery mode, even as City Hall itself had so much flood damage it had to move operations. But where?
Chamber president Josh Wooten was way ahead. He quickly offered the chamber Welcome Center on U.S. 19, made sure the county was OK with that as well since it’s a shared chamber-county arrangement, and went to work with his extraordinary staff making that place ready for government business.
Joe announced Tuesday on Facebook that the temporary makeshift city hall in the chamber office is now open. Got that? City Hall, flooded in the hurricane storm surge, is able to move its business operations in just one week.
And then there was Sunday.
You may have heard our governor was in Crystal River on Sunday. Anyone with anything to do with Crystal River splashed it all over Facebook, as they should.
I learned about it the same way most folks did — Joe’s Facebook page. To say I was unhappy that the governor toured Crystal River with the mayor on a fine Sunday afternoon and I was unaware of his visit, is not only an understatement it’s as under a statement as one could be. Livid is more like it. Questioning my existence. I mean…jeez, this is what I do.
One conclusion I'm fairly certain about. The governor’s people told his hosts to keep it quiet. Can’t understand why a guy running for president wouldn’t want to be seen helping people, but he doesn’t ask my opinion.
That means my friend Joe knew the governor was coming for a visit and didn’t mention it.
What he did was continue to post updates on his Facebook page with encouraging messages. Regardless of your opinion of Ron DeSantis, to have him visit Crystal River for a couple of hours while the city is in early recovery mode and spend the time walking through the city with its mayor, it had to make folks feel they’re not alone.
“Governor Ron DeSantis spent almost 2 hours today touring Crystal River with me,” Joe posted, along with several photos of the governor, including the one with today’s blog. “He saw and understands first hand the issues Crystal River is going through, and I’m grateful for his time and help in rebuilding our great city. Our citizens were energized by his visit. We will be stronger than ever, let’s get to work!”
How can you not be inspired by a mayor like that?
Crystal River residents have a true leader in office, and they know it. If Mayor Joe Meek wanted his city to have private time with the governor, I can’t hold it against him.
Just don’t make a habit of it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.