Not that covering county commission goal-setting retreats is challenging, but Wednesday’s gave me my first real brain block.
When that happens I just ramble. And ramble I will:
– Kinda stinks that the Citrus County Commission “retreat” was held at the Lecanto Government Building, which is uninspiring as the name implies. Past retreats were at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (and no, not in Lu’s “splatterzone”, smarty face).
Many years ago, before any of these commissioners were in office, the retreat took place at the Fort Island Trail Park. The county occupied the former owner’s house as an office, and the meeting was there. It was most enjoyable for us members of the public sitting on the side of the room facing a lengthy picture window, offering spectacular views of the Crystal River.
I’m sure some big goals came out, but all I remember is that view.
Didn’t have that problem Wednesday. Room 166 of LGB is viewless. It’s all business.
– So what is this business? It’s an annual meeting of the county’s board of directors, your commissioners. They set goals for the coming year and years, and talk about why some ideas will work and others might not.
It’s meant as informal. That’s always the real draw, which is why they’re such a news dog. Who wants to write about grownups enjoying coffee and dessert talking about current events around the dining room table? That’s the county commission retreat in a nutshell.
I know you hate when I do this, but it’s IMPORTANT they all learn to get along, joke, poke fun at each other, debate without getting personal. I still see a lot of 3-2 votes with this board but that’s OK so long as they stick to their jobs. Retreats help set the tone for that.
–Speaking of their jobs, Commissioner Holly Davis thinks the county should hire a contractor to help the county with its p.r. This is a very interesting idea and one that shouldn’t be immediately dismissed, as I did when she first floated the idea to me a few weeks ago.
Davis made a case that the county commission does not message well with the public. This is no shade on public information officer Veronica Kampschroer, who is a star in my book and a first-ballot inductee into the Lindsay Blair PIO Hall of Fame.
But golly is she right. Davis used by example Wednesday the stormwater fee, which the public rightly hated for a lot of reasons. One was they just didn’t understand it. Folks got official looking government stuff in the mail that explained everything in an efficient government way, but most people don’t talk that way.
Better messaging wouldn’t have made the sting hurt less, but at least folks would have an idea why it was important.
Commissioner Scott Carnahan pushed back. He repeatedly said it’s HIS job to respond to the public, not a consultant’s.
Two things about that:
But Davis’s idea is one worth a closer look and it made the day’s priority list. I’ll get into this another time, but there were about five examples during the retreat that pointed to the exact thing Davis is talking about. Numerous times commissioners said, “We explained it to people but they still didn’t get it. Wonder why?”
– Heard two great quotes. One was from Carnahan, who opposed using social media to get the word out on county issues.
“I think social media is the devil,” he said.
The other came from Kitchen during a discussion on an idea Davis has to help the homeless and disadvantaged. Kitchen didn’t like the idea because of its potential cost.
He said: “I have a well deserved reputation for being heartless and cruel.”
Even for a commissioner known for his thrifty ways, that’s a rather pointed self-assessment.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.