I was raised in a household of strong women.
Not lumberjack strong, but strong character. Opinionated, take-charge, no-time-like-the-moment type women. Career-oriented but also loving wives and mothers.
Women who make stuff happen.
I was with these women over the weekend in Detroit for the wedding of my goddaughter/niece, Heather. My sisters have raised bright, confident women who are raising bright, confident children of their own.
The other night I mentioned to Heather’s mom, Eileen, that here in Citrus County four women are about to join the five-member county commission back home.
Without hesitating, she said: “Watch out! Things are going to get done.”
Indeed. Big things are about to get done.
What an extraordinary, historic day in Citrus County. Not only are we welcoming two new commissioners, the board makeup will consist of four women and one man, Jeff Kinnard.
Women commissioners are rare. Commissioner Holly Davis noted on my blog Monday that, counting newcomers Rebecca Bays and Diana Finegan, there have been just eight women commissioners ever and four will be serving at one time.
We’ve had pairs of women commissioners, but men have always held the majority. Until now.
Many people have inquired in recent weeks how all this is going to work out. This is my answer: Spectacularly.
I cannot recall being so hopeful going into a county commission swearing-in ceremony. These last two years have been dreadful on a number of points, the biggest one being the public’s confidence in county government is running low. Citizens who see in-fighting and poor leadership on the county hierarchy think that’s the way things are everywhere.
The opposite happens when people see leadership and cohesive teamwork. Doesn’t mean everyone agrees. It means commissioners, their staff and the public have dialogue about solving the community’s challenges.
I’m absolutely expecting that of this commission. We should demand it. There’s no reason why, with this exceptional balance on the county commission, we don’t reach for the sky.
Ruthie Davis Schlabach will become just the third female chair in Citrus County. When she looks to the right, Clerk of Courts Angela Vick will be sitting nearby. To her left are County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn and Acting County Administrator Mariselle Rodriguez (another unheralded outstanding public servant).
I spoke with four commissioners (left a voice message with one) and told each how excited I am for Citrus County. No-nonsense women working toward goals are a force to be reckoned with and this guy is ready for it.
—Jeff Kinnard is odd man in, so to speak. He’s also the perfect male commissioner for this role. Kinnard is respectful, was taught manners and uses them, will push his issues without being pushy or rude. Expect Kinnard to be exactly as we’ve seen the last two years: Listening to what others have to say and working toward compromise.
Kinnard is stoked about this new board and also is expecting great things.
— There’s a fine line between campaigning and governing. One day you’re looking for votes and the next day you’re trying to solve the Inverness Villages road debacle.
That line isn’t always crossed automatically. What I mean is this: Sometimes it takes new commissioner a while to stop campaigning. Commissioners, particularly in a tight campaign, will keep up some element of the political speeches even after they’ve taken the oath.
Let’s not be surprised if it happens. Finegan has said things on the campaign trail that were critical of both Schlabach and Davis, and some of that may carry over into office. For what it’s worth, I tend to ignore most of that. A new commissioner’s campaign is in the rear view mirror; what matters now are votes and policy.
— I’m told there are men who want these women to fail for various reasons. If you’re one, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. These commissioners deserve nothing but our encouragement and support unless they give us a reason not to.
I purposely shortened my first vacation in over a year to be home for Tuesday’s county commission meeting, to see Bays and Finegan take office and Schlabach get the gavel.
Strong, successful women are about to grab majority on the county commission and this guy can hardly wait. Big things are about to get done.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.