Volusia Politics: The Ties that Bind and Divide Us

When I was a kid they used to play horror movies on Saturday nights at the old Number 1 Drive-In theater in South Daytona.  They were the worst of the worst – poorly produced splatter films with names like “Blood Feast” and “Gore Girls” that drew you in with ingenious marketing strategies such as, “Absolutely no one will be seated during the last five minutes of this film!”

They weren’t so much frightening as they were revolting – the more nauseating the better.

Teenaged girls would squeal and snuggle close to their boyfriends, while us younger kids covered our eyes and peeked out through spaces in our fingers at the macabre scenes of violence and gore on that grainy big screen, all of us knowing full-well we wouldn’t sleep for a week.

You don’t see those movies anymore.  I guess the public has come to the conclusion that everyday life in 2016 will produce much more gut-churning terror on any given day than any low-budget spleen-eating necrophiliac can muster.

Besides, any adult found bringing impressionable children to those films today would be labeled and hauled-off to an insane asylum by the authorities.

Invariably, our ride home from the drive-in would involve speculative discussions of how the filmmakers delivered the on-screen special effects, “I heard they use chicken blood or something, and that looked like calf’s liver to me,” as a means of reinforcing that what we had witnessed was “just a movie.”

Sort of like during election years when we drag out that tired old saw, “There is more that unites us than divides us.”

I suppose it’s something of a feel-good salve for the blood sport of modern politics, where candidates – especially at the federal level – essentially engage month-after-month in publicly and mechanically disemboweling their opponents on the national stage.

You know, the old – “At the end of the day, we’re all one people” maxim – which is somehow intended to let us know that the horror we’ve just witnessed for the past year is somehow “okay.”

“We are all human beings here.  We’re not cannibals for Christ sake!  At the end of the day, we’re all one people.  Right?”


This morning I read an excellent piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal by Tony Jarmusz, “Beach driving divides Volusia County chair candidates.”

In describing his take-away from yesterday’s Tiger Bay Club debate, Mr. Jarmusz writes:

“Gathered Thursday for the first time in a public forum, founder and chairman of Let Volusia Vote Greg Gimbert and Orange City Mayor Tom Laputka voiced die-hard support of protecting beach driving rights. Incumbent Jason Davis and Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley were more open to economic development on Volusia’s shores, even if it curtailed some driving.

While I agree with Tony’s take, I feel the differences separating these candidates go far, far deeper than beach driving.

Now, I have made no secret of the fact that I wholeheartedly support Greg Gimbert’s candidacy for Volusia County chair.  While I don’t know Tom Laputka from Adam’s housecat, I do know that Greg embodies the character, energy and visionary leadership that we need working for us in Deland.

In my view, the fact that Jason “I didn’t run for the money” Davis has the shameless gall to ask Volusia County voters to even consider a second term is, in my mind, lunacy – real deep-seated psychological stuff.

There is a pathology that afflicts certain people that makes them believe in their own mind that they have something to say.  I should know – I’ve suffered from it for years, but I just pass the symptoms off as my own guttural arrogance. . .

In Chairman Davis’ case, he has schlepped through the worst term of elective service in the history of Volusia County government – and trust me – that’s a hard won accomplishment considering some of the winners we’ve elected to county office.

Jason Davis’ political faults and foibles are legendary – and to rehash them here just seems redundant.  Suffice it to say that he started his political career as an “every man” who emerged from the grassroots to claim high office from a passel of insiders – then slowly transformed into everything he hated.

About the same time that he started wearing that weird Akubra hat, speaking in ridiculous soundbites and standing in rank support of Jim Dinneen’s mean-spirited leadership style, he lost most folks.

We realized he wasn’t who – or what – he said he was.

To no one’s surprise he supported the county’s efforts to give even more of our beachfront to speculative developers and did whatever it took to quash the Let Volusia Vote referendum denying citizen’s involvement in the future of their beach.

Including suing his own constituents.

The rich and powerful insiders privately considered him a rube and a buffoon who could be controlled by his ego, while the rest of us just stood by in utter disbelief that our Hobson’s choice ignored our interests and joined lock-step with Dinneen’s cockeyed “vision” of what’s best for us.

In fact, his only original thoughts were those hare-brained, get-rich-quick schemes he concocted at the expense of the rest of us.

Remember the great “Reef Balls” suggestion for cleaning-up Mosquito Lagoon?

How about Jason’s one-man-band act in Washington when he went behind everyone’s back and used the county’s lobbying firm to set up meetings with DeSantis, Mica, Nelson and Rubio to discuss his plan to extend Sunrail service to Deland?

(To their credit, the politicians in Washington dodged Davis like the plague and he was whipped like a snake when he returned home.)

And who can forget when he thought we would believe that unnamed “citizens” suggested he receive a $34,000 pay raise and be given the ability to render tie-breaking votes in private?

As I recall, the News-Journal reported that most of his fellow elected officials laughed maniacally in his face, while others called it a blatant attempt at “kingdom building.”

Regardless, this half-bright has had his bite at the apple.  His abysmal lack of leadership and consistently clueless reaction to the serious issues facing Volusia County tells you all you need to know about Mr. Davis’ prospects for a second term.

As regular readers of this forum know, I have written extensively on my thoughts on Ed Kelley, the perennial Ormond Beach politician who, in my view, is a hardcore shill for big time developers.

Unless you’ve paid for the privilege, Ed really doesn’t care what you think – because he doesn’t have to.

You don’t have enough money or sway to matter.

If I give him credit for anything – Ed tells you where he stands right up front.  If elected, Ed Kelley will sell your beach to the highest bidder so fast you’ll never even know what happened.  If he has proven anything, Ed will not hesitate to use the full force and power of government to the advantage of his influential friends and campaign contributors whenever, and wherever, there is a buck to be made.

And he does not give a damn if you like it or not.

In my view, the County Chair race is perhaps the most important local contest of the season.

While I don’t know Mr. Laputka, in my view, Greg Gimbert’s qualifications are clear.  Through his advocacy, Greg has proven that he cares about the citizens of Volusia County – not just the political powerbrokers who think nothing of dumping thousands of dollars in personal and corporate donations to buy easy access and influence.

I have seen his strong, collaborative leadership and unique ability to build consensus from differing viewpoints.  Perhaps most important, I have been impressed by his deep sense of civic pride and personal commitment to the highest ideals of the public service.

When Greg Gimbert tells you something – you can believe it.

Unlike some of his opponents Greg knows that character counts, and his impressive public service and activism has been marked by ethical leadership, accessibility, and a deep concern for the future of Volusia County.

Whenever a politician tells me that he’s in the fray out of concern for the legacy we are creating for our children, I know his heart and mind are in the right place.

It’s just one of the reasons I support Greg Gimbert’s candidacy for Volusia County chair – and why you should too.


(Photo Credit: Daytona Beach News-Journal)









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