Last week, my best friend of over 50-years and I lit out for the territory on a great adventure to explore the incredible beauty of the low country sea islands and marshland between North Myrtle Beach and Jekyll Island – with stops to enjoy the rich history of Charleston and Savannah.
A wonderful trip.
Trust me, the comparison between the vacation destinations of Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach wasn’t lost on me.
The similarities are unmistakable – and the differences in the way the two entities have dealt with the unique challenges of an aging beachside tourist community are equally striking.
I hope to bring you some observations on that later in the week.
They say, “You can’t make old friends.” That’s true.
I haven’t gotten a lot right in my life, but having the privilege of a lifelong friend is something I consider more important than gold.
Friendships are vital because they require that you put selfish needs aside and elevate another person’s feelings and interests above your own. And when someone reciprocates that generosity of spirit – you have the foundation for something very special.
The effort required to build trust and cultivate a true friendship can’t help but teach you something deeply important about yourself – and the subtle, esoteric things that make life so rich and rewarding.
Professional relationships are important too – especially when you serve in the public interest.
Last week, I read an interesting article by the intrepid Lyda Longa, writing for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, regarding the escalating feud between our new Sheriff Michael Chitwood and County Manager Jim Dinneen.
Well, that didn’t take long.
I know something about both of these incredibly strong personalities, and I can assure you, this spat isn’t going away anytime soon.
During my working life, I had several occasions to interact with Sheriff Chitwood during his tenure as Chief of Police for the City of Daytona Beach.
I found him to be incredibly passionate, hardworking, and someone who kept his own counsel.
However, as chief of the second largest agency in the county, in my view, he didn’t take the time to develop professional relationships with his colleagues in the local law enforcement community.
I hope that changes now that he holds all the cards.
Many police department’s in Volusia County rely on the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office for specialized equipment and services – such as SWAT, K-9 and explosive ordinance disposal.
To his credit, Ben Johnson was incredibly open, cooperative, and supportive – always willing to lend personnel and resources in support of law enforcement operations, regardless of jurisdiction.
I am sure the nagging question among area police chief’s right now is what level of cooperation they can expect from our new sheriff.
And that’s a legitimate concern.
It’s no secret that Sheriff Chitwood and I have had our differences – never personal, always professional.
When big egos work in close proximity, there will naturally be the occasional jurisdictional argument or difference of opinion. I have always felt the honest debate of competing views makes for good public policy – and I know Sheriff Chitwood does too.
But it also helps to have a strong, collegial, relationship as well.
Let’s face it, Mike has the work ethic of the Amish. He truly loves the law enforcement profession – and the men and women who pin on the badge and serve in an incredibly difficult and dangerous environment.
Most important – he leads from the front. I respect that.
However, I also know that he can be extremely unforgiving with those who cross him – something he will need to work on going forward.
Clearly, Sheriff Chitwood is not afraid to mix it up, or challenge the status quo, to get the best possible results.
In my view, our new Sheriff’s passion, strength of character, and strong leadership will serve all of us well as he takes the agency to new levels of professionalism and service delivery.
Now, Sheriff Chitwood is coming to the difficult realization that his authority – and independence – as a duly-elected official is purposely limited by the strict provisions of the County’s home rule charter.
This puts his progressive programs and aggressive crime fighting plans at the mercy of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on the historically dysfunctional County Council – and worse yet – subject to the petty-minded machinations of Little Jimmy Dinneen.
Regardless of your thoughts on the merits of the charter, in my view, the elected High Sheriff shouldn’t be required to come before Dinneen and the council with his hat in hand every time he needs to fund a project.
In a very telling aspect of this mounting dust-up, Sheriff Chitwood described how, in 2010, he learned that Mr. Dinneen attempted to have him fired from the City of Daytona Beach after the now infamous exchange in which he referred to then Sheriff Johnson as a “moron” during a dispute over a county anti-theft ordinance.
This weasel-shit behavior by a political hack like Jim Dinneen is eerily familiar.
You see, in 2013, Dinneen called my former boss to make issue of the fact that a police vehicle I was driving for official business had been paid for with Community Redevelopment funds.
Perfectly appropriate, given the policing provisions of the CRA – and our focus on problem-solving initiatives in the Ridgewood Avenue commercial corridor.
Mr. Dinneen demanded that I – as chief of police – find another vehicle to operate while on-duty.
Naturally, my immediate reaction was to ask Mr. Dinneen to mind his own fucking business – and I expressed this sentiment to my city manager.
After all, why would the county manager pee on my rug?
I was the little guy in the sandbox – I couldn’t help him, or hurt him, if I wanted.
So why rough me up just because you can?
At the end of the day, I’m not sure it ended the way Jimmy intended.
You see, my wife, Patti – in her own inimitable way – immediately made a series of targeted public record requests for information relating to the cost of Mr. Dinneen’s office renovations – and the ugly (and as yet fully explained) theft of his county-issued SUV during which his golf clubs were stolen.
After that, the whole tempest in a teapot just seemed to evaporate.
It seems Little Jimmy didn’t want to answer the type of questions my wife was asking – and he backstroked faster than Michael Phelps – later claiming the issue had been brought by an unidentified county council member – and assuring that he wouldn’t presume to tell me what vehicle I should drive. . .
At least that’s what I was told.
Still, I never received an apology for his outrageous bullying.
Now, I can assure you this, the one thing you will never find in Sheriff Chitwood’s issued vehicle is a set of golf clubs. . .
To hear Mr. Dinneen tell it – the confrontations that Chitwood so intricately described to the News-Journal – well, never happened.
“I told him about the past and he said if this is going to work, we have to work together,” Chitwood said. “I had to let him know that I’m not going to sit in the sandbox and play nicely with everybody. I’m gonna do what’s best for my deputies.”
Said Dinneen: “I would never allow anyone to lecture me like that. He never said those words to me ever, I would have taken offense to it.”
Hummmmm. . .
Jim Dinneen just called Sheriff Chitwood a bald-faced liar.
The gauntlet has been thrown.
The tale of the tape?
Mike Chitwood has proven that he tells the truth. Even when it hurts.
Conversely, Jimmy Dinneen will lie to us when the truth would serve him better.
This is going to be an interesting Battle Royale.
Love him or hate him, despite his sharp-edges, Sheriff Chitwood is a highly driven, alpha personality with a proven track record of serving honorably in the public interest.
In my view, Jim Dinneen is a mean-spirited asshole with a God complex who has proven – time-and-again – that he best serves the self-interests of a few well-connected insiders above those of his constituents every time – all the time.
In this Clash of the Titans, my moneys on Mike.