How do you define courage?
Is it in the soldier who saves the lives of his comrades, exposing himself to withering hostile fire while fighting valiantly against all odds?
Is it in the seamstress who defied racial injustice by refusing to sit at the back of the bus, and in doing so, took a brave stand against social oppression everywhere?
Or do we find it in the firefighter who rushes into a burning building to save a life, or the law enforcement officer who willingly goes into harm’s way to protect and serve?
Make no mistake – those actions epitomize personal courage.
Fortunately, for most of us, we will never have our mettle tested to that degree. However, during everyday life, our moral and ethical courage is tested in countless small ways.
How we respond to those challenges when no one is looking defines our character.
This is especially true for those who hold themselves up for high office. The people we elect and appoint to positions of great power and influence over others.
In my professional life, I was often called upon to impart whatever wisdom I accumulated over a long career to young and impressionable police officers who were just starting out in an occupation that requires great physical, mental and ethical strength.
I always tried to explain the importance of making principled decisions – even in the face of crushing criticism or pressure. And I always reinforced the sacrosanct rule of never compromising our oath or sacred honor for anyone.
I also explained to them the importance of their personal appearance and professional bearing.
You see, the uniform will convey command and control just by your physical presence – and everything you do and say will come with the power and authority of your significant role.
And that’s important.
Officers can use their respected position in the community to influence situations in a positive way, to deescalate, lend strength and relevance to the voice of the weak, and resolve issues.
Elected officials can do the same thing.
It’s when we allow our authoritative presence, or a sense of entitlement, to control and feed our ego that things go wrong – when we stop serving others and start indulging the myth of our own self-importance that we become part of the problem.
I think County Councilwoman Heather Post recently got a lesson in the importance personal courage.
In a telling article by the respected reporter Dustin Wyatt in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “After lecture, Post backs off,” we learned the depth to which our elected officials will go to protect the self-serving image of the pack.
It is a classic example of form and appearance over substance – the epitome of all that’s wrong in government and politics.
Self over service, power over progress.
Earlier this month, the City of Daytona Beach approved the expenditure of $400,000 annually for the next four years to support the worthy goal of a homeless shelter in Volusia County.
In furtherance of the city’s admirable leadership in finding solutions to the devastating social, economic, and humanitarian issues of chronic homelessness in the Halifax area, last year Daytona Beach officials established First Step Shelter, Inc. – which includes a diverse board serving as the nonprofit’s voting body.
The board is comprised of several prominent elected and appointed officials, business leaders and others determined to find a compassionate solution to a problem that affects us all.
According to reports, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry said Councilwoman Post, “expressed to him a ‘passion for homelessness’ and told him she ‘wanted to be a part of the solution.”
This led City officials to the unmistakable conclusion that Post wanted to serve outside her position on the county council, and they ultimately appointed her to the board.
Frankly, at the time, I thought Ms. Post’s willingness to breach the divide, drop the arrogance and pretense of county government, and actually work collaboratively with others was admirable.
The fact that a sitting member of the Volusia County Council – a body who has been the single biggest obstruction to substantive progress on the homeless issue – was a refreshing sign of headway.
Unfortunately, in Volusia County politics, no good deed goes unpunished.
At the March 16th county council meeting, Councilwoman Post was set upon by her ‘colleagues’ – taken to the woodshed and publicly flogged like a recalcitrant child for having the temerity to actually see a problem and try to help.
How beneath the haughty, officious place of a majestic member of the Volusia County Council.
After all, these dirty piss-ants at First Step will be crawling before them soon, begging crumbs for their “homeless problem” – how could Post possibly get down on that common level?
According to the News-Journal, “Post said recently she was surprised by the way her fellow council members reacted to the news. But the councilwoman didn’t let her peers know of her March 15 appointment beforehand and County Chair Ed Kelley called that a breach of “unwritten protocol” – especially considering the city’s board will soon ask the county for financial support.”
The attack on Post was joined by the always vicious Deb Denys, the hapless Billie Wheeler, and the unfortunate, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson. Not exactly a phalanx of political courage.
Apparently, Ed Kelley thinks it’s “bad policy” for an elected public servant to step outside their traditional role and lend their experience, passion, leadership and expertise to a problem that has dominated our local landscape, hampered economic development efforts, and contributed to the overall appearance of blight and dilapidation in Volusia County for years.
Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anything less from these cowardly shitheels.
Unfortunately, rather than find the strength of character to stand-up to the contemptuous bullies sitting with her on the dais, Post began this weird dance between the truth and a lie, prevaricating about her involvement, and denying that she had been appointed to the First Step board at all.
“I am not on the board. They can’t put me on the board,” Post yammered – sounding like something out of a bad Gilligan’s Island farce.
Then, when pressed for an explanation for her bizarre dithering, Post said: “I really don’t want to discuss any of that anymore. We just need to set all this ridiculousness aside.”
I guess not.
Looks like Heather Post learned one thing from her unfortunate attempt to break the obstructionist mold and get down in the grassroots to help resolve an intractable local problem – how to tap dance and quibble your way out of a sticky political wicket when personal courage and strength of character would have served her better.
How tragic. How typical.
In my view, we should all applaud the efforts of Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado, who has shown the strength, leadership and representation we expect from a first year elected official with a fresh set of eyes, who said:
“The last thing I want to do is see political maneuvering endangering what is really a great project,” he said.
“This is the kind of thing I feared would happen: people will make a stand on something silly like this instead of seeing the project through. We need to leave our personalities and egos out of this and just get the job done.”
Now there’s a truth Heather Post should take to heart.
It is time Ms. Post understands that she was elected to serve the community – exactly like the rest – and she puts her proverbial pants on just like they do.
And screw her doe-eyed idolatry for that doddering fool, Ed Kelley – the number of debacles flaring on his watch is becoming a public embarrassment.
If Councilwoman Post doesn’t have the personal resolve and moral courage to face down those pathetic political cowards and work for substantive change – then she should resign her high office and make way for someone who can.