Politicians are a different breed.
I truly admire those with a legitimate call to serve – that fire-in-the-belly determination to stand bare before their neighbors and endure the slings and arrows of a modern political campaign – then work cooperatively to make a difference in the life of their community.
Despite my often-scathing criticism of local politics, it is important to remember that there are true servant-leaders working hard in elected positions in municipal governments and serving on civic committees, taxing authorities and advisory boards throughout Volusia County and beyond.
Those who spend their time and talents in service to their community without mercenary motivations – who aren’t driven by cronyism, facilitating corporate welfare or lock-step loyalty to a venal system that enriches those who have purchased a lucrative spot on the public suckling line at our expense.
Given our unique circumstance here on the Fun Coast – a place where many key elected officials have become little more than obsequious bootblacks for the uber-wealthy insiders who purchase politicians like cheap livestock each election cycle – it is easy to become cynical about the process.
But it’s never dull. . .
Last week, during an elegant soiree of the Volusia County Association for Responsible Development (sorry, I just upchucked in my mouth a little) – where the always arrogant Deb Denys was being “honored” as Citizen of the Year (?) – our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, stood before the assembled developers, real estate speculators and political benefactors that he served so well and announced he will not seek a second term.
But it became immediately apparent that Old Ed wouldn’t be going quietly into that good night as a lame duck political eunuch. . .
After letting the air out of the room, Chairman Kelley clumsily threw his support to Ms. Denys, who will vacate her District 3 post (sort of) to run for the catbird seat.
It was a well-orchestrated plan, clearly conceived in some shady backroom deal by two sitting officials, that will allow Old Ed to use the remainder of his term – damn near a full year – to transform back into the political werewolf we all know and love to run interference for Ms. Denys – slinging mud, digging dirt and spreading misinformation about anyone who dares to challenge the status quo.
And it didn’t take long for Chairman Kelley to make his lycanthropic change – or accelerate the destruction of public respect for his high office – when he began hurling cheap accusations and veiled threats on social media.
Just days after his announcement, Mr. Kelley took to Facebook to troll Jeff “Plan B” Brower, the Deleon Springs farmer, small business owner and intrepid civic activist who is currently Ms. Denys’ only declared challenger.
Old Ed called into question Mr. Brower’s property tax bill, besmirched his contributors, and even took an oblique swipe at some obscure “agriculture exemption inquiry” on Brower’s family farmland, whatever that means.
(Now that Ed has pried opened that long nailed shut door, I think it would be fun for some reputable investigative reporter to take a look at which politically active corporations and individuals are actively farming in Volusia County in exchange for a break on their property tax bill, don’t you think?)
Chairman Kelley’s outburst on Facebook was ugly and embarrassing – and so typical of the underhanded, cheap-jack treachery that has defined Volusia County government since the original sin:
Having our very Charter cobbled together by some of the same uber-wealthy insiders who even now reap the fruits of their handiwork at the public teat. . .
I’ve said it for years – Ed Kelley is a whole different person when he’s angry – and, right out of the gate, he didn’t disappoint.
At the end of the day, it was a petty attempt to besmirch the reputation of a civically active citizen with a burning desire to serve – simply because Mr. Brower poses a real threat to the oligarchical system that has fed Old Ed’s cronies so well, for so long.
In doing so, Chairman Kelley exposed that ugly, abusive and vindictive part of himself – that shit-covered rat that crawls out and spews bile whenever the “system” becomes vulnerable each election cycle.
Don’t take my word for it.
Watch how Chairman Kelley treated Councilwoman Heather Post literally from the moment she took office.
Review how he openly signed his name to a letter supporting Ms. Post for statewide office which said, “Volusia County enthusiastically supports County Council Member Heather Post’s candidacy for a Vice President position with the Florida Association of Counties (FAC)” – yet, the second he was out of our sight, actively and enthusiastically campaigned against Ms. Post!
Rather than make good on his promise to support his own colleague’s run on behalf of Volusia County – he succumbed to his innate propensity for quisling and mean-spirited backstabbing, then – when the chips were down – he blatantly lied – and embarrassed all of us in the process. . .
Add the fact that Old Ed couldn’t cut the mustard on an incredibly lucrative half-cent sales tax initiative that crashed like a cheap kite during a very expensive special election last year.
(Maybe it just boiled down to the fact our ‘Rich & Powerful’ couldn’t afford another round of Mr. Kelley’s ham-handed bungling screwing up their next bite at the apple?)
And don’t get me started on the fumbling, mumbling and bumbling that has marked Mr. Kelley’s term at the helm of this ship of fools – how he quashed public participation, shutdown his “colleagues” whenever they attempted to question the “why” of things and, through his gross ineptitude, turned the legislative process into a foul joke.
Trust me. They’ll be plenty of time for reminiscing on all of this and more over the next year. . .
But the next time you find yourself waiting on three cycles of a traffic light on area surface roads – or contemplate the specter of drinking your own recycled waste to make room for even more development – or pay handsomely to enjoy what’s left of a beach you already support with your tax dollars – or try desperately to keep a roof over your head and feed your family – or contemplate how Volusia County’s budget grew to nearly $1 Billion – ask yourself if your family is better off for having been subjected to Old Ed’s unique brand of “service”?
The fact is Ed Kelley has always allowed vindictive animus and petty politics to stand in the way of true public service – and it shows.
In my jaded view, Chairman Kelley – and his heir apparent, Deb Denys – a perennial politician with the “likability” factor of a water moccasin and a malleable voting record – represent all that is wrong with Volusia County government.
This year, I’m not alone.
Make no mistake, Jeff “Plan B” Brower has been recognized by his opposition as a very real threat to the status quo – the continued viability of using public funds for private projects – and the exclusion of citizen input into the ways and means of these pompous assholes who govern our lives and livelihoods.
If Ed Kelley’s ill-timed mudslinging on social media this weekend is any indication, it’s going to be a very interesting – and revealing – election year on all sides of the ballot.