Since taking office three years ago, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post has been a walking political contradiction – a self-described maverick who bucks the entrenched “system,” seemingly going against the grain on controversial issues – yet routinely votes in lockstep conformity with her “colleagues” on the dais of power, especially in development and beach access issues.
Like many, I have a soft spot for Ms. Post – she can be friendly, attentive, accessible to most constituents (who agree with her position) and fiercely inquisitive when exploring the issues – and she’s not afraid to throw a sharp elbow or two during her frequent spats with our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair Ed Kelley.
Conversely, she can also be insular, accusatory, politically paranoid and shamelessly self-promoting – going to great lengths to avoid speaking to the working press – choosing instead to couch her message behind a social media presence only she can control.
To say Ms. Post has a high opinion of herself is an understatement – but that sense of self-confidence has served her well through the turbulent times – and I have supported her efforts to bring an alternative opinion to difficult issues.
I have also taken her to task when warranted.
Last year, in a piece entitled “The trials of Heather Post,” I aptly described the Councilwoman as an “uber-weird show-boater with a ‘look at me’ complex” – because that’s what she is.
But since when has that personality quirk prohibited anyone from holding public office?
Unfortunately, preening and posturing has become a prerequisite – a common trait found in politicians everywhere – but there is an appropriate time and place for playing to the crowd.
This isn’t it.
During an emergency, when we really need our public officials to demonstrate strong leadership, build public confidence and calm the fears of worried constituents – political opportunism becomes glaringly apparent to anyone paying attention.
Earlier this week, “From the office of Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post” (wherever that is) came a fustian manifesto in which Ms. Post explains, ad nauseam, her concerns over the spread of the coronavirus – while making sure to mention that she has personally spoken to the “White House Coronavirus Task Force” (Really? The District 4 Councilwoman from Hooterville, Florida called the White House?) – and lectured us about “mixed messages” – before demanding the immediate closure of all parks, beaches, recreation facilities – and “shutting down businesses completely for the two-week duration.”
Now, anyone paying attention can see that Ms. Post’s panicked reaction was an overblown and undisguised attempt to prop up the threatening screed previously issued by her political supporters at the Volusia Waterman’s Association – the union representing beach safety employees – who are apparently operating in an almost neurotic state of anxiety – and have called for the complete closure of our beaches.
In my view, Post’s official declaration went a step too far.
Because Ms. Post’s fear-mongering came from a sitting elected official who, just this week, agreed that all emergency management decisions would be made by the Dream Team of County Manager George Recktenwald and Chairman Kelley for the duration of the threat.
Despite this agreed upon protocol, Ms. Post simply could not sit still – because it would be unthinkable for her to let a good crisis go to waste without an opportunity to grandstand.
So, she hyper-dramatically blames her fellow elected officials for not doing enough – for failing to ACT with sufficient overreach to meet the growing crisis. . .
Unlike her “colleagues” – with the exception of the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys who saw fit to join Kelley and Recktenwald at a stilted after-hours “press conference” to announce the asinine closure of beach ramps (?) – Ms. Post broke established policy and used her office to call for draconian countermeasures which would further crush small business, destroy our local economy and limit the public’s access to safe outdoor recreation opportunities.
Look, given Ms. Post’s history of overstepping procedural boundaries during hurricanes and previous emergencies, insinuating herself into photo opportunities and generally ignoring the concept of single source public information practices – her rambling diatribe is nothing new, or unexpected. . .
That doesn’t make it right.
In my view, once emergency management operations are established, the rules apply to everyone equally – or they apply to no one.
I suspect that in coming hours or days Ms. Post will get her fervent wish to see the beach closed, and even more businesses shuttered, as Governor Ron DeSantis continues his ever-changing “death by a thousand cuts” crisis response.
Then Ms. Post can take the credit she so desperately seeks.
Given Ms. Post’s prior law enforcement experience, she should understand the importance of a unified message – instead, Post acts like she’s playing a role in some science fiction movie.
In my view, Councilwoman Post should understand that true crisis leadership means stepping back, allowing emergency management protocols to function properly, and refrain from muddying the waters with frightening, ill-timed screeds that exacerbate the expanding financial crisis, fan the flames of panic and further unravel our civic fabric during these unprecedented times.
Anything less truly is “reckless and irresponsible.”