On Volusia: A Failure of Leadership

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

I’m a realist, a hopeless rube destined to instinctively recognize what is possible in a given situation – to immediately grasp the ugly backstory others pretend doesn’t exist – and see things as they truly are.

At heart, I’m a south Appalachian hillbilly – so, power, money and influence don’t impress me, they never have – and I still cling to the naive Myth of Fairness:

The old-fashioned notion that good citizens who contribute to our society, struggle to make a living in this artificial economy, pay increasingly onerous taxes, work hard to raise their families and follow the rules form the backbone of our community – and they deserve better from those who have been elected to represent their interests.

When it comes to politics, I am a true No Party Affiliate – with moderate, even apolitical, views on most issues – and I rarely involve myself in the terrible divisiveness of the national battle for partisan dominance.

That probably sounds odd coming from someone who churns out a political opinion blog, but, as you may have noticed, my screeds tend to take our local politicians to the woodshed for their assholery, ineptitude and posturing – not party politics.

In my view, we are now governed by a weird oligarchy which exists to serve itself – and continues to mark Volusia County as the ugly stepsister of Central Florida – a place best avoided – generally sidestepped by the real players in the region who treat us like something they don’t want to step in.

I know, it’s hard to swallow.

So, don’t take my word for it.

Just review any substantive local issue over the last decade or so – from SunRail, to the impact fee debacle, gross suburban sprawl, corporate welfare and cronyism, water quality, environmental carnage, our cruel average income and lack of affordable housing, transportation infrastructure, public utilities or the abject blight and dilapidation of our core tourist area, etc. – and you will find the same institutional and systematic fingerprints.

I mean, do you see any improvement?

No, no – not what we’re told to think by sitting elected officials – but our true condition, as evidenced by those tangible realities you see with your own eyes.

By any metric, this is the weirdest election year in history.

The “normal” campaign processes in Volusia County and beyond have been replaced by fear, lockdowns, physical isolation, mixed messages and the terrifying realization that the procedures we once trusted to protect our lives, liberties and livelihoods were myths – as our confidence was destroyed by tinpot politicians who wrote overreaching public policies from behind the eight ball as a bad situation turned worse.

Of course, there have been notable exceptions – those in county and municipal governments who showed true leadership by putting the needs of their emotionally and financially wounded constituents above their own craven self-interests – servant-leaders who sustained us, buoyed our flagging morale, brought a sense of certainty and provided us with the information and direction we needed during this dark and difficult time.

Others?  Not so much. . .

Consider the following:

The self-serving response of certain Volusia County Council members, who happen to be standing for reelection, and used the early days of this crisis to feather their own political nest – publishing foolish manifestos that called for more widespread business closures, even as thousands of out-of-work locals struggled to feed their families, and we watched the state’s intentionally fragile unemployment compensation system crash and burn as designed.

Their strange posturing and preening on social media that confused worried constituents – and the overweening hubris that demanded they insinuate themselves into the decision-making process – as the entire elected body gave their collective middle finger to established procedure while publicly neutering County Manager George Recktenwald.

The confusing non-response by those who positioned themselves as “emergency management experts,” who stood like a deer in the headlights when we needed their publicly acquired expertise the most.

The complete lack of an authentic public information and education strategy.

The childish spats and swipes between elected officials with competing motives.

The sudden onset of akinetic mutism in the Volusia County Health Department.

The series of miscommunications and arbitrary “do this, don’t do that, no, do this instead” decrees from on high, that insulted our intelligence and eroded our rights and liberties under the guise of “public safety,” all facilitated by the constitutionally corrosive autonomy of an “emergency declaration.”    

Then, when we needed a strong sense of stability – things went from bad to worse.

I don’t know Senator Tom Wright – the first term New Smyrna Beach Republican who was elected to state office in 2018 following the passing of Sen. Dorothy Hukill – but those who do tell me he’s an uber-successful businessman, a multimillionaire with a heart for public service and a genuinely nice guy.

However, last week, we learned of a petty interoffice contretemps that apparently resulted in Senator Wright tendering a written resignation to the President of the Florida Senate Bill Galvano.

Then, with the same impulsiveness, Sen. Wright changed his mind and decided he would still grace us with the benefit of his representation. . .

Say what?

In his clearly impetuous correspondence, Sen. Wright made his intentions perfectly clear:

“In the past you have expressed that our staff is our responsibility and our decision as to who works for us as Senators.  Today, I am told that I am wrong and that the (staffers) work at the pleasure of the President of the Senate.  I cannot and will not work for anyone this way.  Please accept my resignation as Senator District 14.”

Evidently, staff assistants assigned to various elected officials are at-will employees of the Senate president’s office – and while senators are given wide input into who works for them, ultimately personnel decisions remain with Galvano.

According to reports, following the internecine brouhaha, Edith Little, a long-time legislative assistant who also worked for Sen. Hukill, tendered her resignation. . .

My question is, why did Sen. Wright abandon us, even temporarily, over some horseshit power-spat with a state staffer while thousands of his constituents find themselves jobless, hungry and hopelessly groping for state unemployment benefits through a horribly broken system, while others remain locked in their homes, struggling through the fear and uncertainty of a pandemic?

Look, I get it.

Everyone handles stress differently – some rise to the occasion, others collapse in a heap of quivering gelatin – but for a sitting state senator to take his football and go home while those who elected him to high office are suffering is, in my view, unconscionable.

Its true.  Anyone can hold the wheel in fair winds and calm seas – but it takes courage to stand firm and establish a course forward when the going turns rough – and, unfortunately, Sen. Wright abandoned the helm like a hotheaded Captain Queeq at the worst possible moment in our state’s history.

Frankly, I think Sen. Wright – along with members of the Volusia County Council – and other state and local government officials who have fallen woefully short of this unprecedented challenge owe us all an apology for their role in this unmitigated shit show.

For their failure of leadership.

Then, they should do some deep soul-searching and think long and hard about their future in politics – and their true motivations for public service.







2 thoughts on “On Volusia: A Failure of Leadership

  1. Fair enough, author stated his point and had a few examples, same could be said of a few federal, sate, local leaders, i would not called them leadees, pulic servants, naw they are in it for the same reason. Hate politicians.


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