Now that my working life is over, I have time to contemplate and analyze my often-turbulent life and times – a life of incredibly good fortune that brought me everything I could have hoped for, personally and professionally.
Through the crystal prism of hindsight, and the bottom of a martini glass, I can see the spectrum of my good times and bad, and, because it is my life, if I chose to exaggerate the positives and accomplishments – and downplay the pain, weaknesses and dysfunction – well, that’s my prerogative.
Admittedly, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream – but what life worth living is?
In many ways, these often-snarky screeds are self-reflective – originating from the vantage point of my own mistakes from over thirty-years in municipal government – and incredibly cathartic.
These essays represent my attempt at a Second Act.
This weird path is nothing I could have imagined when I retired from a lifetime of government service – a dilettante citizen editorialist, a prolific blogger, a bloviating blowhard – an entrenched bureaucrat who found a post-public life voice.
When I review Barker’s View readership statistics each month and see that thousands of you actually took the time to read something I wrote – and consider my goofy alternative opinion on an issue – it massages my enormous ego and makes me feel like a pretentious Big Shot.
I’m not, of course.
But like Walter Mitty, throughout my life I have been gripped by a very active imagination that always seems to paint me as the valiant hero in my contrived contretemps.
You’ll notice that weird concept play out repeatedly in these posts of mine, and perhaps that’s my subliminal remuneration for the time spent – a renewed sense of purpose.
Just like my life in law enforcement, my new calling as a blogger doesn’t pay very well – in fact, like any hobby, it costs me money to pursue – but it fills a very large void in my life, and, I hope, drives a larger discussion of the issues.
Earlier this week, I received a statement from the Social Security Administration which provided an earnings record, a startling chronological tableau of the financial return for my life’s work.
Trust me, I did not enter the police service at age 22 with the goal of getting rich.
In fact, according to social security records, my starting salary in 1983 was just $13,752 annually – and I never made more than $80,470 after 31-years – even though most every police chief in Volusia County earned substantially more than I did.
I never complained.
For me, it wasn’t about the money.
During times of economic stress, I turned down pay increases if my subordinates couldn’t receive one – because that’s the right thing to do – and, given my level of talent and education, I felt fortunate just to have a job in the profession I loved.
Truth be told – and I can be honest now that I’ve secured a pension – I would have paid The City of Holly Hill for the privilege of serving a community that was so appreciative of my efforts, that embraced me, warts and all, and provided the opportunity to give the bulk of my life to work worth doing with people that I loved and respected.
In fact, I never met a true public servant that marked success by the size of their bank account.
Perhaps that is why the recent news that the Volusia County Council hasn’t given up on their cockamamie decision to pursue a change to the charter that would give them a substantial salary increase is so infuriating.
On Tuesday, our elected dullards will openly discuss the proposition of further feathering their own nests.
You may remember that during a “workshop” back in January, we got a disturbing glimpse at the thought process and true motivations of some of our elected officials when they mournfully cried the Poor Mouth Blues – then arbitrarily decided that the charter dictated term “Council” doesn’t carry the same ego-maniacal cachet as “Commission.”
Seriously. That was their rationalization – and the reason they want to spend public funds to place this horseshit on the ballot this fall.
Then, our vainglorious elected elite had the unmitigated gall to publicly wallow in their own narcissistic angst over how terribly expensive self-promotion has become for politicians in this foul year 2020 – openly mewling about out-of-pocket expenses, a lack of personal assistants (?), the price of gasoline and high cost of automobile insurance – before determining how to best couch ballot language for a pay increase that gullible voters might actually swallow.
Until a recent article on the subject in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, I didn’t know exactly how much we pay our elected officials to sacrifice their valuable time and extraordinary talents for us ungrateful bastards who elected them – and I’ll just bet you didn’t either.
Based upon Volusia’s governing charter, our part-time elected officials are paid at a rate 50% of that paid in other Florida counties, while the county chair receives 60%.
“Council members are paid $45,240 annually and the council chair is paid $54,288 annually. . .”
Which means, if we paid them at the rate authorized by state statute, council members (including the chair) would receive $90,480 annually – in a county where some 43% of Volusia households do not earn enough to consistently cover basic monthly living expenses.
Yet, even in these dire times, where small businesses are closing their doors at an alarming rate – and displaced workers are struggling to feed their families on a horribly broken unemployment system – these tone-deaf windbags continue to seek an exorbitant salary, “reimbursement for expenses,” fees for attendance at various self-congratulatory soirees and awards banquets, etc. – not to mention travel, hotel and dining expenses for do-nothing meetings, conferences, hobnobs, grip-n-grins and hot air generators in, Tallahassee, Washington D.C. and beyond.
For attending two meetings a month and schlepping around to a slate of officious time-wasters that never seem to improve our quality of life or lower our already exorbitant tax rate. . .
If our elected officials are convinced that a pay increase is truly the highest and best use of our hard earned tax dollars during these unprecedented times – then, by all means, they should put that question to the voters this fall.
Something tells me this is not going to bode well for incumbent council members seeking their own undeserved second act – nor should it.