It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Asshole Volusia District 3 Candidate Gary Conroy
I rarely write about national issues – because, like most local issues – I don’t have enough money to influence them.
In my view, its okay to disagree.
Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts – and our freedoms allow us to hold differing points of view on the issues that affect us – but, as Americans, I believe there is a line that should not be crossed.
I have very strong opinions on the current direction of the “social justice” movement, and how a push for positive change in police/community relations has been hijacked by those bent on the destruction of our free and democratic society using violence and intimidation, while pushing a radical agenda at the point of a gun in some areas of our country.
Now, an area political candidate’s apparent support for organizations that advocate the overthrow of the United States government has crept into our local political discussion.
I find that disturbing.
This week, a concerned resident of Edgewater took sitting City Councilman Gary Conroy – a candidate for the Volusia County Council District 3 seat – to task for his involvement with the Black Lives Matter organization.
That included a demand for an apology following a confrontation at a recent roadside rally.
According to the citizen, during a recent demonstration on State Road 44 involving members of the BLM organization – along with a group of flag waving Trump supporters who stood on the opposite side of the street (literally and figuratively) – Mr. Conroy is said to have crossed the line when he approached the Republican phalanx, “…barging people out of the way. Knocked one guy out of the way.”
Of course, Mr. Conroy – a former police officer – claims he was simply trying to find common ground among two “diametrically opposed” groups.
A video taken on the day shows Conroy clearly holding signs and actively supporting the BLM organization – a group that has repeatedly called for the murder of law enforcement officers – along with demands that police departments be abolished.
Last month, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, an understudy of Eric Mann, former agitator of the Weather Underground domestic terror organization, described herself as a “trained Marxist” committed to the overthrow of our democratic system of governance.
I found that interesting.
Because Mr. Conroy hired Joshua LeClair, who is the former “District Organizer of Florida for the Communist Party” to manage his campaign for the District 3 seat.
You read that right.
Given the fact, as an elected member of the Edgewater City Council and a former police officer, Mr. Conroy would have been required to take a loyalty oath swearing that he will “…support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Florida,” I contacted him and asked if he was aware that his campaign manager was an avowed communist?
His response: “Its news to me.”
He claimed that the post identifying Mr. LeClair’s activities was “…made by a fake account in an effort to hurt my campaign,” and went on to explain that it was part of a smear effort that originated during his run for office in Edgewater.
I really wanted to believe him, but the explanation felt contrived – and it quickly became clear that Mr. Conroy quibbled the facts.
After paying Mr. LeClair $1,000 a month for his services since approximately March 2020, after my June contact with Mr. Conroy, his “campaign manager” mysteriously disappeared from campaign finance reports.
Then, just eight days later, Mr. Conroy hired a second individual to consult on his campaign who was also a declared member and “activist” of the Communist Party USA!
When I made Conroy aware of this fact, he responded, “Please don’t tell me he is some kind of subversive LOL,” – then, “Oh no!! I’m going to start vetting better. I should have known better when LeClair suggested him!!!”
Look, once is a mistake – twice is a pattern. . .
At this week’s Edgewater City Commission meeting, as Conroy’s constituent continued to demand an apology for his behavior at the rally – Councilman Conroy vehemently tried to silence his critic from the dais – demanding that Mayor Michael Thomas stop the “attack” and stifle the voice of an Edgewater taxpayer.
When Mayor Thomas rightfully allowed the citizen to finish his remarks – Conroy lost all composure – exaggerating the criticism as an “attack on my person” – then lambasted Mayor Thomas for allowing the citizen to speak his mind.
In my view, that is unacceptable.
It was ugly – and gave a startling glimpse at what Volusia County residents could expect if they were to challenge Comrade Conroy should he ascend to the Volusia County Council chamber.
Like many mealy-mouthed politicians, Gary Conroy appears to be of the opinion he can speak from both sides of any issue with equal enthusiasm – standing with organizations who call for the slaughter and defunding of police, turning his back on the very law enforcement officers he claims to represent – or engaging declared communists to steward his campaign, then backing away when his association is exposed.
Is Gary Conroy a Manchurian candidate?
I don’t know. But he has all the earmarks. . .
In my view, Gary Conroy is wrong for Volusia County.
Frankly, he’s not right for Edgewater either.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Conroy’s impressive opponent, Danny Robins, and discussing his informed take on the issues and unique vision for Volusia County.
It became immediately evident that Mr. Robins is incredibly bright, with that all-important “fire in the belly” – a true call to serve – that sets servant-leaders apart from those with a self-serving political agenda.
In my view, Danny Robins has an impressive breadth of life/business experience, and a reputation for fair dealing, that puts him head-and-shoulders above the likes of conniving, retread politicians with a track record of double-talk.
I found his grasp of the issues refreshing – he’s clearly taken the time to educate himself on what’s important to those who live and work on the Fun Coast – and I appreciate his thoughts on smart growth initiatives and willingness to build consensus with all stakeholders.
Early in my life I proudly took two oaths – one when I enlisted in the military, the other before starting my career in law enforcement – both swearing that I would support, protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Like many of you,I remain true to those sacred affirmations today – and I will not remain silent while someone like Comrade Conroy attempts to insinuate himself into a higher office for reasons that remain murky.
Please vote Danny Robins for Volusia County Council District 3.
Asshole Volusia County & Daytona Beach Elected Officials
“The new Orange Avenue bridge is opening this week. Really. Finally. No more delays.”
–Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Well, the News-Journal was almost right. . .there was one more slight delay. . .
In my experience, even fledgling politicians quickly learn that the key to avoiding awkward public moments comes from the simple lesson of watching where one steps.
For instance, if an elected official observes someone plant their shoe in a steaming pile of shit – most inherently understand the importance of guiding around the mess – rather than running over, laying down, and wallowing in it while photographers memorialize the moment.
Unfortunately, some Volusia County officials have failed to grasp the concept. . .
I was reminded of that valuable political lesson this week when elected and appointed officials of Volusia County and the City of Daytona Beach delayed the opening of the long-awaited Tom Staed Veterans Memorial Bridge by yet another few minutes so they could take part in an embarrassing “ceremonial vehicle processional” – trundling across the still unfinished span as resident’s waited patiently and shook their heads in disbelief – as their elected officials firmly attached themselves to this monument to government inefficiency like barnacles on a bridge piling.
Hell, we waited over 4-years for the bridge to open – I guess it didn’t matter that citizens had to wait a few more minutes while our elected elite received the recognition for this abomination that they so richly deserve, eh?
Look, I wasn’t there (I wash my beard on Thursday mornings), but I have no doubt that our Monarchical elite were resplendent in their flowing Royal mantles as they slowly traversed the span – smugly congratulating their own performance for a project that was 18-months overdue and became a running joke among their constituents – as our arrogant emperors held up travel and commerce just a little bit longer to ensure they are forever associated with this epic debacle.
During this week’s County Council meeting, I suffered an involuntary spit-take with my afternoon cocktail when I heard Councilwoman Billie Wheeler openly praise County Engineer Tadd Kasbeer for his efforts. . .
Yeah. Well done, Tadd.
You accepted public funds to steward a two-lane bridge project that took as long to construct as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – and, with cracks now forming in the unused sidewalk – the span is reportedly three-weeks from actual completion.
My God. . .
By their craven need for attention – our elected officials have cemented in the minds of the governed just how obtuse these thickheaded, egoistic dullards truly are – something every resident (and voter) should be reminded of every time they drive over the bridge.
Angel Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood
Residents of Volusia County learned this week that Sheriff Mike Chitwood has contracted COVID-19. Incredibly, this insidious virus has taken him out of the action for the first time in his 33-year law enforcement career.
They don’t call him “Iron Mike” for nothing.
During this damnable pandemic, Sheriff Chitwood has stood tall among our often-halfhearted public officials, demonstrating outstanding leadership – calling out bureaucratic stagnation and pushing aside administrative roadblocks – fighting hard for the right of his constituents to remain informed.
Frankly, without Sheriff Chitwood’s tenacious efforts to push data to us on social media (despite the bumbling opposition of our public health apparatus) Volusia County residents would have been forced to navigate this viral storm in the dark.
Now, we are beginning to see the devastating toll of this disease up close, as increasing numbers of our friends, family, neighbors, and community leaders struggle to recover – or, sadly, succumb to complications.
Last Friday, Sheriff Chitwood gave a touching tribute to the life and incredible civic contributions of Daytona Beach civic activist Norma Bland, who died last week following a valiant fight with COVID-19.
“She was always fighting for what was right. Not because she stood to gain anything from it, but because she was a true community leader who took it upon herself to do her part for the common good.”
Get well soon, Sheriff.
We need your leadership now, more than ever.
Quote of the Week
“We now have a person running for Volusia County Chair (Jeff Brower) whose interests are the same as ours. He is a dedicated, well-loved father, businessman, and a man that respects all folks believing in their God whatever their religious denominations are.
And, as importantly, he wants to control growth to coincide with our drinking water demands. Meaning, he wants to ascertain we are able to drink water purified by natural aquifer methods and not processed, purified toilet water (see Miami News Times, March 12, 2018 article: “Florida Legislators OK Plan to Dump Sewage Into Drinking-Water Aquifers”).
Not to mention the 100 gas pumps on LPGA, in one corner?
The vernacular from the candidate who was in office and now running for chair is: Trust in leadership. Really, how did that work for us so far? We have one clear choice and one clear vote for chair: Jeff Brower. We want Volusia back and not ran by outside forces!”
–Chuck Collins, Ormond Beach, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer Letters to the Editor, “We want Volusia back,” Monday, August 3, 2020
And Another Thing!
Today I start another trip around the sun.
Yep. Sixty years old.
Damn. . .
It’s true what Hemingway said, “Time is the least thing we have of.”
This milestone birthday has set me on a weird self-examination of my life and times, an opportunity to take stock of that which is important, that which is not, and a chance to prioritize those things I’ve yet to accomplish as I enter the gloaming of my life.
For instance, when examining my productive years, I realized how much time I wasted as a young man fretting about what others thought of me.
It was a big deal, partly because I was a career-oriented guy, and wanted desperately to position myself for advancement and greater responsibility as most aggressive young people do.
(I know, its hard to believe that at one time a sluggard like me had ambition – but its true.)
That meant years of working hard, playing interoffice politics to my advantage (which gave way to my now famous working motto: Let no ass go un-kissed), accepting any assignment I was offered, maintaining an impeccable uniformed appearance and always presenting myself as a professional – because it mattered to me what others thought of my bearing, skills, and performance.
Now, not so much. . .
One of the life lessons I’ve learned is that only those firmly ensconced in retirement can honestly say they no longer give two-shits what others think of them – and truly mean it – but that freedom comes with a price.
As I have not-so-gracefully aged, the truth has become infinitely more important to me than image – and I hate bullying and oppression by those who misuse their lofty public positions for personal gain.
So, over time, I have slowly descended into a hyper-critical blowhard who sounds off on the news and newsmakers of the day without fear or favor.
A damnable “blogger.” Always pointing out, as Roosevelt said, how the strong man stumbled, or the doer of deeds could have done them better.
That naturally rubs some people wrong. At least I hope it does.
Right or wrong – I’m proud of what this blog represents – and one of the great privileges of my life is that so many of you take the time to read Barker’s View and add your own unique perspective to the greater discussion.
Your avid readership means more to me than you know, because it has returned a sense of purpose I so desperately need.
The problem with introspection is that the view is always subjective – slanted by our own perception of reality and protected by ego and vanity – so, it helps to listen to an outside opinion – even when it hurts. . .
Recently, a prominent Halifax area attorney posted his thoughts of me on social media:
“The real garbage is the crap Mark Barker spews. He’s a basement blogger who was a lifer with Holly Hill police department. Sucks on two government teets, HH pension and SS, while spending his days criticizing government. Literally biting the hand that feeds him.”
Given that I was already in a contemplative state, I thought: Damn. He’s right. I’m guilty on all charges.
Except one. I don’t draw Social Security. Yet.
(Oh, and its spelled “teats”. . .)
The barrister’s brief, but accurate, summary of my life forced me to take a long look back, and, for the most part, I liked what I saw in the rear-view mirror.
For instance, I take enormous pride in the fact I spent my life in service to others, working side-by-side with some true community heroes – people who willingly go into harms way, again and again, to protect and serve others.
Some of them, like my dear friend Brevard County Deputy Bob Nicol, gave their lives in the line of duty. . .
But it was worth it. All of it.
The sleepless nights working the streets – the excitement of high-speed chases, careening through the streets with my hair on fire, the thrill of being shot at by a barricaded suspect, the satisfaction of solving complex crimes, the haunting sights, sounds and smells of human destruction, enduring the ugliness of man’s horrific inhumanity to man and child – and confronting true evil in dark places while putting your life in someone else’s hands and the honor of having them do the same.
The pride that comes from serving a cause greater than your own self-interests with honor, dedication, and personal sacrifice – failing time-and-again but never giving up – and experiencing the camaraderie and depth of friendship that only comes when men and women face real danger together.
I feel incredibly fortunate just to count myself in their number, and each day I still try and live up to the values-based standards set by those great leaders who mentored me and provided important opportunities for success – and failure.
And I am extremely proud of the pension check I receive each month – a just reward for many years of hard work for often pitifully low wages – an amazing financial benefit for career public servants that was built and stewarded by a grateful community.
The learned lawyer’s post also had me reminiscing on the unwavering support of my wonderful wife and family who love me unconditionally – and the enduring devotion of a precious handful of dear friends who ignore my eccentricities and care for me at my best, and worst.
That circle of love includes the amazing citizens of the City of Holly Hill who never failed to show their immense appreciation and support for those who serve them. I have never forgotten that.
Wow. It really has been one hell of a ride, hasn’t it?
Thanks, Counselor, for reminding me in the most glorious way of all the blessings in my long and happy life. . .
Have a great weekend, y’all!