Recently, City Commissioners and the Mayor have been told they have been “asleep at the wheel” and that their priorities are “out of whack.”
These are not the words of Erwin Jackson, frequent City Commission critic.
These are the words of current City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
Could these comments be the beginning of Maddox’s campaign for Mayor?
When Scott Maddox entered the race for the City Commission seat vacated by Mark Mustian in March 2012, most everyone knew he wanted to be Mayor again.
As one supporter put it “after you have been Mayor, a candidate for Governor and other statewide offices, you do not settle for a City Commission seat.”
But it is late May and City Commissioner and Mayoral candidate Andrew Gillum has raised over $200,000 and Maddox has yet to enter the race.
Tallahassee Reports has been able to talk to a number of people “in the know” who spoke about how Maddox’s plan to run for Mayor became complicated shortly after he was elected.
His election to the City Commission in November 2012, while convincing in the end, was not without controversy. There were questions about his residency and the conflicts inherent with being a government consultant.
Those issues were later magnified after Maddox took office when his nemesis, Erwin Jackson, consistently appeared before each City Commission meeting speaking about various issues from his residency to conflicts with business partners.
And if Jackson and the ethics complaint he filed last week are not enough, there were two other obstacles that Maddox did not anticipate popping up on his way to becoming Mayor for the second time.
The first obstacle for Maddox was the fact that the “insiders” really like City Commissioner Andrew Gillum.
Gillum got in the Mayor’s race early and has never looked back. The Tallahassee Democrat, despite their editorial position, wrote no ctitical editorials on his vote against an appointed ethics officer or his vote to provide tax dollars for a restaurant in Cascades Park owned by his campaign treasurer.
Also, people that have been long time Maddox supporters gave the Gillum campaign significant contributions early on in the process.
Why this affinity for Gillum?
One long time political observer said, “the people downtown are tired of these contentious races and several people moved early to keep Scott out of the race.”
And this is where it gets personal.
One Maddox supporter was particularly animated. “Gillum is getting a pass on everything. He voted for deferred comp, biomass, the smart meter debacle, and against the appointed ethics officer. Everyone talks about what Scott does for a living, what about Gillum? Who pays Andrew Gillum? What does he do? Nobody talks about it.”
The second obstacle Maddox did not anticipate was the fact that he would have a problem getting fellow commissioners and city staff to follow his lead on issues.
Even Maddox critics like Preston Scott, WFLA radio host of The Morning show, have acknowledged “he has the potential to be the most effective leader in our community.” However, Maddox has been unable to translate his vast institutional knowledge and his ability to make an argument into political support.
“Scott is used to getting things done. Right now he is frustrated with his inability to get anyone to follow him on his issues. He needs separation from Andrew and he can’t get it!” said one supporter.
But it is not from a lack of effort.
He began early trying to redefine the role of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) that he thought had been spending money on projects that were beyond the scope of a CRA. He voted against some expenditures and attempted to redefine priorities, but he could get no one to follow his lead. He became visibly frustrated at a couple of CRA meetings.
And on the City Commission he has found much of the same frustration.
He was shocked to discover the lack of communication between the City leadership and the high level state officials when he found out through local media that Citizens Insurance was moving 130 high paying jobs to Jacksonville.
This led to the “asleep at the wheel” comment and a terse exchange between him and Mayor Marks.
He was also dismayed at how quick some on the City Commission moved to choose sides in the FAMU-FSU engineering school controversy without first seeking a vote from the full Commission. This led to the, our priorities are “out of whack” comment.
And his reasoned argument against a vote on the procurement for the City’s liability insurance went down 4-1. However, he would not let that die.
A frustrated Maddox requested an audit by the City Auditor to prove his point and months later the completed audit found that following Maddox’s approach could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for taxpayers.
Ironically, it is his frustration that may encourage him to enter the Mayor’s race, even at this late date.
By all accounts, he is not enjoying his new seat on the Commission. He may view the Mayor’s race as a chance to leave the City Commission.
If he chooses to run for Mayor, he must resign his City Commission seat no later than June 6.
So if Maddox chose to run for Mayor, either he would be Mayor again with the power to make a difference and lead, or free from his critics and the frustration of being a “backbencher”.