When recently asked what my greatest failure in life has been, I realized my view of failure is different from others. History teaches us, from Thomas Edison to Walt Disney, that failure is often a necessity for sustained success. The year 2012 was a tough one for my family. I lost an election for the city commission when support from my side of the political aisle dried up upon Scott Maddox’s decision to re-enter local politics and run for the same seat. A short time later, the governor’s administration gutted the agency where I held a position for nearly 15 years. I was laid off at the same time my only sibling died unexpectedly.
Those losses and failures thrust me into two areas that were on my bucket list: teaching and writing. I published seven books on Amazon, including one on restoring public service. I learned I was good with students and taught in every grade. Today, I work with young adults in a role I would still consider mentoring and teaching.
Running for office is not for the weak. People without disposable money usually will not run nor have success doing so. Television, political consultants, and marketers want to see the system remain, yet it guarantees access for only a few and not necessarily the best and brightest.
In looking back on the year which changed so much in my life, it intrigued me to read this week’s indictment of Scott Maddox, and learn of fraudulent activities he was involved in during our campaign. In March 2012, Maddox defaulted on a loan of nearly a half million dollars to BB&T Bank, which he then convinced the bank to approve a short sell without letting them know it was being sold to his colleague. In May of the same year, the indictment states he threatened economic harm to a company doing business with the city if it refused to continue a retainer fee for his services.
While Maddox and I were sitting shoulder to shoulder at the public library, local clubs, and other events, he was busy defrauding local businesses for personal gain. These activities were not a complete shock to me and others who engage with the city. Nevertheless, I remember being booed at a Tiger Bay Club Meeting for inferring that it would be nuts to support Maddox’s return to local politics.
The failure of Scott Maddox is not just a personal one, it is a failure of all of us. Maddox was a wannabe Trump. He acted one way in public and another way in private, all for personal gain. If businesses and individuals play along with such a con, the only thing we can be assured of is further entrenchment of greed at the expense of the greater good.
I am not confident that the downfall of Commissioner Maddox will end these types of problems nor his type of candidate. This is the Deep South, home of the plantation mentality that is used to getting something for nothing. Our city administration that ensures the checks and balances of an ethical government was either incompetent or not empowered to confront the status quo. Our populace, considered the most educated in Florida, supported Maddox not once, not twice, but multiple times for office. We are either willfully blind or bereft of common sense.
The only difference between our form of government and governments around the world is that we have the freedom to choose. Educated men and women, Democrat or Republican, who go along with the con artistry of a Trump or a Maddox, play their part in this erosion of the common good. If there are no grown-ups in the room to ensure accountability, we are not much better than the countries we claim to hate. We can do better.