When asked about my disappointment with not being selected for appointment to the city commission seat I once ran for, I said that’s not the end of the story. I still have to go to church with some of these people!
As I get older, I realize that loss is a significant part of life, and if one strives to make a difference, one must expect some disappointment. I also would not include this as a “real” loss, more of a missed opportunity. A real loss is of a child, relative, or close friend. This is the loss of trust, of honesty and authenticity, all things that we have the power to recover through our actions with each other.
We shouldn’t expect or want this city commission to fail. In a real community, things just don’t work that way. There were several good applicants, including a few previously elected, who did not get a nod. In that respect, I find myself in good company. My concern remains on what kind of lesson we teach the next generation when decisions get made in this manner. Imagine spending years in college, or on-the-job training as an apprentice, just to have a friend of the owner step in and put someone else in your place.
Replacing Maddox is the first litmus test for a new commission on whether it remains tone deaf to his model of leadership, one built upon a quid pro quo, on rewarding friends, and enabled by local deep pockets with specific interests in mind. It would appear from what we know so far that we are still struggling to move past this model of decision making.
Early in the process commissioners stated an interest in finding the best person, though the issue of transparency surfaced rather quickly with Tabitha Frazier’s ambitions coming to light. Some picks appear to be throwaways, with the real intention to ensure the appointment of a connected selection. Commissioner Matlow was the only one to request written responses to questions, a sound and clever method, and a good cover regardless of whether the answers are used for anything. Matlow’s pick of Howard Kessler, a former opponent of new sitting Commissioner Williams-Cox, is interesting for the mixed message it sends.
I sense much of the selection was predetermined, and commissioners went through the motions publicly. It’s why cynicism flourishes and Tallahassee remains more a southern city than a capital city. If it is okay to skip to the front of the line rather than running for the seat, than the significance of public vetting matters little.
This is the chance for the great reset, to admit a bit of culpability in empowering Maddox and chartering a more honorable course. People must have a reliance on the validity of the political process. Whoever is appointed might consider publicly agreeing not to run for the seat in 2020, and give the people back the choice. Otherwise, we will continue pretending to pray and work together and express love for the community on Sunday, yet it will remain politics as usual come Monday.
Daniel Parker is an author, educator, and public servant. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org