This is a tough time to be an elected or appointed official.
There is a shrillness that pervades our country and no government official is immune. The lack of civility has become contagious.
But you know what, while it’s popular to bash politicians and degrade our system of government, it is still the best in the world. If you look locally, you will find a vast array of good people doing good things.
Here’s my top 10 in Citrus County right now:
Newly elected county commissioner Jeff Kinnard is jumping into meaty issues and getting things done. Kinnard, who was just elected last year, has taken the lead in the effort to develop strategies to get rid of the ugly and dilapidated buildings throughout the county. He has spent his first year fighting for things like bike trails and has shown strong cooperation with the city of Crystal River.
Superintendent of Schools Sam Himmel runs one of the best school systems in the state of Florida. With limited amount of money she delivers a strong public education to the children of our community. She is responsive to the public and is as cheap with the public dollars as she is with her own.
Rep. Ralph Massullo, the well known local dermatologist, got elected to the Florida House of Representatives just last year and he is already creating a reputation in Tallahassee as one of the smartest and hardest working members. Dr. Massullo was not looking for a new career. He is already wildly successful and the wealthiest member of the Legislature. He went to Tallahassee to make a difference and he has already begun to make things happen.
Crystal River City Manager Dave Burnell is doing things right in the small Gulf Coast town. Burnell has led the city in redeveloping its two major parks, has finally gotten construction started on the Riverwalk and is pushing for the construction of a new city hall as a centerpiece of a downtown revitalization. And he does so without a big ego. He let’s others get the accolades while he sits in the background and steers the ship.
County commissioner Scott Carnahan is also in his first term, but he was persistent in making a deal with the city of Inverness over Whispering Pines Park. After a disagreement a number of years ago, the county stopped sharing the cost of running Whispering Pines. That just wasn’t right because most of the park visitors are from the county, not the small city of Inverness. Carnahan kept attending Inverness Council meetings until a deal was finally agreed to. He did more than talk about it, he made it happen.
Florida Sen. Wilton Simpson is new to Citrus County, but he is one of the most powerful men in Tallahassee. And he is using his influence to make great things happen. Sen. Simpson is from Pasco County, but he has had a vacation home on the Homosassa River where he spends lots of time. Citrus County was made part of his senate district when things were redesigned, so he now represents us. He has helped steer millions of dollars into Citrus for cleaning up the rivers, building roads and this coming year — for expanding sewer systems in environmentally sensitive areas. Tens of millions of dollars are coming to Citrus County and that’s more improvements than we’ve seen in a decade.
Cabot McBride is a city councilman in Inverness who moves things forward. McBride retired from the Key Training Center where he served as Chet Cole’s second in command for many years. As an Inverness city leader he is calm, intelligent and singularly focused on making Inverness a stronger city.
Susan Gill is the supervisor of elections in Citrus County and is considered to be the best in the state of Florida. The best. In the last general election, the Citrus County votes in the presidential race where the first completed in the nation. And yes, the Russians may have tried to hack our system — but they didn’t succeed because Susan Gill has built an incredible team and she quietly gets the job done every day.
Frank DiGiovanni is jokingly referred to as the Godfather of Inverness. Here’s the inside scoop — it’s not a joke. Frank has enough vision for a city five times as large of Inverness. But it’s Inverness he loves. He has been working for the city for nearly four decades and has led the transformation of the downtown area from a boarded up dying town to a community with lots of energy. He is not the type of city manager that waits for problems to come his way. He’s too busy creating plans and pushing Inverness forward. True, he steps on toes along the way — but his mission is so pure. He wants Inverness to thrive and he has dedicated his life to making it happen.
Thomas Kennedy is a school board member who just doesn’t rest. He is a strong advocate for the public schools and is one-man communication network on education issues. He will argue with those he sees making boneheaded decisions and he’s quick to praise those doing things right. In his down time he is running the clock at school swim meets where his kids and strong competitors. His 3 a.m. Facebook postings make you wonder how much caffeine he consumes.
It’s hard for us to understand what goes on in Washington D.C. and it’s easy to offer criticism. But on the local level these are just 10 of the people who go above and beyond to improve the quality of life in our community. They are not getting rich working for the public and each of them faces the potential for criticism every day. They do the work anyway.
There are plenty of names that can be added to this list.