I want to encourage everyone in Gulf County to go online and view the Nov. 12 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. Skip past the turtle patrol and Overstreet drainage segments and start about two hours into the meeting – Commissioner Bryan is recapping a meeting she attended where Carole Kelly, owner of Health Check, announced she will be expanding her business in Mississippi, not in Gulf County. The Star article of Nov. 14 details the Health Check issues with Gulf County. Interestingly, Chairman Smiley stated in the BOCC meeting that he did not know Ms. Kelly. I would think as Chairman of the BOCC and having been a sitting commissioner for three years and someone who is always talking about jobs for Gulf County that he would know the name of the person who employs 50 people in Gulf County!
After Commissioner Bryan concluded her remarks regarding the meeting with Ms. Kelly, Commissioner McLemore (as he has done numerous times in the past) verbally attacked her while Chairman Smiley sat there and let it happen. I can’t help but see the misogynistic attitude other members of the Board have for Commissioner Bryan. But then I also see their attitude of fear. Commissioner Bryan and citizens who question or speak out against their actions represent a threat to the way business has been done in Gulf County for decades.
Since taking office Commissioner Bryan has attempted to bring to light deficiencies in our detention facility. Michael Hammond has refused to have the jail inspected. Florida statute requires annual inspections. The Florida Sheriff’s Association has written to the County more than once regarding this situation. Except for Commissioner Bryan, the BOCC contends everything is fine at the jail and we don’t need an inspection. The last inspection was 2011 and apparently the county has not submitted a report to the State addressing the problems found at that time. Does the County get to pick and choose the laws it obeys?
Commissioner Bryan has (on behalf of the people in District 3) brought to the attention of the Board the ongoing problems with the Americus Avenue ditch – problems that continue to cost Gulf County taxpayers thousands of dollars. She has researched the project and it appears there were several problems with the bid/award. In an effort to get this information to the public, she placed her documentation (along with her notes/questions jotted on the documents) in the information packet and her fellow commissioners voted to remove this information – not sure they have the authority to do that – but in true Gulf County style (three votes gets the job done) they did it. The information provided by Commissioner Bryan is county business. The Board has allowed citizens to come to the podium repeatedly and enter into the record documents that have absolutely nothing to do with county business. And here we have a duly elected commissioner whose efforts are thwarted at every turn by her fellow commissioners.
In 2010 when Billy Traylor and Nathan Peters were defeated, many in the community were excited and hopeful that Commissioners Smiley and McDaniel would be the beginning of a new era in Gulf County politics. Sadly, that is not the case. It is still ‘good old boy’ politics at its best.
I enjoy and participate in political discussions on a daily basis. It is amazing how many folks I talk with who feel exactly the way I do…enough is enough with these politicians –at all levels of government. However, when it comes to the local issues and the actions of the BOCC it is hard to get people to stand up and be counted. There is a reason for their reluctance – retaliation. Many people are afraid to voice their concerns or question the BOCC because over the years they have seen the vindictive nature of certain members of the BOCC. They are concerned that if they speak out their county-employed spouse could lose their job. They are concerned about a number of things coming back on them and their family if they rock the boat. This may sound preposterous to some of you but it’s the perception of many. I say we have got to stand up and stand up now. The federal government is running amuck, the state continues to force unfunded mandates on the counties and as for the actions of Commissioners McLemore, McDaniel, Smiley, and Yeager – your conduct is shameful.
In the interest of full disclosure, Commissioner Bryan is a close friend of mine. I know her to be a person of integrity. She is working hard to make Gulf County a better place to live. I am proud to call her my friend.
Gulf County Resident