St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery has resigned, effective Jan. 1. LISA BROADT/TCPALM
It’s a new year, and we still are waiting to hear from Gov. Rick Scott.
Any day now the governor is expected to name a replacement for St. Lucie County Commissioner Tod Mowery, who resigned in December after allegations of an extramarital affair became public. Mowery’s resignation became effective Jan. 1.
So far, the governor’s office isn’t letting out much information. Of nine declared candidates for the seat, Scott’s office has released the applications of only four people, despite requests from our reporter dating back to early December.
So, rather than trying to handicap the entire field without complete information, here are some thoughts on the qualities Mowery’s replacement should possess.
The new person should match the political philosophy both of Mowery and (no surprise) the man who’s choosing his replacement.
This is Scott’s final year in office, so he’ll want to leave a legacy of conservatism in as many elected representatives as he can.
With the exception of city of Stuart Clerk Cheryl White (who lists no party affiliation), most candidates tout their Republican credentials. They’ll probably need to.
… but not too conservative
The new temporary county commissioner (who’ll serve until Mowery’s term expires in November) will be one of five commissioners who have some pretty important decisions to make in the coming months. This is no time for a small-government zealot; we need a pragmatist and a team player.
Mowery might have had a no-new-taxes, small-government stance, yet he was able to see the bigger picture when voting on proposals that would benefit taxpayers, even if that involved spending public money.
In 2018, the St. Lucie County Commission is poised to make far-reaching decisions about expansion at Treasure Coast International Airport and the newly purchased Port of Fort Pierce. These will require a unity of purpose from the commission, not lone-wolf decisions. Now is not the time to rock the boat.
At stake are potentially hundreds of new, good-paying jobs that could be a game changer for the local economy. Several candidates have expressed their desire to bring new employment to the county. Much-needed wholesale changes will require joint public-private partnerships.
Consistent and effective
Mowery might have had his shortcomings, but he was consistent in his approach to economic development.
Always at top of his mind was whether county spending would benefit taxpayers, not burden them.
Mowery’s successor should not be a flip-flopper or less than passionate about his or her beliefs.
The next commissioner should have experience as a public official and a thorough knowledge of the workings of local government. Time is of the essence and we can’t afford to have someone learn on the job. A couple of the candidates claim in their applications, “I can hit the ground running.”
They will need to if the commission is to achieve any concrete results in this uncertain climate. Mowery’s successor needs to be a quick study and be ready to act as soon as he or she is sworn in.
Candidate Mark Godwin, a retired criminal justice coordinator for St. Lucie County, made a good point in his application when he said he wants to restore respect to the office of commissioner.
Mowery’s downfall isn’t the first ethical lapse for St. Lucie County.
In 2012, Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky was suspended and later reinstated by Scott for his actions in a case involving the alleged theft of a swimming pool heater that belonged to the estate of his late girlfriend.
In the 1990s, Commissioner Ken Sattler was suspended for trying to use computerized election records to favorably influence his re-election chances. Voters sank that effort.
Yet, fundamentally, America is a forgiving country; we usually give people a second chance when they have messed up. But anyone who holds political office must earn and retain public trust.
In light of a national sea-change in sexual attitudes, Mowery’s replacement needs to be squeaky clean.
Anthony Westbury is a columnist for TCPalm. This column reflects his opinion. Contact him at 772-221-4220, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him @TCPalmWestbury on Twitter.
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