Officials vs. representatives

Be careful what you wish for.

Many people have lately been expressing a yearning for leadership, apparently believing that the right kind will take the reins and set their city, state, or country on a better path.

If only.

But not really.

It's not actually what leaders do. The role of leadership is to build consensus and rouse its community to take concerted action to improve its lot. Not to simply decide on the best course and yell, "Follow me!", or "Get out of the way!".

Every person elected to public office has a duty to do what the constituency requires, which requires them to seek that information, listen carefully and thoughtfully, and weigh all of the input in the larger context of the entire citizenship. Reacting and responding to the most vocal factions is not responsible or helpful.

The purpose of designated representatives is to manage the process of engaging all elements of their community and balancing the competing needs to produce a benign - if not actively beneficial - outcome for all.

City Commissioners, and their counterparts at all levels of our representative democracy, are not "officials", a designation that implies the power to decide and do. They are chosen to serve as a sounding board and think tank that will consider the issues that naturally arise in the complex collection of competing interests, and report their findings to the populace for its consideration and approval.

The citizens are the other half of this equation of course.

It is incumbent on all of us to provide input to the government through our elected representatives. Write, call, text, email, speak up! They can't hear you shaking your head.

If the government isn't working to suit you, you need to engage your citizenship and make contact. Whatever fraction of us that actually does this will create a basis for consideration and an opportunity for improvement. But all voices must be taken into account even if they can't be easily heard. This is the primary duty of all government. We will all be better served by choosing citizens who are capable and qualified to understand the complicated circumstances that are the natural consequence of the economic, cultural, and informed diversity that creates community.

Do not choose politicians. Do not choose leaders. Do not choose officials.

Choose to participate and insist on being represented. Insist on everyone being represented. Otherwise, we can simply run the city with a show of hands from the noise makers.

E-mail the commissioners

But one at a time, please!


For the most part, when recipients open an email that includes others they are less inclined to take it personally. Make sure your message resonates by sending it to each commissioner separately.

Scott Franklin - Stephanie Madden -  Sara McCarley - Chad Mcleod

Bill Mutz - Bill Read - Phillip Walker

Each of these noble citizens represents all the rest of us. The four geographic designations - Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, etc. - apply only to the residency requirements for commissioners, not to their constituents. Bill Read, for instance, lives in the city's northeast quadrant and is likely to be more in tune with the businesses and neighborhoods in that area, but serves us all as our representative to the city management and staff.

It will always help to send your message to City Manager Shawn Sherouse  because it's his job to implement whatever projects, resolutions, and ordinances the Commission proposes in response to our communication.


State legislators representing Lakeland

Representative Colleen Burton

Senator Kelli Stargell