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Only fair to give job to guy who played fair
By JEFF WEBB
Published January 7, 2007
If Nancy Robinson was still a member of the Hernando County Commission, she probably would be elected by her colleagues Tuesday to chair the board's meetings for 2007. She was, after all, the vice chairwoman for most of 2006 and was in line to take over that added, but largely ceremonial, responsibility.
But Robinson is no longer there; 14 years after they hired her, voters fired her in November and replaced her with Rose Rocco, who now fills the District 2 seat. Rocco, however, does not inherit Robinson's position as vice chairwoman, which is good because it's no job for a rookie.
Applying that reasoning uniformly also should eliminate the possibility of newly elected Commissioner David Russell Jr. being selected as chairman. Add Diane Rowden, who has had the job for the past year, to the list of ought-to-be ineligibles and that narrows the choice to two: Chris Kingsley or Jeff Stabins.
For a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he is the second vice chairman and next in line, the job should go to Stabins.
If you recall, it was Stabins, a Republican, who took a bold stand a year ago and cast the deciding vote to give the chairmanship to Rowden, a Democrat. In doing so, he was criticized by some Republicans who thought he should have teamed up with GOP colleagues Robert Schenck and Nancy Robinson to claim the leadership position for purely partisan reasons. Stabins, to his credit, stuck by the commitment the board made in 2005 to make Rowden, who had been vice chairwoman for three years, the 2006 chairwoman.
And it was Stabins who initiated discussions about changing the way the commission selects the chairman. He offered ideas he hoped would eliminate the hard feelings that partisanship and egos inherently create. Stabins' best suggestion was to tie the chairmanship to commissioners' district numbers and just take them in order with a provision that no first-year commissioner could take the job.
That proposal drew no support from other commissioners, or the party loyalists who viewed Stabins' bipartisan effort as a betrayal. The ruling party should rule, they said.
So, I wonder if they'll be singing that tune this year, now that the Democrats hold a 3-2 majority on the board?
Probably not. But let's hope the Democrats don't try to play that card either. Stabins was there for them last year because it was the right thing to do, and the Democrats should back him Tuesday for the same unselfish reason.
If the Democrats are compelled to exercise their majority status in some way, they can nominate Kingsley as vice chairman so they'll have the job locked up in 2008. He's up for re-election that year and, if he does a good job, the visibility might just work to Kingsley's advantage.
Of course, who chairs the meetings doesn't mean squat to 99 percent of county residents. It's a concern mostly for government insiders, political observers and the commissioners.
But it could be helpful to others who can watch how the chairmen handle themselves and then use that knowledge to help judge the performance of their elected representatives. For that reason, every board member should be obligated to sit on the hot seat at least once during his or her four-year-term.