By Londa Rohlfing
Before Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, I think I might have attended one to two County Commission meetings for one reason or another – mostly curiosity. I have a close relationship with my own County Commissioner, and a passing level of acquaintance with several others. I attended out of excitement at the prospect of my friend, Marcia Moss, likely winning the appointment to fill the vacant position on the School Board.
Here is what this “regular” citizen understands: an opening arises, people apply for the position, sharing their qualifications. According to law, for School Board, they must now claim a political party alignment as well. Commissioners meet in their caucuses to decide which candidate they will support with their votes at the Commission Meeting. It was my understanding that Marcia had a solid majority backing in the Republican Caucus.
What I learned at that meeting is that one’s WORD means nothing. Positioning for power is obviously more important than what one promises their like-minded political caucus members. This translates to me as failure to take a stand and to place one’s vote as promised and according to what they feel their constituents would want them to do. Instead, I understand that the three Republican Caucus members who “passed” on each vote were acting in protest, which to me seems like little boys on the playground. In doing so, they sided with the Democrats. All I can conclude is that perhaps promising too much to too many gets one into a “sticky situation.”
Why would any elected official “pass” and not place their vote? In this case, I cannot see ANY reason. The choices were clear – and ample time was given for thoughtful consideration by each Commissioner of each of the applicants. All of this just delays the appointment of a qualified School Board candidate and further delays the citizens of that district having their full representation.
And this opportunity to “change” at the end of each voting cycle? I had never witnessed that before. To me, that seems clearly like Commissioners can “blow in the wind” – wanting to be on the “winning team.” I’ve learned that this opportunity to change one’s vote is Commission tradition and goes along with the ‘passing’ of one’s vote. I think that both are spineless, and would suggest that the Commission strongly consider putting an end to that “tradition.” The behavior I witnessed is NOT what I look for in a representative. What I’m looking for is a representative with strength of conviction to stand and to do the right thing at every stage of the process – regardless of friendships, feelings, promises, personal power-grab and all the rest.
Again, I’m just a “regular,” yet interested, citizen. I suppose I just don’t understand all of the ins and outs of the political process – and, honestly, I don’t want to. To me, it need not be all this difficult. I had thought and prayed that we’d left this type of shenanigans behind when we escaped Illinois and came to Tennessee. That was just wishful thinking as I learned at the Aug. 21 County Commission meeting.
Londa Rohlfing is a citizen of Madison County who’s active in local politics.