On my daily commute last week I had the pleasure of riding alongside Representative Darryl Rouson on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway connector. I took advantage of this rare opportunity and reached out to him. After his good morning, the first thing he said was: “When I saw you I thought about how you ripped everyone up in the Letter to the Editor column regarding the Courageous 12 celebration.”
My response was why? He went on to acknowledge they could have done more, but then he used the “but” word to begin to justify what was done and the way it was done. While Rouson was talking, he reminded me of something also. I was reminded that as a taxpayer and constituent of Rep. Rouson, and many other Pinellas County elected officials, you are only permitted to agree with them and co-sign on all that do, regardless of the outcome or you are subject to be pegged arch enemy number one.
If I have the opportunity again, I would love to share with Rouson and many other elected officials a publication titled “So you want to be an elected official” by the Association of Washington Cities. The publication is a very practical guide for individuals who desire to seek public office.
An excerpt from the introduction reads: “Holding a public office is an act of service to the public…that is service to all the citizens of a city, or town, not just those who share your views or those who voted for you. It is a challenge that requires office holders to rise above the fray to reach beyond their comfort zones, and to work with others with whom they may have significant differences. The guide goes on to talk about elected officials set the tone for the culture within their communities.”
I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt the very reason Pinellas County’s African-American communities remain stagnant and depressed is in large part due to a culture of complacency and mediocrity that is modeled by leaders when it comes to their representation of the black community.
You see, Rep. Rouson, my public comments regarding the Courageous 12 celebration was not at all aimed at criticizing you personally, my comments were and will continue to be aimed at raising an awareness that if we are to ever see the communities primarily identified as African American rise above a culture of mediocrity and complacency, it is imperative that every day citizens, taxpayers and voters like myself witness our leaders’ abilities to do the same.
~ Maria L. Scruggs