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Updated: 09/23/2012 08:00:37AM

Why did Mr. Bowlin pick on our city leaders?

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Keith Thompson, owner of Beans and Brushes.

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It would not surprise me in the least to one day read a Lake Wales News article declaring one of our city officials or commissioners being injured or deceased from stepping on one of the many “land mines” that have been planted around our fair city. OK, so maybe not “literal” land mines that remove arms and legs, but the “figurative” landmines that are planted by some, always under the guise of “concerned citizenship.”

I am referring to a recent letter to the editor written about our City Manager Terry Leary and Commissioner Betty Wojcik. I too, am a concerned citizen of Lake Wales and am deeply aware of the current economy and welfare of our City, as well as the overall harbinger of national doom that seems to be causing everyone to “finger point” in anticipation of the ship sinking. I don’t know the individual that wrote the letter, but I want to imagine him as a fair guy who just wants the best for the City of Lake Wales. Of concern is the accusatory tone of his article and the “let’s think the worst of our city leaders, no matter what they do” ranting that summarizes the content!

Betty Wojcik and Terry Leary did their jobs, period. ”How?” is probably a very careful and awkward, step by step procedure through the political “minefields” of Lake Wales culture; where mines of “inaction” are as equally fatal as mines of “action.” Did it result in our City Manager misstating her position for the purpose of self-preservation or protection? Yes, it appears so, though maybe she was genuinely surprised at the concept of combining the positions of Assistant City Manager and Recreation Director, who knows and more importantly, who cares? What I can speculate with a level of confidence is that she walks a very tight line trying to avoid the many traps set by “concerned citizens and community groups,” that seem to relish any small misstep or misstatement, as an opportunity to call for “execution.” If the expectation is to eliminate all unfortunate or untrue comments from public discourse maybe we as citizens should start with our own first.

Are they, (the City Commission and City Manager) “in over their heads?” Yes, they are, and so are “WE.” This is not an insult, this is just the situation we all face. From local municipalities all the way up the ladder to the federal government, we’re in over our heads, and it will take ingenuity, creativity and a deep level of good will to solve the overwhelming nature of the current crisis. As a national political analyst said recently, “We have to pay back 16 trillion dollars just to be broke again!”

The real question is what do we do and how do we do it? No offense to the writer of the letter, but seriously; writing these types of editorials do nothing but exacerbate an already frustrating situation, and there is virtually no value in calling for heads to be cut and people to resign or be recalled … I understand the frustration and I know where it can lead, but if there has ever been a time for city unity and community it is now. Not unity in every detail, but unity of purpose: We all want the best for our city and we are all going to have to work together to accomplish the monumental tasks ahead. To do that, we’ve got to stop believing the worst about each other and begin believing the best: that even if we don’t always do or say the right thing, we have hearts and minds that want to. I have little faith and belief in Federal, State or County Policy to invest in and care about Lake Wales, but I do have utmost faith and belief in the leaders, administrators and citizens of Lake Wales to do the right thing and make the right choices for the general good and welfare of our city. Furthermore, I steadfastly believe that local, grass roots effort, committed to rolling up its sleeves and helping one another when the going gets tough, will be the “salvation” of our country and way of life.

I’m not saying we don’t need to be vigilant towards our leaders at every level of government. I, for one, am overly suspicious of any political leader that can’t be reached by phone and spoken to directly, and I have the Facebook comments to prove it! (Color me Libertarian.) But here in Lake Wales, we CAN talk to our leaders and let them know our hopes, concerns and disappointments without it turning into bitter discourse, accusation and sour grapes in the local newspaper.

When we engage in accusatory rhetoric at the local level, our “concern” creates an environment of fear for our leaders that generally results in self-protection and inaction … That’s the situation we have currently in Washington, D.C., and it’s killing our country. Do we really believe we need more of it in Lake Wales?