Let’s crowd the ballot this year

By Steve Estes

Election season has begun to heat up in the Florida Keys and this promises to be an exceptionally busy year with races of local importance as well as the selection of a President.

There are already multiple challengers to take over the job as the county’s top cop with the impending retirement of Sheriff Bob Peryam. Three Republicans and two Democrats have filed to try and win the seat that Peryam vacated after just one term.

There are already multiple challengers to take over the District Three School Board of current incumbent Duncan Mathewson, who has not as yet announced whether he will seek re-election for a third term. A non-partisan race, four folks have tossed their hats in the ring for the school board seat.

There are already multiple challengers for seats on the Mosquito Control District, a low-profile body that nonetheless annually has an impact on the property tax bills we receive in the mail.

There are multiple challengers for the Clerk of the Court seat being vacated by the retirement of long-time incumbent Danny Kolhage, as well as multiple challengers for the job of Supervisor of Elections, being vacated by the retiring Harry Sawyer.

There is yet only one challenger for the Property Appraiser seat open now due to the retirement of another long-term office holder, and there is yet only one person filed for each of the three county commission seats that will be open due to term end in November.

Incumbent Heather Carruthers has filed to seek her seat again, as has incumbent Sylvia Murphy. Incumbent Kim Wigington has announced she will not seek reelection, and retiring County Court Clerk Danny Kolhage has filed for that seat.

If that were the slate for county commission, few people would argue that it would still be a very good one.

But that isn’t what Democracy is supposed to be about.

Democracy should be about choices.

Different candidates spark different ideas, bring different backgrounds to the table, and have different goals for the long-term success of Monroe County.

There’s nothing like a good political campaign to get all those ideas out in the open and allow the people to hear what else might be out there.

We don’t advocate not putting those three in office. Folks seem genuinely satisfied with the performances of Carruthers and Murphy, and Kolhage was easily elected to so many terms as County Clerk that no one doubts his credentials to do the job properly and with the best interests of the people in the county at heart.

But we do advocate open, honest and spirited discussions about what has happened in county government, what is happening, and what is yet to come.

With no opposition, those ideas don’t get fleshed out by people with differing viewpoints, offering a different way of doing the county’s business, maybe coming up with a unique idea or two that can be put to practical use by any eventual winner for the betterment of all the people of Monroe County.

Political campaigns can be expensive, extremely time consuming and a drain on personal resources both financially and physically.

But a spirited campaign that focuses on the issues of the day and the problems to be faced tomorrow can only serve to make all of us more empowered voters and citizens.

We also realize that, if elected, a county commissioner becomes a full-time public servant, meaning that a current occupation either takes a hiatus or a distant back seat to the needs of those who put someone in office.

Your life as a politician is never really your own, but it does come with its share of rewards, however, not financially.

If you seek local political office because you need a job, you’re running for the wrong reasons.

If the filing period ended today, we would have to say we’re happy with the list of folks who have put their names on the ballots for us to choose from.

But we would also urge anyone interested in becoming an under-paid, over-worked public servant to throw their hat in the ring and bring us some fresh ideas, some innovative policies, some new roads to map for our future.

The filing period still has a few months to go.

If you are at all thinking that you have something to offer the people of Monroe County, give it some thought.

We’ll all benefit.

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