Escambia County

Musical chairmanships at Escambia County Commission

November 11, 2013

musical chairs 300x
The part of the BCC Nov. 7 meeting that got me the most text messages wasn’t the Patels protesting their near-arrest. No, people were fascinated and disturbed by the discussion over the rotation of the commission chairmanship.

The board has a policy to rotate the chairmanship in order of the districts:
2012-13 District 2 Gene Valentino
2013-14 District 3 Lumon May
2014-15 District 4 Grover Robinson
2015-16 District 5 Steven Barry

In October, Commissioner May had discussed with staff whether he could change the rotation because of business obligations he has coming up this next year. He wanted to swap with Grover. He was told that if he didn’t take the chair on Nov. 21, then he would go to the end of line.

On Thursday, Grover made an add-on agenda item asking that he and Steven Barry swap years. Apparently staff didn’t have a problem with his request–which is a discussion for another day.

The motion triggered a floor fight between Robinson and Gene Valentino – who has felt he was cheated out of a full term in 2008 when he took over from Mike Whitehead.

Valentino and Robertson didn’t want to waive the rotation policy. Grover argued that he was taking over the presidency of the Florida Association of Counties next year and worried about handling both responsibilities.

“Besides, if a new person is elected to this seat next year, you will be voting to switch with Commissioner Barry anyway,” said Robinson.

Valentino was visibly upset. “Your primary obligation is to serve this county, not be the FAC president,” said Gene to Grover.

The discussion degraded from there with commissioners interrupting each other, talking over one another, but in the end, by a 3-2 vote, the BCC voted to switch rotation over the next three years – May, Barry and then Robinson.

  • Mark B November 12, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Robertson and Valentino continue to be an embarassment to the county. Hopefully Robertson will not take back his promise that this will be his last term. We need fresh thoughts just like I believe that District 3 and 5 recently got.

  • Henry November 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

    “Valentino just wants to picks meaningless squabbles with other commissioners, excepting Wilson, of course.”

    Nobody wants to pick a squabble with Wilson…he has 437 guns stashed around his house, car and on his person.

  • Doug Underhill November 12, 2013 at 5:24 am

    I find it peculiar that King Gene thinks he even has a dog in this fight. It probably has more to do with jealousy than anything…he can’t stand the idea of anyone but him representing Escambia on the larger stage. I think Gene feels like he has earned his seat at the statewide table and seems to have gotten snubbed by Tallahassee. If he thinks that hurt, wait till you see the results of the Distict 2 primary, when we get to let him know how we feel about him!

  • molino jim November 11, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Poor Gene–every one picks on him. He wanted the jail–so Morgan gave it to him (with a smile on his face). Then Gene has to tell how to run the pound. Next he wants to run the garbage part of the ECUA (I recall it was in the red–now it’s in the black money wise). Then on top of it all the board will not let him have his full two years as chairman. Think of all of the good things he could do if allowed to have his full term as chairman.

  • CJ Lewis November 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    The real issue the Commissioners talked around last Thursday was the role of the Commission Chairperson. Apparently, it is a “no ability/no experience” required job picked by the sheer random luck of the numbering of Commission districts. A better system would be for the Commission to pick a Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson at the start of each two-year term. If a Commissioner does not want either job, they could strike their name from the list. If the Commissioners want the same person to be the Chairperson for four or more years, that might be a good thing. The likely result of anything better than the comical current scheme would be more continuity and perhaps the County Administrators might last longer in office.

    Rice bowl politics is another problem holding back Escambia County. Unlike in Santa Rosa County and most Florida Counties where Commissioner are elected at-large with district residency requirements, no one would ever successfully accuse the Escambia County Commission of having a common vision. They often act more like Princes protecting their Principalities offended that another Commissioner would even dare to peek over the fence into their fiefdom. If you do not believe me, watch the Commission meetings. Better yet, drive into “North County” and ask them if they think the four “South County” Commissioners give a hoot about them. Imagine the difference if “North County” played a decisive role in electing all County Commissioners.

    Commissioner May recently emphasized that he is in office because the federal court directed the racial gerrymandering of an African-American majority-minority district in an era (1981) when the Ku Klux Klan was still a political force and white voters openly said they would not vote for a black candidate. Nearly 33 years later, the McMillan v. Escambia County ruling (638 F.2d 1239) does not ring so true. Commissioner May’s District 3 has 19,331 African-American registered voters (52.4%). He does not represent the majority of African-Americans in Escambia County. There are 19,992 African-American registered voters spread throughout Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5. On the other hand, if all 39,323 African-American registered voters (19.8%) could vote for all County Commissioners, and did vote (perhaps many registering as Republicans to vote in the primary), the Commission might have to do more than give lip service to Brownsville, the underfunded CRA, etc. At-large elections would get the attention of the School Board members too. Closer to home, look at how the city’s African-American community put aside their petty intramural squabbles barely long enough to elect Ashton Hayward in 2010.

  • joe November 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Valentino is such a short-sighted imbecile. How better could Grover serve this county than to be the President of a State Association of counties organization.

    Valentino just wants to picks meaningless squabbles with other commissioners, excepting Wilson, of course.