Today’s News & Messenger article about the Town of Dumfries exhibits an important lesson in political leadership that’s worthy of review by any current or aspiring elected official. If you don’t get the fundamental concepts right, such as service vs. power, authority and responsibility, and what the role of a political leader is, it is terribly unlikely that any of the policies are going to be right, either. In this case Kristin Forrester shows what the right fundamentals are and what they look like from someone who gets it when under pressure. As for the rest of the council, they fall all over themselves acting like a bunch of eunuchs subservient to a Prince William County supervisor instead of representatives of the citizens of Dumfries.
Addressing her fellow council members, she said, “My questions to you was, ‘What are we going to do to help the county understand its obligations to us?’ Not the favors they want to consider doing for us if we impress them with our good behavior.”
“Something has to happen and it’s not going to happen in the next quarterly meeting.” Forrester said.
Before the council moved on to other business, Council member Dorothea Barr apologized for Forrester’s mother/momma comments.
“I think it was a rude and unkind thing to say and inappropriate in this forum,” Barr said.
Yohey and Vice Mayor Nancy West sent a letter to the News and Messenger about Forrester’s comments, which was published this week.
“This letter is to apologize to Mrs. Caddigan and to other county staff who were included in the outburst of this council member,” they wrote. “The actions of one council member do not reflect the feelings of the entire town council.
“We am deeply sorry that this action has taken place at a time when the Dumfries Town Council did have a good working relationship with Prince William County,” the letter stated. “We hope that in time this good relationship can be re-established.”
Forrester said the letter summed up and reinforced the points she made in the meeting to include the attitude of some of her fellow council members.
“This is exactly what I was saying. Either you make Maureen Caddigan happy or the town will pay,” she said.
Go get ‘em, tiger. Show them what actually having a pair looks like.
It’s moments like this when things get passionate that you often get to see what people are really made of. While the whole council seemed aghast to have Maureen Caddigan referred to as “Momma” who the council regularly goes begging to for the tax dollars the residents of Dumfries pay, there’s one member of the council who seems to actually understand what the rule of an elected official is - to fight for the interests of their constituents first. This is not a government body subservient to the County Board of Supervisors, it is an independent body elected by the residents of Dumfries. If those residents wanted lackeys, all they’d need to do is make a quick raid to Independent Hill where there’s a host of flunkies they could impress into service who similarly don’t seem to understand what an independent body answerable to the voters is all about.
The concept is actually pretty simple. If you are an elected official, the only people who you need to like you are the ones who vote for you. You don’t bow down to anyone else but the citizens you serve, you don’t tremble at the sight of a member of a different elected body, and you don’t fail to forcefully pursue the interests of your constituents because you’re scared that some other public official won’t be pleased. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you are required to engage in a perpetual war against other public bodies, but you certainly don’t have to act like you work for them rather than your constituents.
All that often empty rhetoric about “leadership” that gets trotted out during election cycles is proffered not because it’s a nice sounding way to fill what might otherwise be dumb silence, it’s what voters are expecting out of their elected officials. ”Leadership” isn’t about sitting on your butt acting like a flunkie to a different public body, staff, or some other functionary being worried what they think of you. It’s about standing up for what’s right when others around you don’t have the courage to do so, not worrying who you’re going to upset, and fighting on behalf of your constituents. ”Leadership” is never demonstrated when the exercise is easy, it’s always what separates the wheat from the chaff when it’s difficult and risky.
The residents of Dumfries actually have a leader in their midst, although there are plenty among them who clearly are not up to the task. Cleaning house in that town cannot come soon enough, and if Forrester hasn’t already been elevated to a position where she can fight for a greater number of people by the time the next municipal election rolls around, she ought to be selected as mayor. Given that the current mayor can’t seem to locate his manhood and a past mayor employed it in order to run a prostitution operation in Manassas Park, it’s about time this town had a chance to be lead by someone who’s got the balls for the job and can wield them with some degree of competence.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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