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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 8 years ago

Staff opinion: Elections aren't a social death sentence

Local politics tends to alienate the people who had the courage to try to help lead us, and it shouldn't.

The election’s over. The polls are closed. The signs are slowly making their way back into their respective campaign headquarters. For most of our local candidates that means their garage at home, right next door to neighbors they now speak for, or at least the ones they hoped to.

City politics may have no shortage of mudslinging at times, but at the end of the cycle, as the votes are counted and we pick a winner, we have to hope that there are no real losers. All of our mayoral candidates campaigned on platforms that truly would have benefited Winter Park and Maitland. They asked for balanced finances, thriving downtown areas and a brighter tomorrow. How they planned on getting us all there is the only difference.

This time around we’ve been lucky; there were no moments where one candidate truly demonized another. Candidate forums saw little if any booing, and plenty of reason to cheer. Nobody was called the next Hitler. The doom saying of a destroyed Park Avenue or a towering overdeveloped monstrosity only saw traction in the rumor mills rather than in the public light. In short, our would-be mayors played nice, or as nicely as one could play when trying to stay politically competitive.

But when we woke up on Wednesday, we may have noticed something different about our cities. As has often been the case after recent elections, or even after commissioners and council members simply step down at the end of their term, they become ghosts.

We frequently find that our former public officials, and even those candidates who narrowly missed a seat on the dais, are disappearing from public view, sometimes forever.

You know their names, and for many years you saw their faces. They represented you at City Hall, just in case you weren’t there to have your voice be heard. They fought for a new downtown in Maitland, a nicer experience on Park Avenue, more restaurants to shop in or more parkland to sit with the kids and watch a movie under the stars. In rare instances, they did something that was truly unpopular. In most cases, they simply did what they thought was right.

But now those faces are gone. Save for recent Winter Park City Commissioner Karen Diebel, none of them are somewhere else campaigning for higher office. They’re right here, where we’re all lucky enough to call home. You know their faces, and you’re not seeing them around much anymore. They’ve disappeared from the patio outside 310 Park South. Unless it’s former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova, these folks are rarely dropping by on a meeting at City Hall to participate in city government.

Local politics is funny like that. It tends to alienate the people who had the courage to try to help lead us, and it shouldn’t. For the vast majority, they wanted a better place for all of us to call home. A punishment of socially enforced hermitage shouldn’t await our leaders after the votes are counted. Most of the time those votes are awfully close.

So three cheers for Ken Bradley and Howard Schieferdecker for winning their mayoral seats. But let’s not give the cold shoulder to those who came all too close to being our next mayor. They wanted what was best for the community too, just like the rest of us.

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