This year of 2014 A.D. did not go exactly as I had originally planned.
When Ginger Snead suddenly and unexpectedly resigned her seat on City Council this past February, the Council named me to fill in until her term expired. After having served more than six years on Marathon’s first City Council (2000-06), and having tried unsuccessfully a couple of times to come back, I was certain I had seen the end of my service as an elected official. But I believe it was John Lennon who once said that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
After having served again on the Council since March, I am proud of some of the things we accomplished with the help of a fantastic City staff and a dedicated City Manager. We took a Building Department that had some problems and turned it into one that is far more efficient at processing permits – even local contractors seem happier. We finally decided on revised plans for a City Hall that will become a reality – groundbreaking will happen very soon and construction will commence very soon after.
And very importantly, the $17 million coming from Tallahassee for wastewater infrastructure projects will help us correct some flaws and errors that occurred during the design and construction of our sewers. It will also let us pinpoint the locations of unwanted saltwater intrusion into our system. Eliminating saltwater intrusion will allow us to use our reuse water for irrigation of our parks. This is something I felt strongly about and championed during my original term on Council – and it looks like it finally will become a reality. As demand for our limited supply of potable water increases, having the ability to use reuse water for irrigation becomes extremely important.
Having just completed my final Council meeting this past Tuesday (with my term expiring as the new Council members are sworn in November 12), I have some real experiences and thoughts I’d like to share with the people lucky enough to win this Tuesday’s election and represent the residents and business owners of Marathon.
When our old friend the late State Representative Ken Sorenson swore the first City Council in back in 2000, he gave us a lesson and reminded us all of a significant word and concept: comity. (NOT comedy, although there’s a place for that as well in government sometimes.) Loosely defined, comity means courteous and considerate behavior toward others. He stressed that it was important that as a body of elected officials, we remain courteous and collegial toward each other even though at times we may disagree on issues. This is a lesson seemingly lost on a national scale, and sometimes even right here in our own hometown.
I hope that whoever fills the Council seats after the upcoming election remembers the definition of comity and commits to working together on behalf of what’s best for Marathon. The five of us who sat on the Council dais this past year didn’t always agree on everything, but I do not doubt for a minute that we were each doing what we believed was best for our city.
It’s also important for candidates and office-holders to maintain a sense of humor. Really. It will help make some of the absurd realities of public service easier to endure. Over the past several months, I have been called stupid, ignorant, brain-dead, a hypocrite, and cupcake. People will believe the most amazing and absolutely untrue things about those who run for and serve in elective office. Relax. It comes with the territory.
In closing, I am grateful for the opportunity to have served again on Marathon’s City Council. I love Marathon and I love my Florida Keys community. It was an honor and privilege to serve. Be sure and vote this Tuesday, and good luck to all the winners who will be the ones to serve next.
John Bartus is a singer/songwriter, City Council member and former Mayor of Marathon, as well as a Chamber Board member and president of the Rotary Club of Marathon. Catch John Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, and Saturdays at the Key Colony Inn. www.johnbartus.com