If candidates don’t go to practice, do they deserve our votes?

When I was at the University of Alabama, head football coach Gene Stallings held an open competition for a field goal kicker.

During practice, one would-be kicker showed a strong leg but wasn’t very accurate. Worried about making the team, the player went to Stallings. “Coach I know I can do better, it just makes me nervous when you watch me.“

Coach Stallings put his arm around the kid’s shoulder and in his deep, slow, Texas drawl said, “Son, I’m going to be at all the games. You better figure out how to make ‘em while I’m watchin’.“

I thought of that story three weeks ago during the 3.5 hour Sanford City Commission meeting. Of the 8 first-time candidates running for Sanford elected office, only two – District 2 candidates Kerry Wiggins and Shane Lillibridge – were in attendance. Both have consistently attended commission meetings since January. The other candidates have spotty attendance records at best.

I know the candidates are active. They’ve been busy holding fundraisers, building websites, buying t-shirts, designing logos, asking people to like their social media accounts, making videos, giving speeches, interviewing with the local mullet wrapper, bragging about endorsements from New York City-based organizations – you know, the fun and easy stuff about being a candidate.

Except for Wiggins and Lillibridge, none of the candidates are putting in the seat time to learn what is actually going on. I guess they think they’ll be magically granted the knowledge about the issues, challenges and opportunities facing the city once they’re elected.

The May 14 commission meeting did draw candidates Brenda Hartsfield, Mario Hicks and Nancy Groves to the meeting, most likely because Facebook exploded with comments for and against the Live PD proposal which was on the agenda.

Here’s the thing, about 97% of a city commissioner’s/mayor’s job is to deal with mundane issues that NEVER make it onto the various Sanford social media groups. It’s not sexy, but it’s important. It’s not rocket science, but you’ve got to put the time in to understand the issues, policies and procedures.

For example, an agenda item from the April 23 meeting, Sally Rosemond proposed giving the city 2.79 acres of land the city could really use for its public works facility and water treatment plant. Easy decision, right? What about the nearby gasification plant cleanup and the EPA consent decree? Any of the new candidates want to explain what all that means, and how it effected the commission’s decision? For that matter, can any of the candidates besides Wiggins and Lillibridge tell me what the commission decided? The gasification plant is an issue the city has been dealing with for at least 25 years. Should one or more of the new candidates get elected, it’s an issue they’ll be dealing with in the future.

If declared candidates can’t bother to attend “practice” meetings where they have the opportunity to learn without the pressure of making a decision, how can we trust them to put the work in to make good decisions if they’re elected to office?

There’s only 5 more city Commission meetings before the election (actually 6, but one is the night before election day).

Ya’ll better figure out how to make ‘em – we’re watchin’.