Eating the Bait Afterword: November 2009

April 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm 1 comment

(The version of Eating the Bait I’m selling on Amazon is little different from the one posted for years on my website. I added what’s below in 2009; I ran and lost in 2010.)

During the 2002 City Council election I met and fell in love with Deb Stevens, now Deb Stevens Fitzgerald. It was during one of our earliest long conversations that I began to realize how much of a story there was in my vote to continue the golf course. She asked me in disbelief if I had really not decided until that day to vote for the golf course, if I had really done it on the spur of the moment. “Not exactly,” I told her, and exactness wound up taking the 20,000 words you hold here. Deb and I married in 2003, after the end of a marriage that may or may not have been doomed before I ever decided to run for City Council. It seems that way now, ten years out, but I don’t claim to have known at the time.

I lost office in 2004, coming in sixth in a field of nine for three seats in a campaign that, for personal reasons, I shouldn’t have run. Carolyn and Dorn lost that year as well, and both ran again in 2006. Carolyn won then, and Dorn lost, as did Larry, one of the two longest-serving councilmen in the past 20 years. Hugh, the other longest-serving, didn’t run again after winning big in 2002.

Those of us who lost were among eleven incumbents defeated in 20 years. Sixteen newcomers won office, three won again after having left office, and eight decided not to run again. I’ve called that inhospitality to incumbents the Curse of the Mayors, since five sitting or former mayors were among the incumbents defeated. What it’s meant is an instability to city government, with constant shifts in politics, factions, and philosophies, and more power resting with the City Manager and staff than in many cities. [Updated here.]

The councils still make the big decisions, including construction of three new schools since 2002. Those schools would have cost more if we’d damaged the city’s bond rating by stopping the golf course. On the other hand, the golf course continues to lose money.

At the time I first put “Eating the Bait” on my eponymous website, I said to anybody who’d listen that it was my final word on the golf course vote. I can see things I should change or tighten or clarify as I consider another run for City Council in 2010, but I’ll have to wait until somebody asks. The story can stand as is, with this afterword the only addition to what I wrote six years ago.

I have only two regrets about the way I wrote it. One is that I was too hard on Larry Rogers, who arguably did more for the community during his 12 years than anybody else in that period. Of the people I served with, he is the only one I still talk with occasionally and think of fondly. During our service together, however, we often saw one another as adversaries, and he often spoke as harshly of me as I did of him. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a fact.

The other regret is taking the commitment of others less seriously than my own, particular in the use of the word “lying.” If an honest politician is one who never lies when he doesn’t have to, we all thought we were being honest back then. I guess you had to have been there.


Entry filed under: Commentary, Memoir.

Harrisonburg’s Curse of The Mayors Parts and Soul

1 Comment Add your own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Parts and Soul

Eating the Bait

Previously . . .

%d bloggers like this: