November 11, 2016 – TC Palm Editorial Board
In the coming days, the winners in more than four dozen races across the Treasure Coast will be sworn into office.
Their victories were hard-won, and the work that lies ahead will be even harder.
There are budgets to be balanced, infrastructure needs to tend to, an ailing Indian River Lagoon to protect and individual constituent problems to tackle.
For the following winners, this will mark their first time serving in public office:
- Brian Mast, U.S. House, District 18 (Martin, St. Lucie and parts of northern Palm Beach counties)
- Erin Grall, state House, District 54 (Indian River County and a small part of northern St. Lucie County)
- Cathy Townsend, St. Lucie County Commission
- Michelle Franklin, St. Lucie County Property Appraiser
- Jeremiah Johnson, Fort Pierce City Commission
- Jolien Caraballo and Stephanie Morgan, Port St. Lucie City Council
- Tiffany Justice and Laura Zorc, Indian River County School Board
- Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Tony Young, Vero Beach City Council
- Ed Dodd and Linda Kinchen, Sebastian City Council
- Harold Jenkins, Martin County Commission
These newcomers will join incumbents who won re-election and candidates returning to public office after having taken a break.
As they get to work, we offer some guidance:
1. Be transparent
Get to know Florida’s public records laws quickly, and go out of your way to adhere to them. That includes any communication on your personal email accounts or devices. Florida’s public records laws are far-reaching, and they serve an important purpose.
“You have to remember that if that record relates to public business, it must be retained and maintained,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for free speech and public access to records.
Technology exists for tracking text messages and personal emails. Sometimes it’s as simple as copying your official government account or a city manager, for example, on a reply.
For bonus points, sign the First Amendment Foundation’s “Open Government Pledge,” assuring your constituents that you “believe that open and transparent government is essential to our democracy.”
If you’re doing the public’s business, it should be logged in the public record.
And, apart from public records, remember how your actions might appear from outside City Hall or the state Capitol. Take extra lengths to avoid even perceived conflicts of interest. [READ MORE]