Monday, February 28, 2005


Gotta give due props to Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty today, who reminds us that before signing that next petition to put on the ballot cutting the salaries of our local constitutional officers in half that we get what we pay for.

The piece was in reaction to the Polk County Grand Jury's finding last week that found Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards procedures somewhat lax in dealing with the petitions gathered by a local group to put three items on next year's ballot that not only would slash constitutional officers' salaries, but also provide term limits for them and make them, in effect, department heads under the supervision of the County Commission.

Rufty writes:

Now that the grand jury has said to throw that junk of a petition pile out, Polk County voters need to think seriously about the issue before the next salary-cutting binge begins.It is a great buzz word.

Wow, does it sell: "Those folks are making more money than me, I'll just cut 'em down to size.

"Yeah? Well maybe they have more responsibility and stress than you, too. One of the biggest reactions after Smith (activist Dewey, who was indicted for submitting petitions he knew were bogus and violating campaign finance laws) successfully pushed a ballot measure that cut county commissioners' salaries were complaints by callers to The Ledger that they couldn't find a county commissioner.

"Hey, what's going on? You used to always find a commissioner in the office, now they are always out," one asked.

Well, that's because the voters cut the salary from a full-time commissioner to that of a part-time one, and these guys had to earn a living.

And to give you specifics to think about:

Take Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who is paid $136,000 a year. The salary cutting proposal would have cut him to $68,000 a year.

There are 1,483 full-time employees in the Sheriff's Office.

Nowhere in this nation will you find a private security company of nearly 1,500 employees, the majority of whom are trained to use firearms in the most critical jobs, where the CEO works for $68,000.

You want your property protected by an $18,000-a-year deputy? Lots 'o luck, pal.

Or what about the CEO of a private appraisal firm of several dozen highly skilled appraisers? The Polk County property appraiser's salary was among those that would have been cut had the measure gotten on the ballot and passed.

And is there anyone out there who would want a cut-rate elections supervisor after all the problems in other counties where the supervisors are paid even more than here?

Sure, we may occasionally bitch about our local office holders, but there's no way that you could even begin to find truly qualified individuals who would want to take on the responsibility and public arrowheads for half the costs. Polk is one of the largest counties area-wise in Florida, larger than the state of Rhode Island, not to mention one of the fastest growing in population and development. And the pressures will only increase as Polk continues to grow. These people should truly think hard before deciding to begin another "slash and burn" petition drive, and especially before following a bitter old crumudugeon (sp) like Dewey Smith, who will possibly have plenty of time on his hands now in the Florida penal system.


Blogger Florida Politics said...

Will this thing pass?

6:52 AM  
Blogger Robert C. said...

Unfortunately, there will always be people out there who believe that we should pay part-time salaries for full-time responsibilities. While many of the salaries for public officials in Polk seem to be rather high, it's actually a rather small part of the overall budget. And besides, the pay for the positions are less then like-sized counties across Florida.

4:52 PM  

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