Tone it down but keep it up, Stabins

I wish Jeff Stabins wouldn't go out in public wearing, for example, the purple blazer and gold tie I saw him in a few weeks ago.

He said he was just showing his Hernando High School spirit, but the entire outfit looked as though it had come from a not particularly clean thrift store. And though I'm in no position to give lectures about dignified dressing, it didn't seem fitting for a county commissioner.

Neither did the wide-brimmed hat he wore on a recent visit to our office. He claimed to be dressing as Rooster Cogburn, but I've seen both versions of True Grit, and don't remember either John Wayne or Jeff Bridges wearing, as Stabins was, a palm-embroidered guayabera.

I wish Stabins would give up on his blog, Rusty's Tale, which is named after and written in the voice of his dog.

It's sometimes amusing and even right on, such as the case with his recent critique of how far his Republican Party has veered from its noble, inclusive origins. But in the latest installment, he refers to County Administrator David Hamilton as Herr Hamilton, and in a convoluted way compared him to Adolf Hitler. In the guise of Rusty, he also poses as a mock poll question whether Hamilton needs to "relieve himself."

Not amusing at all.

I wish Stabins, who last week announced he would not seek re-election in 2012, would be less personal and more factual in his attacks on powerful county residents. I wish he had thought before embarking on his current campaign to fire Hamilton or, in February, before he said SunTrust Bank needs to sell its building in downtown Brooksville because it is on the verge of failure. It isn't.

See, the problem with all these eccentricities and attention-seeking quotes and needless picking of fights is that they undermine his credibility and obscure the fact that he's usually right. Even more important, he's often the only commissioner willing to tell people they're wrong.

We could go way back, because even as a state representative in the 1990s, Stabins carried on a running battle with his local party hierarchy.

But more relevant for the current discussion is a look at last year's budget fight and his questioning of then-Sheriff Richard Nugent. In the spirit of Stabins' fondness for old-time pop culture, let me say that some commissioners so effectively mouthed Nugent's arguments from the dais they made me think of Charlie McCarthy.

Stabins, meanwhile, showed the Sheriff's Office budget had more than doubled in the past decade — that there was a lot of fat to trim.

Stabins was right to stand up to Clerk of Circuit Court Karen Nicolai — but not to portray her as a witch on his blog — for the proposed hiring of the woman who used to like being called "Doctor" until it was revealed that Lisa Hammonds' advanced education credentials were a total fraud. Stabins was right to call out Chief Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. for his demands that the county spend millions of bucks so every judge could have a personal courtroom. And though Hamilton certainly doesn't deserve firing, he does deserve to be blasted for the undemocratic shortcuts he's taken on the Hernando Beach dredge, especially the brief, disastrous employment of construction manager Greg Jarque.

So, yes, I wish Stabins would tone it down. But I also wish he'd run again.

Tone it down but keep it up, Stabins 04/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:45pm]

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