Joyce Rogers has left Inverness City Hall, taking with her a megawatt smile, an unfailingly sunny disposition and a lifetime of golden memories. The city certainly is diminished by her departure.
In her ninth year as mayor, Rogers recently found herself in a dilemma. She and her husband needed a larger home so they could care for her mother-in-law, who was coming to live with them. After scouring Inverness and the surrounding neighborhoods, the only house they found that would work was outside the city limits.
But the City Charter requires that the mayor live within the city's borders.
Thus, Rogers had to choose between her actual kin and her extended family, the people of Inverness, whom she holds so dear. It is unfair that someone with such a huge capacity for caring would be placed in that position, but fate is not always kind. Rogers made the only choice she could and announced last month that she was stepping down as mayor.
Last week, the Inverness City Council chose council member Ken Hinkle to be interim mayor. The charter calls for a special election to fill the term, which expires in 2005. In the meantime, the council intends to hold a workshop to discuss possible changes to the largely ceremonial position.
In Inverness, the mayor has very little power. The mayor cannot vote on regular council business and can exercise a veto only on resolutions and ordinances. The real purpose of the mayor is to be an ambassador and, in Rogers' case, an unabashed cheerleader for Inverness.
It is a role Rogers was born to play.
With a vibrancy that belies her 62 years, Rogers has been a fixture at community and social events throughout Citrus County since she was elected in 1995.
In that race, she captured 66 percent of the vote, a measure of the affection Inverness residents have for her.
Since then, Rogers has faced re-election twice but she never again faced opposition at the polls.
Rogers has fulfilled her duties as mayor with aplomb, whether it was judging a parade of dogs or carrying the city's banner overseas to meet with the leaders of sister-city Inverness, Scotland.
She has been as comfortable with foreign dignitaries as she has been with local children, treating all with heartfelt affection.
As the Inverness council members toss around ideas on how to change the role of mayor, they would be well advised to heed the old saying: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
They need look no further than Crystal River to find an example of what can happen when a mayor becomes a domineering player in local politics.
Does Inverness really need another bare-knuckles politician in city hall?
Or, as Rogers so aptly demonstrated, is it better for the city to have a mayor who can stand apart from the fussing and feuding and simply welcome all comers with a beaming smile and a hug?