In a recent Citrus County Chronicle editorial they addressed the issue of my use of social media and to some extent the fact that I write these letters and while I am a strong advocate for the free press, I do have issues when you only get part of a story or when things are taken out of context.
First, let me agree with the editorial headline that "communication is good, within boundaries." Yes, communication should have boundaries and a good portion of those boundaries should be about communicating with the full base of knowledge.
You see, there was a lack information in the editorial; it seems no one seemed to ask the simple question, "what did he communicate?"
During the hurricane I knowingly put out information to the public; it was about where the shelters, sandbag locations were and other pertinent information.
It was even about the mandatory evacuation that the west side of the county was facing, as I have friends and family there as well as just wanting to get the information out.
The county sheriff’s office did a great job and the county PIO did yeoman’s work as well. But the two organizations only have a following of about 60,000 people on Facebook and since there are over 140,000 people living in the county, it seems an easy statement to say that we are probably missing some of them.
So I put out information, in the hopes of reaching some that may follow me on my Facebook page at Jimmie T. Smith, which has about 2,000 people, who may not be following one of the other pages, which is potentially 80,000 people in Citrus County.
Another of the criticism that was offered was the fact that we should all speak with one voice, or that all emergency information should come from the people we employee to do that job.
I agree with them, so when that emergency information was put out, I listened and I helped share "their" information. Such as when the county instituted a curfew that I then shared with people in my circle of communication. Some of which had follow up questions in which I gave the Emergency Operations Center number to call.
A side note, most of the time that these posts by our CCSO and county are done they add the phrase "Please Share." Also the amount of people who get their news from social media is around 67 percent of the general public.
Basically I amplified the voice of our employees that we hired to lead and who asked us to share; or better put, I strongly supported their leadership in this situation.
So we spoke as one voice, I just made it a little bit louder.
It’s funny that across the state you had leaders who posted, tweeted and communicated information from their Emergency Operations Center as well.
County commissioners from other counties were regularly on the radio, communicating to radio listeners about the situation. So it is actually more normal to have leaders support the message getting out than not.
As far as a learning curve, let me be clear, the criticism is without content and just saying it doesn’t make it something. Some commissioners do things one way and others another way and none of it is wrong and there is no handbook of what we should or shouldn’t do.
So I place things on the agenda, we discuss it and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I feel one of my duties is to represent the people of District 3, by bringing things forward and if that is not part of my duties by one commissioner’s opinion, then that is a learning curve I’ll gladly swerve off of.
I am vocally communicative and support the staff or leaders who work for us and when needed I am sometimes critical of them. So if the Emergency Operations Center puts out information that should be spread throughout the county, then I will support them even at a cost to me.
I am still unsure where this isn’t my duty? But again, my message to the community, and yes even my peers, is my technique of leadership is not a critique of what the other members of the board do or even a suggestion that they do like I do.
One of the points that I want to close on is simple: I have never tried to speak on behalf of the commissioners I sit with, nor have I tried to act as if I was the chair.
The chair is the unified leader of the board; when the board has a vision, policy or challenges, it is the chair that speaks for us.
I have not and would not tell the chair what should or shouldn’t be said on our behalf nor have I or would I criticize the chair for the way they take our unified voice to the people and I feel it’s actually being done correctly.
I only do these letters or social media post to generate conversation.
Basically this letter is an unusual response to an editorial and the reason is simple; when the Chronicle said "we are not troubled by Smith’s desire to raise issues and communicate with the public on most issues. (Just not emergencies.)"
I just wondered, did they ever ask what I was communicating or where I got the information from or did they just get their information from a conversation at a board meeting and make a judgment call from there?
I am not angry or even miffed at the editorial board, I just hope that they would in the future look into what or how something was done prior to making a public statement about what I shouldn’t do.
Jimmie T. Smith is the District 3 representative on the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners.