What’s really happening in our local politics and what’s at stake for our future

Nick Maddox

On March 11, the Democrat ran a story about texts to commissioners, during our meeting to consider funding infrastructure improvements to Doak Campbell stadium.  I’m proud of my vote to support this project. The reasons why far exceed the word limits for opinion pieces and much has been written about that already.  

No, I write today about a troubling bigger picture in our local politics.  You see, one of those texts was from political operative Max Herrle to county commissioner and mayoral candidate Kristin Dozier. In the text, Herrle referred to me as a “dumb little bastard,” for my support of the FSU project.

Let me not mince words, this text from Herrle was racist on its face and Commissioner Dozier’s lack of a response at that time was telling and hurtful.  However, in the time since I did all the things you’re supposed to do. I took a deep breath, counted to 10, wrote an angry response (and then threw it away), and tried to ignore it.  

But this bigger picture is becoming harder and more potentially dangerous for our community to ignore. It’s a shift from a responsible and collegial North Florida brand of democratic politics to a more extreme liberal progressive agenda ushered in by mostly younger (millennial), White elected officials, and their supporters. Now don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are White liberal Democrats, but I have become gravely concerned by the tone, tactics, and motivations of what we are seeing now.   

Although Mr. Herrle claims to no longer be a lobbyist, his texts indicate something different. Moreover, after his failed attempts to defeat the FSU vote, he sent additional texts to the same commissioners imploring them to “stay until the end of the meeting” – when Commissioner Jack Porter, would make a motion to re-evaluate the organizational structure of the Blueprint program. This text demonstrates Herrle’s role orchestrating their now go-to tactic of attacking the legal, technical, and even personal credibility of professional staff when staff and commissioners do not submit to their persistent tantrums.   

It did not take the discovery of texts to reveal what is happening in our local politics. We have seen these troubling tactics play out in everything from the censuring of elected officials to the creation of political hit sites trying to pass as news media. But if you want to see the big picture, you need only look at the last vote of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency (city and county commissions) on Feb. 24.  This vote was to finance not only the FSU stadium project, but a total of nine major projects countywide worth $117 million. 

These projects will employ thousands of people, over many years and will serve our community for generations. And yet City Commissioners Matlow and Porter and County Commissioners Dozier, Welch and Minor voted against it. All of it.  

Fortunately, the vote to move forward passed with Mayor Dailey, and City Commissioners Richardson and Williams-Cox, joining myself and County Commissioners Cummings, Proctor and Jackson. 

Look, this new brand of progressives who want to occupy and take over City Hall are proud to be educated on racial injustice but want to tell Black elected officials how to vote or explain to us the impact of our votes on the people we represent. Yes, my story is not unlike many other Black kids who grew up without a father. And if you survive the internalized racism and self-destruction of Black adolescence, you learn some important survival skills.  An important one is not to challenge the way some people think, especially those radical progressives who consider themselves to be heroes to black people.  

Nick Maddox is currently a member of the Leon County Commission.