A Final Public Comment
Mr. Chair, I’d like to take this time to share a few of my thoughts about my esteemed colleagues as this will be our last public meeting before the November 6th general election.
To Brent. No one can doubt your passion. No one can ever describe you as anything other than a fierce advocate for what you believe in. You are a sincere man, who wears his emotions on both sleeves of your now iconic Eddie Bauer flannel shirts. Some might say your style and tone could use some fine tuning, but your unassailable record of major policy accomplishments would give even your harshest critics pause. At the end of the day, it’s just hard to argue with results. During my first week in office, you were described to me as a master chess player whose peers were still learning the rules of checkers. The Brent Oleson I know will forever be a kind and caring friend whose career in politics was spent moving heaven and earth to make our community better.
To Jim. It has indeed been an honor to serve alongside one of the longest tenured Supervisors on the Board. While our political campaigns have cast a bit of distance between us, I have undoubtedly been made better by your vast institutional knowledge of this great county in which we all live. – During our primary campaign, I authorized a mail piece that while factually accurate, cast you in a negative light. If I could have a do-over, that is something I would’ve changed. You have returned the favor during this general election with negative campaigning. You have declined two candidate forums and have hardly spoken to me since being defeated in the primary. Both you and I should’ve behaved differently. The residents of Linn County deserved a spirited campaign of ideas. We have fallen well short of this ideal and missed an opportunity to inspire a new optimism that our politics so badly needs. The lesson in all of this is that even those of us with good hearts can get lost in the fog of war. Let us never again be so hell-bent on winning that we compromise our values. And despite what has been suggested in the past, I think you’re a good apple.
To John. You are the best of us. Your steady leadership may go unnoticed by the everyday resident, but it is most certainly recognized by every employee of this government. You lead with quiet grace and give careful consideration to every issue. You are a fair and decent man; a model leader that all of us hope to one day become. The political party to which you belong would be wise to follow your example. And moving beyond the partisan, this country would be a much better place if every citizen was born with a fraction of the stuff that you’re made of. The scriptures teach us that the prophet John was sent to us to instill sacred knowledge, to promote unity among the people, and to demonstrate to the masses the honorable way to live. Mr. Supervisor, as I have affectionately called you for some time now, you have lived up to your Biblical namesake.
To Ben. I saved you for last because your tribute was the most challenging for me. I’ve been asking myself for weeks now, how can I find the words to explain my gratitude to brother Ben Rogers? You are a man of great political talent and leadership ability. I hold up as my evidence, your shepherding of hundreds of thousands of dollars to social service agencies that provide critical assistance to individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. You are the reason this county is in the process of creating an Access Center, which will save and transform countless lives. Your compelling advocacy for the homeless has elevated the issue in all of our minds. And where there is a critical mass of attention, solutions often follow. But more than this, you are an incredible human being and a reliable friend, whose generosity and compassion is limitless. When the stress of the job and life threatened to break me, you were there with a gentle smile, a listening ear, and honest words of encouragement. I know you’ll remember the scene from the West Wing, where Leo is giving an encouraging word to his dear friend Josh. He tells the story of the friend who jumped down into the hole to aid a friend in need. The friend responds by saying, “you idiot, now we’re both stuck in this hole, why didn’t you just call for help?” To which the other responds, “Because I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.” You’re the kind of friend that inspired Cicero’s treatise. You’re the kind of leader that the people of Linn County deserve, and I eagerly await your return to this office.
This County would be well served by any combination of Supervisors sitting here today, and it is my deepest hope that after Tuesday, three incumbents of this office will remain. The stakes are too high, the challenges are too great to be left to difficult, self-serving personalities who only seek to tear down other people and stand in the way of progress. We have seen this behavior at the highest levels of government and our country has paid a severe price.
To our staff, thank you for everything. It is not often that you get the recognition you deserve, and it is not often that we talk about the toll elections can have on you. Thank you for your service and for helping all of us look like heroes.
I’ll end today with the most famous excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt’s aptly named speech, Citizenship in a Republic.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
God speed to you all.