EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
Steve Kelley and Amanda Young ran for different public offices within Nassau County — but shared a similar platform.
Kelley didn’t seek office to make friends with fellow county commissioners; the same can be safely said for Young and fellow school board members.
Both wanted only to befriend taxpayers. Plain, but not so simple.
Kelley and Young are tirelessly championing frugal, streamlined, citizen-friendly government. Less spending. Fewer taxes. More efficiency.
Being a lone voice on a commission or board can be lonely, however. Especially when you are the new politician on the block.
“My commitment is to keep government out of your bedroom, your boardroom, your backyard, and out of your pocket,” says the quixotic and fast-quipping Kelley.
Young has ruffled more feathers than a fox in a chicken pen. She has called other board members to task, and crossed paths with School Superintendent John Ruis. She has questioned union contracts and challenged long-standing norms — and drawn the ire of some teachers and school officials.
Meanwhile, other school board members have been exhorting Young to become “a team player.”
“I am a team player,” Young says. “I play for the team that is the students and the taxpayers.”
Young stood up last fall against a pay increase for the teachers’ union because she felt the school district could not afford it. She lost that case.
However, she feels vindicated this year as 39 instructional positions are being cut in Nassau County. She does not support the classroom reductions either, especially when school administrators have not been impacted and other services evaluated.
“I’m going to be the dissenter,” Young says, in regard to being the odd voice in frequent 4-to-1 school board votes.
Likewise, Kelley isn’t bashful or deterred about being the odd or lone vote. He questions many of the priorities of the county commission, like upcoming action toward video-gambling outlets here.
“Once again, is that really the county government’s role — with all the other challenges facing us,” Kelley says.
While Kelley does not necessarily favor the video-gaming industry, he believes it has a right to operate here — regardless of its popularity. He is more concerned about such actions becoming an anti-business trend.
“You’re seeing legislation being passed and being brought to the commission to control commerce,” Kelley says. “Who are we going after next?”
Kelley and Young share some of the qualities of “tea party” activists on the state and national levels for smaller, less-omnipresent government. However, they are not willing to drink tea and eat crumpets, in a peaceful sense. And they won’t drink the “Kool-Aid” that many politicians ingest once elected.
Like them or not, like it or not, Kelley and Young intend to make their voices heard. Resolving major issues is their priority, more so than re-election. And they are not afraid to upset the proverbial apple cart, like many elected officials.
“They don’t want to talk about the big apple cart,” Kelley says about most politicians. “Because that controls votes.”
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor with a major Wall Street firm who lives on Amelia Island. His financial columns appear in the Fernandina Beach News-Leader and other area newspapers. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send eMail to [email protected].