Special Reports

Let's discuss our community, as citizens

EDITOR'S NOTE: Pat Glass, who recently retired from political office after almost three decades as Manatee County commissioner, has devoted her life to making Manatee County a better place to live. In this new weekly column for the Bradenton Herald, Pat becomes our "Citizen at Large," discussing key issues and concerns with her unique insights.

Sometimes words trip off the tongue or find their way onto paper, or even fill a chamber without much serious thought to the deeper meanings. Such a word is "citizen" - which, according to one valid source, is a "civilian as distinguished from a servant of the state."

Personally, I never thought that being a politician/elected official was different from ordinary citizenship. In the process, I learned that citizens are not ordinary, and servants of the state are not entitled to hidden agendas, special interests and relentless mindspeak.

Now that my role as a citizen is clearly defined, however, I am delighted (I think) to accept the Bradenton Herald's invitation to write about this great community of Manatee County, to share and gain experience and impressions, to uncover some little-known facts, to examine issues and governance and to understand attitudes and ideas.

There was a time when we used to know most of the folks we encountered in the grocery store, religious gatherings or just walking around town. Now there are new faces and new places and new organizations. Citizens may be divided up by geography, living in municipalities such as Bradenton, Palmetto, Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Longboat Key; or territories in the unincorporated areas of the county, such as Lakewood Ranch, Myakka City, Oneco or Samoset. Meanwhile, community development districts are emerging as possible future municipalities. And we are united within neighborhoods, homeowners associations and a range of common concerns.

As we cross from town to town, city to city, group to group, we encounter our citizenry. Perhaps, in this little corner of the Herald each Wednesday, we will discover ways to connect better with each other, not merely sharing street talk. The very term "citizen" implies a much larger involvement than the spoken word.

Shortly after my first election to the county commission in 1978, I found a veritable blizzard of little pink notes on my desk. Phone messages. Most were complaints or cries for help. With assistance from then-County Administrator Gus Ellis, I put together a proposal that ultimately became the Citizen's Action Center. Not readily received or understood at the beginning, it became - and remains today - an efficient and nationally recognized complaint/information response system. My dear friend Lari Ann Harris began her superb government service as an employee of the center. She went on to become a county commissioner.

At the very least, the printed word should shed light in some very dimly lit places, down corridors we really need to visit.

Water comes and goes, but it is always the same water. A few topics that "Citizen at Large" may be able to explore: A health care summit; workforce housing; lobbying for Ware's Creek - the list is endless. I'm open for business.

To reach Pat Glass, write to her c/o Bradenton Herald Metro Desk, 102 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205.

Pat Glass