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Good luck Mike, youre going to need it
Staff Column
Jeff Whitten 1

Mike Riddle was a pretty good Long County correspondent for the Coastal Courier for a lot of years.

He’ll still cover Blue Tide sports for us, but Mike’s days covering news are over for the time being and have been since he ran for and got elected to the Long County Commission.

We do wish Mike good luck, because he’s going to need it. Being in government is not for the faint of heart. It is for those with thick skin and no desire to be loved, or even liked very much.

That said, we have no idea what kind of  job Mike will do as an elected official. But he certainly seems to have hit the ground running. For starters, Mike’s stated desire to see Long County hire a full time county administrator and attract more business to the community are positives.

Without someone on board full time who knows the ins and outs of government, Long County is at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the state and federal government. Remember Hurricane Matthew?

Without finding additional sources of tax revenue, the other option to pay for services, many state-mandated, is to raise taxes on property owners, despite the increasing number of rooftops. Those increasing rooftops mean more people, who require more in the way of schools, and fire and police protection, and EMS, and animal control, etc.
Naturally, property owners foot the lion’s share of the local tax bill, but unless you buy a ritzy home chances are you aren’t paying the full cost of the services you require.

In Bryan County, for example, I’m told the price a new home has to sell for in order to pay for services for a family with 1.8 children is $275,000. I know this because I was just told that by the new county commission chairman there.

I don’t know whether Long County is similar. I do know those who don’t think there’s a “price break” for when a home pays for itself as far as services.

Still, most folks say a diversified tax base can keep millage rates down. More than that, commercial and industrial growth can bring in more jobs as well.

As a reporter, I appreciate something else Mike did at his first meeting. As chairman, Mike will moderate meetings, and his decision to enforce the rules on public comment are most welcome.

Critics may see that as limiting free speech. Nope. That’s how most governments do it. You want to tell commissioners how dumb they are, you call the clerk and get yourself put on the agenda, then go for it. Otherwise it can make for long nights and hijacked meetings.

Years ago, I covered a city council meeting in a small town in another county in which an elderly gentleman got up to complain because a neighbor was putting tree limbs on his side of the property line.

In order to explain his case, the man started by outlining how he came into this property, which had been in his wife’s family since the 1800s. Ninety minutes later, he was still going, the council too polite to ask him to sit down and shut up. I thought I’d never get to go home.

That was 20 years ago and I’ve forgotten everything else about that meeting, but can still hear that gentleman‘s grandfatherly voice:

“My wife was a (her maiden name), they came here in 1803 from over in South Carolina ... and let me tell you this here interesting fact about her family .....”

One last thing. Kudos to the Long County commission as a whole for voting to stagger terms. It just makes sense to not have one’s entire elected government up for election at the same time, no matter how attractive the notion of “cleaning house” or “draining the swamp” may be.

Whitten is managing editor of the Coastal Courier and Bryan County News.

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