It’s remarkable that we find it necessary to counsel an elected public official who has been not only a member of the Deltona City Commission, but of the Volusia County Council, spanning more than 11 years of public service. Nevertheless …
What follows is an open letter to Fred Lowry, representative on the County Council for District 5, which encompasses all of Deltona and Enterprise, and parts of DeBary and Osteen.
Pastor Lowry, no one forced you to run for public office, to assume the incredibly important role of giving your constituents eyes and ears on and a voice in their local government — a government designed to be “by the people and for the people.”
You chose to run, and the people trusted you enough to perform this role, so they elected you. When that happened, you gave up the life of an ordinary person, and became a public figure. Again, this is the role you chose, of your own free will.
We entrusted you with amazing powers. You can reach in our wallets to take our hard-earned money to run the government you’re in charge of. You can make rules about how we can conduct our lives and how we are allowed to use our property. Your decisions affect the roads we drive on, the services we depend on, and the communities we live in.
We pay you for this. County Council members earn $45,240 per year, an amount that’s about $5,000 higher than the average annual wage in West Volusia.
At the Sept. 21 County Council meeting, you chastised our county chair, Jeff Brower, because Brower had announced publicly that you had missed two consecutive meetings of the County Council because you were suffering from COVID-19, and were hospitalized with the virus.
You said you hadn’t given Brower permission to share information about your health, and scolded him for sharing it.
Hogwash. Brower did exactly the right thing, in consideration of all the people who consent to be governed by the Volusia County Council.
No one needs your permission to share important information about a public figure’s fitness to carry out his or her duties. It’s the public’s right to know. It’s essential information for the people who are governed.
A famous book we think you’re pretty familiar with contains dozens of passages offering advice for modern-day folk who might choose to be leaders. The Gospel of Matthew, quoting Jesus, has one such passage, in the 20th chapter: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”
We deserve to know what’s up with our public servants. We need to know if they are sick, bankrupt, in jail, prosperous, on the job, homebound or disabled — temporarily or permanently.
Yes, this is contrary to what we ordinarily view as a person’s privacy, especially where matters of health are concerned.
But all elected officials must remember: Those rights to privacy belong to private citizens. You chose to give up being a private citizen, and chose to become a public figure. There’s a trade-off, and you can’t have the title and the powers and the salary and the benefits, and forgo the sacrifices. It doesn’t work that way.
Pastor Lowry, we’re thrilled that you are home from the hospital and have apparently overcome the coronavirus, a public-health threat whose very existence you called into question in your widely publicized Memorial Day sermon, calling it a lie perpetrated by our government.
Now that you’re feeling better, we hope you’ll devote some time to contemplating what you owe your constituents, in exchange for your power and your salary. Among those debts is transparency, about your personal life as well as your public works.