barker for sig

It was never about you.

In keeping with tradition, the Dec. 20 final hootenanny of this painfully dysfunctional iteration of the Volusia County Council dissolved into a self-lovefest — a last chance for outgoing members to lavish praise on themselves and their staff in a weird egotistic and time-wasting gush.

It was also an opportunity for our elected dullards to obsequiously flatter (and handsomely reward) County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and County Attorney Mike Dyer, the true power duo who facilitate it all by crafting an agenda that first, last and always protects and perpetuates the stagnant status quo.

During an agenda item mislabeled “Leadership,” council members took up the annual charade that has become the “evaluation” of the county manager and county attorney – a farcical shim-sham that bears no resemblance to a legitimate performance review – little more than a smoke screen of hollow accolades and baseless praise.

It was a foregone conclusion — amid serious turmoil, controversy and the ongoing investigations of alleged inmate abuse at the Volusia County Jail — that saw our elected officials (who are charged with providing politically accountable oversight) referring to their direct reports as beloved “friends.”

At the end of the day, like clockwork, Recktenwald and Dyer were each gifted a hefty 4-percent pay increase. Recktenwald will now earn $246,706.47 a year; Dyer will see his pay increase fto $230,607.94.

It’s nice to have friends.

Only County Chair Jeff Brower voted no.

“For me, I think it’s premature to evaluate and discuss a raise until the results of that investigation [of problems at the jail] are done, because I believe that the county manager and the county attorney are serious about having an independent, fair evaluation, and I believe that’s underway.”

If you are a struggling small-business owner in Volusia County — or if you labor against massive inflation at a tax-supported industrial warehouse that our “economic development” types continue to spend public funds to attract — I wonder how your Christmas bonus was this year?

What I found most telling (although not surprising) was how our elected representatives, in their final official addresses from the dais, droned on, sugar-coating their “service” and “accomplishments,” rewriting history, marginalizing detractors, labeling critics “liars,” and vehemently denying that their votes were influenced by the massive campaign contributions of influential insiders who got them elected in the first place — all while heaping accolades on senior staff members who tell them exactly what they want to hear.

You and I — the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County who feed the machine — were an afterthought, if we were mentioned at all.

Most politicians fall victim to the trappings of office and perquisites of a monarchical system that fosters an us-vs.-them mentality with regard to their constituents. Over time, they become everything they hated when entering politics.

At the end of the day, all we can do is lament what “could have been” had the spirit of cooperation and collegiality prevailed over mean-spirited one-upmanship and this shameless self-promotion.

Sadly, it was never about us. In Volusia County, it never is.

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.


  1. Chief Barker nice to see your sarcastic nature. You sure have changed since your Sargent days working Ridgewood in Holly Hill.
    My question is,did the run you out of here?

  2. Excluding Council Member Heather Post, the Volusia County Council could care less about those, who some would call low level, essential workers who provide services everyday for us under contracts. You know the ones who keep our County’s facilities cleaned and grounds maintained. The ones working for contractors who are gipped out of a fair wage and benefits so we can save money on their backs while at the same time we are paying outrageous salaries to those high level inept bureaucrats, some who will not even answer our emails or take our calls. We should all be ashamed that services are being contracted out to contractors who are paying poverty level wages while at the same time millions of dollars are being given away at the County level to corporations, non-profits, and individuals. Unbelievable how we allow hard working people to be treated who are doing the jobs most of us refuse to do. The County Council praise the bureaucrats ad nauseam while treating many in the working class as if they are beneath the rest of us. Our priorities are all wrong…Those who are willing to work hard for us everyday should be hired as County Employees and they should be paid a fair wage and receive benefits just like every other County employee. Workers cutting the grass and cleaning the toilets are just as, if not more, important than those pushing paper or answering phones. They are professionals who should be valued and honored just like any other County employee and they are not beneath us. The County needs to cut the giveaways of our tax dollars and pay the workers.


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