CIVILITY, PLEASE — A moderator of a Facebook group called Orange City Proud, Brenda Cusack, at left, addresses the City Council regarding recent controversies over the 2024 race for mayor and the use of U.S. flags in the campaign. Cusack appealed for civility in the conduct of the campaign, which now features City Council Member Kelli Marks and Vice Mayor Bill O’Connor as the rivals. BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON


On July 11, 2023, I made a citizen comment at the Orange City Council meeting. I left early and was not present for the discussion of my comment. This morning I requested the audio and listened to it. I was left feeling a strange mixture of emotions.

I listened with tears as Councilwoman Lisa Stafford, Orange City’s first elected Black councilwoman, pleaded emotionally for a return to respect, love, and concern for each other. She reminded me that Orange City is a unique and beautiful place. I agree with her.

I listened as the local Facebook group that I help run, Orange City Proud, was criticized for “allowing” a comment that referred to the mayor as a “communist.” Someone took a picture of the comment and shared it instead of reporting it to the admins for removal, as they should have. Social media has made this type of lazy selfishness just so easy.

I listened as Councilwoman Kellianne Marks defended herself for a picture taken of her when a flag she was holding slipped upside down. This is the same woman who handed out over 3,000 American flags to people in our community earlier this year. The same woman who encouraged the crowd to wave their flags proudly at that very event. That photo of her slip was slapped on Facebook and shared. It was shared 49 times in less than two days. What a shame.

I listened as Councilwoman Fran Darms urged us all to move forward and not look back. I agree with her 100 percent and appreciate her wisdom.

At the same time, wisdom says that we must stand up to bullies.

It’s very sad that the politicians who tear people down are the ones who are elected. We see this on all levels of politics — from the White House to the City Council.

People have become meaner because we all have become more me-centric.

If you’ve lived as long as I have, you can remember when neighbors didn’t care what political party you were part of. They loved you anyway.

Neighbors, I say, with tears in my eyes, that we must fight to hang onto the shreds of civility that still bond us together. As I mentioned already, I admin a Facebook group called Orange City Proud. There is a group of us running it, and we are all volunteers. We don’t know each other’s political beliefs. We’ve never asked. And yes, we can work together to accomplish the purpose of providing a place where kindness prevails, and we will love each other as we are doing it.

Our group exists to unite neighbors. When I listened to the audio, I thought about asking for it to be shut down. The thought of it being dragged into someone’s political agenda made me sick to my stomach. But then I was reminded, by a wise older gentleman, that we must fight to hold onto the good and beautiful places in our society.

Neighbors, I urge you to fight also. Fight for civility in your local governments. In your churches. In your civic organizations. In your cul-de-sacs and communities. And the only way to fight … the only way … is to remember Lisa Stafford’s words: return to respect, love, and concern for each other.


  1. It’s a shame that Leah Brooks only provides half of the story. The flag did not “slip out of her hand” – a picture speaks a thousand words. Further she did not mention that this disrespectful act occurred on stage at the Orange City Independence Day celebration and while she was holding the flag upside down, she was giving a thumbs down and a horrible face while her opponent, Bill O’Connor, Vice Mayor, was announcing his candidacy for Mayor. Leah says she wants to leave it behind, yet she continues to keep her “victim” status going on Facebook and referring to Bill’s family as “a circling pack of hyenas” and is trying to turn around Councilwoman Marks’ actions into dirty politics. What she fails to mention that it is her bad behavior that started the opinions of Veteran’s who don’t appreciate using the American flag as a political advertisement (i.e. placing American Flags in people’s yards with her “Marks for Mayor” card on them). If she were a true American and wanted to show patriotism, she would have placed the flags, perhaps not in the easement all over Orange City, but with permission of those whose yards she placed them in and maybe said hello or introduced herself. If her act was to unite everyone by giving them a flag, she should have done so without her political ad attached. Last, but certainly not least, when you point the finger at someone else, you have three more pointing back at you. Stop playing the victim and recognize that you are the one who thinks you have control of the narrative. Truth will always prevail.


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