Commissioner Kerry Smith Doubles Down on Calling Local Vet a “Coward”

Posted on July 26, 2023 by Romi White

A Persian Gulf Veteran and District 1 resident, who had not previously met Santa Rosa County District 2 Commissioner Kerry Smith, was perplexed by an insulting email reply from Smith, who doubled down yesterday on calling Senior Chief Geoff Ross, USN, Ret., a “coward.”

“I answered Mr. Ross on my very public county email with a truthful answer and I stand by it. If it hurt his feelings, that’s on him,” stated Smith in a July 25 email. “His trying to conflate me calling him a coward and his military service, again that is on him.  He does not get a pass to be a coward and not be called out for it if he is retired or former military. I have a countless number of great friends that are former or retired military that are truly HEROS.  He is a coward that does not try to bring any semblance of unity to the county, but division, and I feel his tactics are cowardly”

But U.S. Navy records reveal Ross, who served 20 years before retiring, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the Navy’s highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism, on May 16, 1993 after rescuing victims of a fiery car crash. During that rescue, a civilian who was also rendering help was electrocuted by a dangling power line. 

A letter from the Honorable John H. Dalton, who was Secretary of the Navy at that time, stated Ross “immediately raced up the embankment, crawled under the sparking power lines and dragged the still burning body of the victim to safety. After putting out the fire on the victim’s head and body with his hands, he immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation, bringing the victim back to life. He then returned to the accident site to free the remaining accident victim. By his courageous and prompt action in the face of great personal risk, (then) Petty Officer Ross saved the life of the electrocuted victim and significantly reduced the seriousness of injuries of the accident victims; therefore reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Public records requests show the insults from Commissioner Smith to Ross started with a May 25 exchange of emails, starting with Ross asking Smith about a citizen who tried to speak during a public forum:

Commissioner Kerry Smith, (R) Santa Rosa County.

What is the rule in the BOCC play book where you censored a Santa Rosa Tax payer namely Mr. Michael Stevens when he questioned you regarding your decision to appoint a Democrat to an advisory board ?

Why did you cut off his microphone during a public forum and refuse him time to speak as is his constitutional right ?

Also be advised the deputy you hired to pull him off the podium could be charged with assault for touching Mr. Stevens during your unconstitutional and illegal censorship charade.

I will be investigating the rules on your unconstitutional action.

But let me help you understand the Constitution starting with the 1st amendment.

Best wishes

Senior Chief Ross

USN retired

Smith’s response shows he addressed Ross as a female:

Dear Mrs. Ross

Apparently there was good reason for you to cowardly back out of your bid at county commissioners back in 2018; you  apparently have no clue of the rules of engagement in a BOCC meeting. This was a zoning board meeting and I welcome this individual to come and express his views at the proper forum. You are welcome as well, however I doubt you will show your face considering your past performance.

Kerry A. Smith.

Additionally, Smith was wrong about Ross “cowardly” leaving a County Commissioner race. Not only did Ross not quit the race for District 1, which Sam Parker eventually won, but also that race took place during the 2020 election cycle, not 2018.

Fast forward to the July 13 public forum at the county commission meeting, and Ross confronted Smith about the exchange.

At the next county commission meeting, during public forum on July 24 county, Stevens questioned Smith about his treatment of Ross. Smith ignored him.

Following Stevens, a campaign contributor for Smith, Sherry Chapman of Pea Ridge, spoke, claiming the emails between Smith and Ross were “nowhere” to be found. “So I think we need to put this to rest and not bring it up any more until there’s proof,” Chapman said.

South Santa Rosa News made a records request on July 25 and received the chain of emails that same day.

“He has zero emotional control,” Ross said of Smith. “He will continue his tirade every time he gets exposed for his character.” 

The next public forum takes place at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, July 27 at the County Administrative Complex, located at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton. Meetings can also be viewed online via (click WATCH LIVE MEETINGS button).