Commissioner Smith Addressed Male Veteran as a Female and Erroneously Called Him “Cowardly”

Posted on July 25, 2023 by Romi White

During public forum at the July 13 Santa Rosa County Commission meeting, Senior Chief Geoff Ross, USN, Ret., a Persian Gulf War veteran, spoke out about emails he received from Santa Rosa County District 2 Commissioner Kerry Smith, accusing the elected official of erroneously calling him (cowardly) for quitting a political race, which Ross actually finished. Smith also referred to him as “Mrs Ross.”

Ross told the Board of County Commissioners that he had initially reached out to Smith via email to ask why the Commissioner had muted the microphone of Michael Stevens, who was attempting to ask why Smith had appointed a Democrat into a county advisory role.

Ross said Smith referenced Stevens as his friend. “So Mr. Smith apparently was assuming that I was emailing him on behalf of Mr. Stevens, which I wasn’t. I don’t know Michael Stevens at all. I’ve never met the guy.”

Ross went on to complain that Smith had used a government-issued, taxpayer-funded (email) with malicious intent. “I spent 20 years in the Navy. I was decorated for heroism by the President of the United States in 1996…All (Smith) had to do was respond back to me and say it was a zoning board meeting, not a county commission meeting. Not the right forum for (Stevens’) discussion.”

Stevens, a District 2 resident, during public forum at the July 24 county commission meeting, asked Smith if Ross’ allegations about the emails were true. But Smith ignored Stevens. “He doesn’t answer, but yet he’s disparaged our military,” said Stevens, who called Smith’s behavior “Un-American.” “You owe that guy an apology…Shame on you.”

Sherry Chapman, who made a $500 contribution to Smith’s campaign for District 2 in February 2022, spoke after Stevens on Monday. “We have tried and asked for the emails concerning the military man that was supposedly spoken about or spoke bad to. (Smith) doesn’t have any emails. We can’t find them. They’ve been requested. They are nowhere,” Chapman said. “So I think we need to put this to rest and not bring it up any more until there’s proof.” 

Santa Rosa County records reveal Smith on May 25 wrote the following reply using his District 2 email account, addressing 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.

Smith had the following to say about the issue:

“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…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”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Smith was incorrect about Ross’ bid for office. Ross did not run in 2018 race; he ran for the District 1 Commission seat during the 2020 election, and stayed in the race until it was won in the primary by current District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker.