OPINION: It’s High Time Commissioners Limit Talkaholics to One Diatribe per Meeting

Posted on December 12, 2023 by EDITORIAL BOARD

One of the worst offenders has been Sherry Chapman of Pea Ridge, a member of the county’s Republican Executive Committee, who has earned a reputation for spreading misinformation. 

The Santa Rosa County Commission is finally taking steps to stop a few talkaholics from impacting productivity during board meetings.

Those of us who have to attend or watch commission meetings know the frustration of having to sit through repeated visits to the podium by a small group of naysayers who seemingly have nothing better to do than show up for every single board meeting to complain ad nauseam.

These talkaholics run back and forth to the podium multiple times during each meeting, chiding commissioners and staff and pretending to be subject matter experts on everything from water quality to economic development. Genuine subject matter experts and community leaders are fed up with having to sit through these caustic diatribes, which are often rife with misinformation. 

But it looks like relief might be on the horizon. The board elected new leadership in November. District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker was voted in as Chairman, and District 3 Commissioner James Calkins was elected Vice Chairman. Parker on Monday expressed a desire to remove the one-hour limit for public forum, stating he wants those who would like to speak to be able to do so for up to four minutes each; however, he wants to reduce the number of times any particular citizen can address the board during one meeting, changing it from unlimited trips to the podium to once per meeting and only during public forum.

HALLELUJAH!!! Thank you, Sam!!!

Vice Chairman Calkins voiced support for Parker’s action, noting Santa Rosa County School District and other local governments follow a similar format, allowing constituents one turn at the podium per meeting.

Parker said the idea, aimed for more efficient and productive meetings, came from Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles. Parker also pointed out that speakers would have two opportunities to speak out prior to board action – once during the Monday committee meeting and a second chance during the Thursday regular meeting, when votes are taken. 

The City of Milton is also looking into changing its meeting format for similar reasons. 

If the Pitchfork Posse, a nickname for the naysaying talkaholics, wants to blame anyone for this change, they should look no further than the mirror. Their abuse of the priviledge to speak multiple times during the meetings has made this change a necessity. They remind me of a popular rap song from the 80s by Run DMC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EheLN-MDzrA