The barbarians are no longer at the gate. They’re at the levers. Between Joe Mullins at the County Commission, Jill Woolbright and Janet McDonald at the School Board, and Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa at the Palm Coast City Council, Flagler government is now a three-ring circus trapezing week after week from the embarrassing to the boorish to the hateful. Thank heavens for Bunnell and Flagler Beach, the county’s last remaining cardinal points of civility.
Thank heavens, too, for the circuses’ ringleaders. They may have primeval colleagues and crowds to deal with, but Mayor David Alfin at the city, Trevor Tucker at the school board and Don O’Brien at the commission, none of whom is a hothead, none of whom glories in the power of the gavel, have ably kept the fringe at the fringes. If there’s been trouble, it’s not been fatal.
That may be about to change. The County Commission tonight and the School Board Tuesday evening elect new chairs. Circuses could turn into gladiatorial arenas.
Colleen Conklin is vice-chair of the School Board, putting her in line for the chairmanship. She’s chaired it admirably and uncontroversially countless times. She would do it again. But the politics of the board are such that, as was the case last year, when she was due for it, she might not get it. It’s unimaginable that the board would find a majority for another McDonald chairmanship: her first, in pre-Trump days, was fine. Her second was as deranged as her Alex Jones-inspired Twitter feed, starting with the coup that kneecapped former Superintendent Jim Tager’s tenure and decomposing from there.
Woolbright? I don’t think we’d want a book-banning hypocrite who files a criminal complaint against her own superintendent anywhere near a district-wide leadership role. Woolbright just shot her own credibility to hell and is collaterally damaging the board. The chairmanship isn’t a recovery ward. Cheryl Massaro may seem too green on the board, though she likely has nearly as much parliamentarian experience as Tucker or Conklin because of her previous roles. But like Conklin, she may not get a third vote because of her public distrust of the Woolbright-McDonald axis.
That leaves Tucker as the default safeguard, the centrist everyone can agree on, or at least three votes could. For the board’s sake–for the superintendent’s sake, the district’s sake–it’s the only choice.
Then there is the County Commission. Mullins was in line for the chairmanship last year. He’d self-destructed so routinely that he and his friends on the commission, O’Brien and Dave Sullivan, came up with a clever scheme. Mullins would pretend to voluntarily decline the chairmanship, citing private hardships. He’d nominate O’Brien–who magically was ready for the nomination, written speech in hand–and O’Brien would return the nomination a year hence, when Mullins could leverage the chairmanship as free advertising and credibility in his re-election year. So it went. So it may go tonight.
I can’t imagine Greg Hansen voting for the man who publicly insulted him twice in two days, once on the very dais of the commission then at a 9/11 event, though he and Mullins have been scaling their own brokeback mountain together for the past few months. So you never know.
Andy Dance has been the saving grace of the commission. He’s a throw-back to non-partisan days of dull, disciplined, detail-oriented governance that couldn’t give a damn for grandstanding and narcissists. Ironically, he is more qualified to be chairman than all other four commissioners put together. His nuts-and-bolts chairmanship would fit hand-in-glove with Heidi Petito’s first full year as county administrator. Petito is similarly inclined to unpretentious, no-frills management. But it’s too much foresight and pragmatism to expect from this commission. Would Dance vote for Mullins? That would be a shock to his immaculate credibility, not just on the commission but going back 12 years on the school board. Again, you never know: “Everyone sees what you appear to be,” says Machiavelli. “Few really know what you are.”
Shocks aside, I could see Dance making a motion to name chairman any of the other three–O’Brien, Sullivan and Hansen, any of whom would be Ciceronian in comparison to Mullins.
But Sullivan and O’Brien have twice refused to censure Mullins. They’ve repeatedly come to his defense. He is Svengali to their servility. It’s inexplicable and repellant. But as God said to Moses at the origin of that ridiculous phrase, it is what it is, leaving us hoping for the only alternative: a miracle of statesmanship on their part.
We are more likely to see the same contortions and sophistries these two weaseled out to explain why they wouldn’t censure Mullins as they now explain why they will vote for him (or, more likely, explain nothing: these votes have been pre-arranged in the past, obviously in violation of sunshine. They can be again.)
They can claim again in Mullins’s defense that he was elected just as they were, that he represents Flagler County. Sure. When Mullins spent $154,000 to get elected in 2018, most of it his own, he got a respectable 31,000 votes against a weak opponent (Jane Gentile-Youd). But it was still just 33 percent of registered voters. Voters spoke to elect representation to District 4. Mullins’s fellow county commissioners bear no responsibility for his election in 2018. But they bear full responsibility for the man they elect chairman today, the man who they say speaks for and represents them. This is on them.
They can claim that the selection is no big deal. It’s ceremonial. It’s just a vote like any other. No, it isn’t. The chairmanship is the voice of the commission, the voice of the county. It is the voice we’ll hear at every event, every dedication, every memorial and commemoration. Is Mullins’s the voice and face of Flagler County? Does Joe Mullins reflect the values and ideals of the county and its commission?
Mullins is all narcissism and grandstanding. If that’s all he was, he’d be bearable. Politics are full of those. But he’s also a bigot. A bully. A crass, ill-mannered, insecure oaf who gets his jollies from using his power to demean others. Other people have pronouns. He has insults. Other people have filters. He has filth. He’s degraded women, gays, lesbians transgender people, immigrants and anyone who doesn’t pray to his god. He embraced and peddled the lies of the 2020 election, abjuring the core of our democracy in favor of subverting it. He mischaracterizes, fabricates and lies as others breathe. He’s called the entire Flagler Beach City Commission crooks, defamed one of its members and demeaned a school board member. He’s embraced anti-Semitic language and Nazi imagery literally to call for shipping people who disagree with him out of Flagler. He’s used genocidal Nazi imagery of minorities as roaches and viruses, in other words as vermin to be exterminated (me among them). In case you missed the message, he’s called for the beheading of liberals, on the air (in a weekly commercial he pays for).
This is what the commissioners who vote for Mullins will be heralding as the face of Flagler County.
You are what you vote for. There is no separation, no hair-splitting. And these commissioners aren’t just voting for themselves. They’re voting for us. This is what they’ll be saying: All this time he was his own man, his own responsibility. But now I’m OK with bigotry. I’m OK with filth. I’m OK with the language of extermination in Flagler County, in 2022. I excuse it. I endorse it. I embrace it. I want it to represent me, to represent Flagler.
Under whose eye? In what America?
At least we won’t need to pretend anymore. Flagler County has always longed to be on the map. It’ll at least be on the map of hate, compliments of its commission’s proud boys.
The alternative, so easy and so bountiful, and not that miraculous after all, stared them in the face when they shaved this morning.
Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here.
The dude says
I feel very confident that both the Flagler County Commission and the Flagler County School Board will remain consistent and choose the shittiest options for Flagler County citizens, as is their way.
Bucky Boy says
Your description of Joe Mullins is “spot on” the mark. It is unfortunate that Mullins will probably be made the chairman of the BOC. I believe that Sullivan and O’Brien will vote for Mullins. Mullins will vote for himself. Flagler County better brace itself for the bullshit and hate that Mullins will create during his term as chairman. I despise this asshole and all that is stupid enough to support this Trump wanna-be!
I don’t know this Mullins guy but calling him a bigot is very inappropriate and name calling shows your bias. That is how your hatred works against you.
Another One Lost says
I think Bigot is one of the lessor of Mullin’s despicable character traits.
Mike Cocchiola says
If you don’t know this Mullins guy, how do you know everything Pierre has said isn’t true?
I know this Mullins guy well enough. He’s a disruptive, divisive, amoral person who has defiled his position as a county commissioner and besmirched the reputation of Flagler County. He must not become chair of the commission.
Edith Campins says
You must have missed his constant barrage of insulting public comments, such as “I mean there are some liberals I’d like to see their heads cut off, you know, they couldn’t do that thinking crazy thing they do. ” Or saying liberals should be run out of town ob trains like Hitler did to the Jews. His insults to many individual members of the community, and to some of his fellow commissioners. You really should check out his social media before posting a inane comment.
Been There says
You said it yourself, “I don’t know this Mullins guy”.
Well, I do and he is an exploiter of women, a liar, a thief, a racist, a conman. That is only the public facing side of that guy you don’t know.
OMG PLEASE FLAGLER COUNTY SPARE US TAXPAYERS FROM MULLIN, WE WERE HOPING YOU WOULD BE VOTING TONIGHT TO RUN HIM OUT OF TOWN.
Richard G Sweet says
I have lived in many large and small cities across the country, however, I have never been more entertained (and disappointed) by any local government as I have been by the City of Palm Coast. The Ego’s and infighting have been the best example of a lack of civility and “me, me, me” culture. I came to Palm Coast to enjoy the final years of my life and have found myself anguished by the selfish attitudes of local small minded political hacks. So sad. I can only hope the citizens of this potentially fine community can come to their senses and elect members who will represent the best interest of the City and not themselves.
Positive thoughts for Palm Coast
I was actually very hopeful that the rest of the Commissioners would publicly take a stance on Joe Mullins’ divisive and corrosive behavior by not electing him to represent them as their Chair. I was hoping they would want to us know that they are better than that. After reading this article, I totally believe that deals were made in the dark, not in the Sunshine. Darkness has covered up many deals in the past, so why not this one? I am no longer hopeful. I am sad. And naive.
Mike Cocchiola says
Let’s see just what these board members stand for – honesty, integrity, and forward progress, or divisive ideology.
Old Guy says
Pierre, I agree with your assessment. It is spot on. I hope the cooler heads on both boards prevail.
Time will tell.
Let Freedom Ring says
I’m not a big fan of Mullins. But after reading this political hit piece against him, I think he deserves a shot.
Edith Campins says
You must not be one of the many people he has publicly berated and insulted. Read his social media posts and then see if he deserves a chance.
Why is that Flagler County Commissioners, the City of PC council members as well as the Flagler County School Board do what THEY WANT AND NOT WHAT THE TAXPAYERS CONTINUALLY ASK FOR????????
It sure appears to point to corruption at its best. Joe Mullins is a want to be Trump and is a little bully that thinks he is 10 feet tall when he is probably only 5 feet if that. Mr. Napoleon.
Lets not forget he organized a bus to Washington DC on January 6th, wonder when the Congress Council is going to bring Mr. Napoleon in for questioning?
Denise Calderwood says
Pierre Thank you for writing this post. Your choice of adjectives are spot on. The only thing you forgot to.mention is that he orchestrated a trip to the Capital with 40 of our citizens. He is also facing an Elections Board hearing tomorrow about potential fraud that he conspired with during his 2018 election bid. He is a repulsive human being…..maybe just maybe the rest of the Commissioners will stand up and choose someone else to lead them and to speak on behalf of our County. Most of us don’t have the money he has but we still have our voice and our vote so please hold the other Commissioners accountable if they vote for Joe to be our chair….
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Thank you Pierre and FlaglerLive for your detailed descriptions of everything going on at the School Board, Palm Coast and Flagler County. What would we do without Flagler Live I often wonder ( very often..)
May I be so bold as to correct your labeling my candidacy ‘ weak’ against Mullins. Mullins garnered 31,000 votes at a real life cost of over $160,000 ( paid off the books to many who held signs) : Jane Gentile-Youd garnered over 19,290 votes with a total budget of $10,000. Joe’s votes cost him over $5 each; Jane’s votes cost her .51 cents each…
An awakening from up above in Tallahassee- . The State of Florida ELECTIONS COMMISSIONS is holding a hearing TOMORROW November 16 to determine guilt or innocence – after 17 months of holding on to absolute proof that Joe Mullins listed over $60,000 in ‘consulting and marketing’ expenses to a then dissolved, non existent entity, “The Whitson Group” ( dissolved by the Secretary of State December 31, 2017- not renewed until January 2020).
My open question to the Flagler County Commission: What are you guys gonna due if the Election Commission concurs with the absolute proof they have in their hands that Joseph Mullins paid over $60,000 fees to a dissolved entity? Are you going to remove him as chair or let that egregious action slide under the carpet just like you do everything else.
Oh well, I guess if the non existent entity filed an income tax return on their ‘existent’ profits it might be okay.. Right?
I hope the commission at least has common sense to TABLE this very important decision of naming the one- year term Chair until at least AFTER the Election Commissions ruling on the proven allegations in the complaint filed June 2020..How do you see it?
The dude says
Indictments are a badge of honor to today’s Repubs.
The dude says
Sadly all of your apt descriptions of Mullins are features, and not bugs, to the voters here in Flagler.
Another Brick in the Wall says
Another HACK JOB by ” Pierre the Progressive “. Be careful flinging crap in the wind. It just might come back and smack you in the face.
Pierre Tristam says
Monday night, it did.
Percy's mother says
Should Joe Mullins be designated chair of the Flagler County Board of Commissioners this evening, everyone on that board (Sullivan, O”Brien, Greg Hansen) will lose ALL RESPECT with the electorate here in Flagler County. I doubt Andy Dance would go along with it.
Greg Hansen had better watch out. Victor Barbosa is running for his seat, and if Greg Hansen plays his cards wrong by voting for Mullins to be chair, he’ll likely lose his seat to Victor Barbosa.
People in this county are sick and tired of the Mullins – Woolbright – Fake Pastor trio working behind the scenes pulling the strings of everything negative. Mullins and the Fake Pastor are the worst subversives in the county . . . along with Woolbright who is the Fake Pastor’s sidekick in all matters along with Kathy Austrino.
Watch what you vote for commissioners, your seats are on the line tonight.
Smelly crap always has a way of rising to the top, and its no different for our county commissioners.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Seems to me, the good people of Palm Coast have more problems than they thought. Flagler County is a mess, Palm Coast is in constant termoil … no one can get along, no one can speak, without yelling, no one will listen, because of all the lies. The biggest problem as I see it is one word integrity. Our ellected officials have proven over & over they have no clue. Can someone stand up & be honest, or is it all about the money, and kickbacks?
The dude says
Yet you’re over on the article about Mullins’ election to the Chairmanship celebrating it???
God help Flagler County.
The dude says
Welp… I wasn’t wrong.
Betting that the Flagler County Government, Flagler County School Board, or the poo flinging faction on PC City Council will choose the shittest possible course of action for their constituents is money… every single time.
We moved here from MTG’s district in N. Ga, thinking “how could it be any worse?”… little did we know.
At this point we’re just waiting for the real estate bubble to pop.
We’ll convert our house to a rental, because that’s what Palm Coast deserves, and move somewhere else where the GQP crazies don’t hold so much sway.
What Else Is New? says
Brilliant piece, Pierre. Thanks to Flaglerlive for reporting the truth.