Yesterday was my 59th birthday and I celebrated with Hamilton County Auditor, Dusty Rhodes. Not that he invited me for that purpose. I’d been blogging about Board of Revision decisions somewhat critically. When I emailed him with a link to my post “Dusty Rhodes, I think I owe you an apology,” he was the one who suggested we get together. A classy fellow, he made reservations at a swanky restaurant with real cloth napkins and even paid. (With cash, Hamilton County taxpayers – he paid with his own hard-earned cash).
I like Dusty. He’s easy to talk to and besides, I’m a sucker for a man who blames his success on his mother. We talked about friends we had in common, what I’d learned since I started poking around the Hamilton County Auditor’s office, our shared background in the financial services industry (he’s a Paine Weber alum, I’m Merrill Lynch) and even a few challenges in our personal lives. By the end of our meal, we felt like old friends who could relax with each other.
Maybe a little too much.
Dusty dropped his political guard and gave me an earful about Obama’s presidency and that “f**king streetcar,” how its supporters hate cars. Two minutes later I stood up to leave and he saw the bicycle helmet in my hand.
“You tricked me,” Dusty exclaimed.
Dusty, oh my gosh, you have no idea how much I “tricked” you. Yes, it’s true, I voted for Mr. Obama, both in 2008 and then again in 2012. I don’t agree with all his policies – and disagree strongly on some – but overall I feel fortunate to have been a part of this period in American history. And I support the “f**king streetcar.” It’s not perfect either, but I’m behind it.
In spite of the fact that we disagree on these two issues and – I’m sure – lots of others, I’m still going to vote for you this November and encourage others to do the same. Here are the reasons why:
1. Your administration sets the gold standard for transparency in government in this region. Every other public agency in the state should come take lessons from you. Your staff has issued a private password so that my research team can access the entire Hamilton County tax data base. Members of your department actually suggest ideas for ways we can use public information more effectively and have provided help with IT questions so I can use materials This is government utopia and I feel like we are working together in the best interests of our community.
2. You know how to hire and retain talented individuals who are always polite, knowledgeable, work ridiculous hours (Susan Silver, do not answer any more of my emails on Sundays or after 9:00 at night) and they are intensely loyal to you. You are eager to share the credit when complimented and step-in to shoulder the blame when that’s necessary, the way a true leader should.
3. While I may not like the way you “tweet” (oops, that was another one of my Enquirer editorials), you are accessible to the people you serve, answer emails, and give out your personal phone numbers like other folks shake hands.
The Auditor’s office isn’t perfect. Nothing is. And there are areas where, together – with a lot of help from other talented individuals – I think we can improve results for this community. But you’ve earned my respect, which is the most anybody should hope from politicians and friends – and I consider you both. You get my vote , Dusty, and I look forward to another four years of annoying each other on a very regular basis.