A04 county council.jpg

Three minutes, please — The timer is set for three minutes on the Volusia County Council dais in the Downtown DeLand meeting room, ready to limit the comments of the next member of the public to speak. From left are three of the County Council’s seven members: Billie Wheeler, who represents Daytona Beach-area District 2; Deb Denys, who represents sprawling Southeast Volusia District 3; and County Chair Ed Kelley.

I know the old stereotype: Public-works crews lean on shovels and occasionally move. I remember where on Plymouth the county crews used to park to nap in the afternoons, but I have not been out there in years. They may have found a new spot.

What you may not see as often is the bureaucratic efficiency that fills the Taxpayers’ Hotel. Next time you visit 123 W. Indiana Ave., try to watch them at work. Or at least, watch them as they watch the clock.

Stereotypes die hard, especially over at the county. If anything, they just become more deep-rooted. Charter government started as an interesting experiment, moving inexorably through being an obvious mistake, until now it has reached the stage of unmitigated disaster.

Crowning this steaming mess, you have the county manager, overseeing his several dwarves. The dwarves are the public-facing aspect of government.

I say public-facing, but there is a stunning lack of interest in facing the public. The stereotypical clock-watching bureaucrat takes his example from Chairman Ed Kelley. During public input, Kelley directs all his attention to his three-minute clock. It is more interesting than the public, especially those disagreeing with his boss.

Kelley really just wants to hear from the county manager. I guess that if you want to praise him and the manager, he might enjoy that. Otherwise your three minutes are up, and Kelley needs to hear from the manager so he will know what to say.

I remember one time this year that Ed Kelley blurted out the truth. He said that he was too dumb to come up with an alternative if the public voted down the sales-tax increase. The name “Honest Ed” would probably stick better if these occasions were less rare.

The lack of nickname may be just as well. Under our form of government, the County Council are mainly decorative. Some are barely qualified to tell time, and two of them could not pass the test to be hood ornaments.

So it is no surprise that, as decorative county chair, Kelley is in over his head. Seems to me that you could bury that guy ankle-deep in beach sand, and he would probably be in too deep. But yes, I can hear what half the readers are thinking — sure, bury him ankle-deep, but headfirst, and no three-minute timer!

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.