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Opinion
Palm Coast Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 3 months ago

Charlie Ericksen on the 'scar,' the 'massacre' and racism

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Flagler County commissioner has doubts about the future of Sheriff's Operations Center.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

As a commissioned officer serving stateside during the Vietnam War, Charlie Ericksen Jr. had the task of informing next of kin that a loved one had been killed or was missing in action. He would arrive at a family’s home and deliver the news, strictly following published procedures, sticking to the script. Someone will be contacting you in the next 24 hours with information about the funeral services, he would say. He still chokes up thinking about those moments.

Ericksen went on to work in the insurance industry, managing hundreds of people for U.S. Health. His strategy was to walk the floor and understand firsthand the problems his employees were facing; then he would try to help them come up with their own solutions. His employees gave him bells to attach to his shoes so they could hear him approach. At the conclusion of staff meetings, he would pick an employee to summarize what had just been discussed, just to make sure everything was clear.

Ericksen is now a member of the Flagler County Commission. He was first elected in 2012 and is the longest serving member of the commission today. I spoke with him Jan. 15 about several topics facing the county. Here is an edited transcript:

 

Q: Is there hope for the Sheriff’s Operations Center?

A: I hope so, after all the talking and all the “let’s make it happen.” The thing’s a scar that’s never going to heal in Flagler County. As you remember, I was the only commissioner who said no to the thing when we bought it, and the reason was, working with my dad when I was growing up, he said buying an older building and rehabbing it has its hidden dangers, and true to fact that’s what’s happened. I don’t think anything we do to the existing facility would cause people to be any more happy about moving in there than they are today. If water is coming up through the floor, you’re not going to solve that.

 

Q: On Jan. 9, County Administrator Craig Coffey resigned under pressure. On Facebook, you called the meeting a “massacre.” What did you mean by that?

A: We knew Craig was going to move on. He’ll have no problem finding a job some other place. But Americans love to get somebody down and kick them again. I’ve never adhered to that particular method as a manager. I’m more a rah-rah cheerleader type person. If you have problem, you talk to the person.

I know the Florida Association of Counties is going to be a source for us (to find his replacement). One or two of the (existing county managers elsewhere in the state) have raised their hands and said they’d like to come on (as interim county manager in Flagler County).

 

Q: You implied that sexism and racism could be part of the reason for people opposing the re-hiring of Deputy County Administrator Sally Sherman (she's resigning Jan. 31). Why?

A. I didn’t intend to point a finger at racism and sexism, but they do exist. Out of 100 people, how many people would say they’re racist? Not one would say yes. But then you could say, “Is there racism?” And they’d say, “Yes, but it’s not me.” We all have limitations.

 

Q: The Flagler County Resource Center demolition was on the consent agenda, but it was reversed once the commissioners discussed it. Should it have been on consent?

A: The consent agenda can stand a lot of improvement. Sometimes we don’t get the details until a day or a day and a half before, and it’s like 400 pages. It’s like trying to read a paperback book in that time, and you just can’t get it done.

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