DFS City Councilman Kermit Wright draws on years of management experience, is “a voice for the people.”
By REID TUCKER
Note: This story is the third of a multi-part series derived from interviews with the members of the DeFuniak Springs City Council. This week’s article comes from an interview with Councilman Kermit Wright, while pieces in upcoming editions will profile the remaining city councilmen.
Kermit Wright took a hands-on approach to management long before being elected to the DeFuniak Springs City Council, and the past year supplied plenty of opportunities to put that managerial style to work.
The three newly elected councilmen, Wright among them, took office last summer when the city found itself at a sort of crossroads. The Council was at that time tasked with myriad issues, primarily the long-running debate whether to allow crematoriums within residential areas and serious questions related to the rehabilitation or demolition of the former Walton County Health Department building for use as a new police headquarters. Wright and the other council members also had their hands full addressing the concerns of the city’s business community, which, in the view of many, had for years had attempts at new growth stunted due to regulations handed down by city government.
Wright said he was well-prepared to meet the challenges that lay ahead.
His Vietnam War-experience in the one of the Air Force’s elite RED HORSE combat engineering squadrons fostered self-sufficiency and the ability to achieve specific objectives under pressure. A 32-year U.S. Postal Service career, 18 years of which he spent as postmaster in four cities from Sneads to DeFuniak Springs, molded his business sensibilities and taught him how manage employee pools big and small. His work with the Walton County ARC showed him how to balance fiscal responsibility while remaining attentive to a segment of the community with particular needs.
That said, Wright was quick to point out that his many experiences in leadership positions complement each other, with the end result being a perspective on the interrelatedness of the larger DeFuniak Springs community. Wright said he puts the wishes of the people he represents ahead of his own, just as he always has.
“I serve the people and that is totally it,” Wright said. “If I can’t serve the people and if I can’t be a voice for the people I’ll quit. I’ll resign tomorrow. I’m a very strong advocate for the people and I’m going to represent all of them, not a special interest. If somebody asks me for something I look to see how it could possibly benefit everybody, not just them.”
As to those aforementioned big items facing the Council early in Wright’s tenure, he said he and the other board members worked together to get results in keeping with the best interests of the voters. Wright opposed crematoriums in residential areas from the start and, with help from vocal residents, persuaded the other Council members to amend the related ordinance to disallow them barring special approval. Also, several structural surveys and interior renovations later, the former Health Department building was determined to be basically structurally sound and now free of mold and other airborne contaminants, with its final fate to be decided sooner rather than later.
Some of his other plans for the building include selling the salvageable metal components of the structure to generate more revenue for the city and to install a hip roof with the aim of preventing the mold problem encountered by the old roof. Wright pointed to the recently proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget, which includes more than $160,000 to be used on the building, saying the best course of action is to refurbish the building rather than starting over from the slab. Wright explained his reasoning by pointing to the findings of a study by one of the city’s engineering firms which showed the walls and slab of the building remain in remarkable good shape despite the age of the building….
Read the full story in the Aug. 9, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.