Commissioner Matlow’s political style requires a villain | Opinion

From the Tallahassee Democrat

Re: “I’m not going to the Chamber of Commerce Amelia Island getaway. Here’s why | Jeremy Matlow,” July 30

First and foremost, I appreciate that Jeremy Matlow had the conviction and passion to run for local office. My appreciation for his public service ends there.

The tone and approach of Commissioner Matlow during his tenure on the Commission, in my mind, is no different than former President Donald Trump. The policy positions of the two individuals are vastly different; however, the grandstanding, innuendo and extremism closely mirror each other.

The former president and his political style required a villain. Matlow’s political strategy and consistent public actions during his short tenure on the City Commission also appear to require villains. His convenient villain of the week is the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

No one in this town paying any attention is idly sitting by saying we are proud of the corruption case currently before a jury of our peers. The array of players — public and private sector — on trial and under indictment is a black eye on this community.

What is not in question — or on trial — is the Chamber of Commerce, its members, its current or past board members and its dedicated staff.

The fact that Matlow, a sitting City Commissioner representing this community, has volleyed a blatant attack on the Chamber — not his first, by the way — is embarrassing. Further, it’s become tiresome.

Matlow needs a villain to maintain his soap box and he has chosen the Chamber to be public enemy No. 1. In my view, his ire is sorely misplaced.

The Chamber is comprised of nearly 1,400 members. The majority of Chamber members have fewer than 10 employees. Is Matlow saying that Joe Smith or Sally Johnson of Tallahassee — mom and pop owners of  small businesses in this community — are corrupt because they belong to the Chamber?

I think reasonable people know the answer is no. If Chamber members believe the Chamber is “guilty by association” in the current federal corruption case, then those members can make their own informed decisions and choose not to renew.

The fact of the matter is that a few unethical, power hungry individuals seriously went off the reservation. That does not mean every organization those individuals ever associated with are guilty of anything, nor are they under indictment. To my knowledge, no one under indictment was ever a fiduciary or in a leadership role of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

I am proud to say our small business is a member of the Chamber. In my over 27 years of involvement with the Chamber, I have never seen anything other than a drive to improve the quality of life for all of Tallahassee’s citizens, current and future.

Bennett Napier is President/CEO of Partners in Association Management. He holds a master’s degree in applied American politics and policy, and has completed post graduate certificate work at Florida State University. He has served as board chair of two nonprofits in Leon County and on the board of nearly a half-dozen nonprofit organizations in Tallahassee.