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Have the commissioners’ meetings become … genteel?

Genteel: Having an aristocratic quality or flavor, stylish; elegant or graceful in manner. So says Merriam Webster.
For some time now, I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe the atmosphere at the commissioners’ meetings, how things have changed with practically all new leadership. Two commissioners have just two years’ experience, and the other joined the threesome a little more than a month ago, on Jan. 1.
Genteel might just do the trick, especially since the Republican chair, J.R. Eckart, opened his first night meeting with the suggestion that the packed audience “take a moment to be grateful for the things we have in our community; take a second to gather our thoughts.”
Yes, “genteel” might work, except for comparison purposes that would imply that former boards weren’t aristocratic or lacked style or grace. That’s simply not the case. Well, not most of the time.
So let’s try the opposite. According to Webster, that would be boorish: resembling or befitting a boor (as in a peasant, who is supposedly crude or insensitive).
I haven’t recognized any of their three voices on any of the calls to “Live Wire,” so, nope, that’s not a fit, either.
How about moderate? That means avoiding extremes of behavior or expression, observing reasonable limits; calm, temperate. Sounds about right, except that as an adjective, moderate also means: having average or less than average quality, mediocre. We’re not far enough along into any of these guys’ terms to know that just yet. Time will tell, but, for now, let’s put moderate on the shelf.
So. Next we’ll examine good old boy. That’s an adjective phrase we hear a lot, especially when one person is describing another in a negative sense, as in “good-old-boy politics.” Webster says that reference usually describes a “white Southerner who conforms to the social behavior of his peers.” Personally, I will never forget former Commissioner Terry L. Miller’s definition during a eulogy for the late Sheriff William E. (Bill) Carver, who died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack while in office. Describing Carver’s persona, his steadfast loyalty to family, friends and career, Miller said, “Bill was truly a good old boy.”
Since then, the phrase “good old boy” to me has been synonymous with character traits that become evident with tried-and-true, long-standing relationships. That description would certainly fit a few other commissioners, but I haven’t known the three commissioners on the current board that long, so, for me, that description doesn’t work, yet.
We’ll move on to the differences between social behavior and politics.
Social, according to Webster, in one context, means “marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with one’s friends or associates.” The key word is “pleasant.” So far, the commissioners have all been “pleasant.” Even when telling something like it is, rather than the way a constituent wants it to be. Commissioner James Goldman cushions his message with a smile. Commissioner Jim Heitkemper, the new kid on the block, so far says little but appears to be listening intently. Eckart, the chair, seems to take his role personally, sometimes over-explaining or over-emphasizing a point. He seems the consummate campaigner, and if he keeps it up, he may still be a commissioner when he turns 86 (and yes, thank you. I’ll still be there, too).
Politics, Webster says, is “characterized by shrewdness in managing, contriving or dealing.”
It would follow then, that to be politically astute, one would need to be socially acceptable and politically shrewd.
I think we’ll just stop right here, and let Mr. Webster off the hook. Instead, just listen to me.
My best advice would be to attend a meeting of this top body of local government to see how our leaders work and judge for yourself, that is, before you must be there on a personal issue. That’s usually the only time a person will attend, and that almost always clouds a person’s views, one way or the other.

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