Criticizing elected officials is a full-time hobby for a lot of people, and most of the time they deserve it. At least that's true at the state and federal levels. On the local level it is much different most of the time. Partisan politics is pointless and worthless and it's clear whether a public servant is effective. In the case of Sebring Mayor George Hensley, it couldn't be more evident.
Hensley is stepping down as mayor April 1. He won his first election in 1979 and served on the Sebring City Council and then as mayor. As mayor he's more of a figurehead, since he doesn't cast votes, but we see him as much more than that.
As the "face" of the city, Hensley has always brought respectability and integrity to Sebring. He's a good man and people trust him, even if he can't cast a vote. He's often a voice of common sense and moderation and every level of government seems to be lacking that these days.
We're lucky in Highlands County that we have good elected officials, even the ones we occasionally disagree with. It's too small of a place, with too many eyes looking on, for the kinds of shenanigans we see at the state and federal level. A dishonest local politician will be found out in no time and exposed.
Hensley has always been one of those leaders who is above reproach. People believe him and that's why he's spent 33 years being elected and re-elected to office. At this level of government a politician can't hide behind special interests and political action committees. That's quite a track record.
No one blames Hensley for wanting to step down. That many years in public service is both an honor and privilege, but also a lot of hard work. Most people who have never served on a public board or been elected can't appreciate the hours that go into talking with people and studying issues. At least that's true of good elected officials, and Hensley was certainly one of those.
We wish Hensley well but we're also glad to have him still around to keep an eye on things. His experience and institutional knowledge is important. So we're not losing him completely.
John Shoop soon will fill his shoes and we're confident he'll do a great job. There's no denying, though, that he has big shoes to fill.