Thank you for the introduction Jess - like probably most of you, I am here more to listen and learn than to speak. I'm way more of a “behind-the-scenes” kind of guy, especially outside of social media. But I am honored to share a few words with you about my goals, background, and ideas for the party as I seek to represent you as the next Director At-Large #3 to the Libertarian Party of Florida Executive Committee.
In the short time since I've joined the party, I've quickly seen that the Libertarian Party of Florida has many passionate and eager people who fight hard for what they believe, my own Executive Committee in the Libertarian Party of Orange County being among them. We have the basic structure of ballot access – easier in Florida than many other states, I'm told due to the work of Libertarians here almost 20 years ago. We have party organization, and even some elected officials – when I first joined, I wasn't aware of that fact – and therefore a clear path forward.
Yet, to address the porcupine in the room (we don't do elephants, right?) - I don't think it's controversial to say we sometimes have a challenge in our party with conflict and division. At times I have had the questionable privilege of a front row seat given my position in Orange County. For example, last summer we campaigned for Paul Stanton in the Orange affiliate while the interim chair - his primary opponent, a certain Augustus Invictus - watched impassively. The experiences that myself, Derek Ryan, and Pedro Geliga had in the Orange affiliate really shaped our view on how to move forward. Augustus, to his credit, recognized the opportunity and challenged us to prove that we deserved positions in the Orange affiliate by doing the work of the party, rather than just by talk. Recognizing the hard truth that the affiliate needed a lot of work put into it, we reluctantly agreed – I took on Communications, Derek took on Events, and Pedro took on Membership. The first few months could be charitably described as “teeth-clenched teamwork” but we stabilized and then starting growing the affiliate, and as a consequence the previous Executive Committee nominated us to replace them. Had we chosen the other path, conflict, we would have destroyed the affiliate and driven away the motivated supporters that the Gary Johnson campaign attracted. We hope that other affiliates will consider that story whenever they face conflicts of their own. For too long, the party has focused on personalities when we need to build systems, processes, and especially action.
As for myself, I'm an Orlando native and fifth-generation Florida native – my family settled Florida in the early 1800s moving from Alabama. I grew up in Oviedo in Seminole County, graduated from the University of Central Florida with degrees in mathematics and computer science, and then moved to Avalon Park in east Orange County. I've worked in federal military contracting since then.
Politically, I was inspired by Ron Paul back during the Bush administration to question everything I once believed as a hardcore neoconservative, and this led me to embrace small-l libertarian ideals. Working on research in simulation and training of infantry ground combat scenarios, it was hard not to ask questions about the harsh realities of war. I was proud to support Gary Johnson – twice – for president, as well as Adrian Wyllie for governor, and finally made the jump to the Libertarian Party itself after watching the national convention on C-SPAN last year. Now, perhaps that was not the most gentle introduction to the party – I certainly learned who James Weeks II is, and my Twitter reaction made a few news articles. However, I was also quite inspired by Dr. Marc Feldman's debate performance as That Libertarian, and I wish I had had the chance to meet him. Watching the presidential and vice-presidential debates, I was amazed to finally hear a full range of views of individual liberty aligning with what I believe in – a range that is mostly absent from the conventional politics of the two old parties.
Our philosophy of individual liberty is solid, and with the right tactics, marketing, and long-term strategy, we can grow to be the major force for liberty in Florida politics that we were always meant to be. With my own practical experience in different kinds of behind-the-scenes management – diplomatic, technical, financial, and clerical – I hope to be an asset to the state party in building that future with you.
The Director position is rather different from the other Executive Committee positions. When I first considered running, I was quite surprised to learn that the Director has no formally defined responsibilities in our Constitution and Bylaws, whereas the other positions are defined by the party's Bylaws in Article III Section 3. As such, I'd like to work with the incoming Executive Committee to build a consensus on the actual responsibilities of the Directors, then work to formally record that in our Bylaws.
That's not to say the current Directors have no responsibility – quite the contrary, actually. Alison, Russ, and Marc have been extremely active running special projects, events, and initiatives. I have heard many great things about their hard work. Unfortunately, I haven't heard as much about the support teams backing them up. We need to create a culture of permission and empowerment in the committees so that our volunteers know what is expected and can take initiative accordingly. Committee chairs and EC members should be ones empowering the volunteers to do the work, removing barriers in their way, and setting the vision and parameters for each initiative.
My intent as Director is to listen and seek to understand the goals and needs of all of our regions and affiliates statewide, so I can provide a holistic view to the Executive Committee with courtesy and respect for all of the perspectives that our activists and county leaders bring to the table. As I see it, Directors have three main roles: cheerleader, ambassador, and special project manager.
Cheerleader: because we need to promote our successes. Not only is this a great marketing tool to reach out to non-Libertarians, it is critical to recognize the hard work that our elected officials and activists invest in the party for the sake for their morale. As Communications Chair of the Orange affiliate and one of the six social media administrators of the Florida Liberty Caucus, I highlight positive success stories of actual achievements in various Florida cities and in the state legislature.
Ambassador: because open communication between the state party and the actual boots on the ground is key. And to be clear - what you say is important, but what other person understands is far more important. I will fairly represent all of you to the state party, and represent the state party to all of you. As many of you know already, I will listen to anyone and consider any serious idea. With Libertarians especially, it's far more effective to ask “what do you need to succeed?” than to command “Do as I say to succeed.”
Special Project Manager: to lead and ensure smooth operations of the projects and initiatives of the party. The Directors are, in a way, the hands of the Chair. The Chair sets the vision and direction, in consultation with the full EC. Committees are tasked with implementing the vision. Directors have the opportunity to be the coordinators ensuring smooth translation from vision to reality, and provide a second set of eyes reviewing progress and action against the objectives.
Those of you who have worked with me in my role as the Treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Orange County know that I have already sought to build cross-affiliate connections and collaboration. So far I've had the privilege of visiting, learning from, and supporting our current and upcoming affiliates in Brevard, Volusia, Seminole, Lake, Polk, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Citrus, Levy, and St. Johns counties. My hope is to visit as many of the remaining county affiliates as possible by the May convention so I can learn your stories and what you would like to see from the state party, and continue these outreach visits afterward. It is far easier to have a friendly discussion and solve problems in person!
To adapt a quote I've used in the past – we must walk like the powerful until they are forced to walk like us. To achieve our social and political goals, we must grow to operate with full confidence as a major party – without sacrificing our principles – to make it possible to actually become one.
Thank you for taking the time to listen. I look forward to earning your vote in May.