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Politics of personal destruction

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Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden, left, and Bob Weir discuss recent political posts on social media. (Photo by Netsky Rodriguez)
Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden, left, and Bob Weir discuss recent political posts on social media. (Photo by Netsky Rodriguez)

I don’t do a lot of social media, but recently, I clicked on Facebook and noticed that Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden was the target of some poison-laced criticism from a few residents.

Reaching for my calendar, I quickly checked the date to see if I had missed something. Was Mr. Hayden running for reelection this year? Generally, that’s when the curare-tipped spears are hurled at anyone who dares run for office in this lovely, but often politically tumultuous burg.

Since his current term doesn’t expire until May of next year, I began to wonder what caused this sudden burst of hostility. Last year, Hayden ran unopposed, as did 2 other Council members. Did he do something recently to arouse the ire of his constituents? The more I read the more I realized this was nothing but a rehash of the brickbats thrown at him when he first ran for office several years ago.

Inasmuch as Hayden effectively answered his critics and was elected by a sizable majority of voters, then reelected without opposition, one would think his critics would give it a rest. Sadly, those who seem to continuously thrive on negatives say more about themselves than they say about the recipients of their invective.

Political grudges are probably more vicious and long-lasting than most forms of human interaction. If you check out the social media in our town you’ll also see scorn being heaped on NFL, the acronym for Northern, Filidoro and Lyda, a Mayor and 2 Council members from a few years ago.

Like the current elected leaders, they volunteered their time and effort to do the best job possible to represent you and me. Yes, they were defeated by the current Council, but does that mean their names should be used as a punch line in perpetuity?

Suppose the current Council is overturned? Should they be strung up like a piñata, enabling their detractors to bludgeon them for the next decade? It’s tough enough to get good people to donate their time, skill and experience as public servants. And, it’s tough enough to run for office with all the stress and abuse that comes with a political campaign. But, at least they should feel confident that they won’t be incessantly hammered for years after they’ve left office.

Let’s examine the rebirth of innuendo against Hayden. He works for an insurance company that does business all across the country. Hence, it’s easy for his political detractors to dig up a connection, however flimsy, from his company to a company doing business with the town. Incidentally, Mr. Hayden works in the bond department, unconnected to the commercial market. Moreover, during his first 3 months in office, he asked the town attorney for an opinion concerning his job and his elective office. He was assured that there was no conflict of interest.

Nevertheless, insinuation is all that’s necessary to kindle suspicious minds. If we were to look closely at the occupation of any elected official we’d find some way to distort their motives for public service. If we want to be absolutely certain about the integrity of our reps, perhaps we should only elect the unemployed or the homeless.

As if it’s not enough to make tenuous accusations about his career ethics, it’s now been stated that Hayden was in arrears on his HOA dues, attempting to paint him as a deadbeat. In fact, he owned a rental property some years ago that had accumulated a $300 debt.

During a recent interview, he told me that the notice was never sent to his home in Flower Mound. But, when he was in the process of selling the property he was informed it had a lien on it. He promptly paid the $300 at the closing. Is that a reason to clobber him years later on social media? How would you feel if your neighbors were reading about every trivial transaction in your life, implying that you were ethically challenged?

I’ve also noticed that some of my past newspaper columns have been resurrected. I suppose the intent is to contrast some of the criticism I made then, to my recent positive articles concerning the direction of the town. Okay, I confess that I was very critical of the way our former town manager was unceremoniously dismissed. That caused me to be skeptical about the current Council’s plans for future development.

Nonetheless, after meeting the new manager and seeing his vision for quality growth, I was satisfied that the town was not going to self-destruct. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything the town leaders are doing, I just think they’re making more good moves than bad. If voters don’t agree, we’ll soon see some new faces on the Council. That’s why we have elections.

There are 4 people running for 2 open seats and one candidate running against an incumbent. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all the prospects for town leadership and I think we’re fortunate indeed to have so much talent vying for our votes, hopefully with a positive platform, devoid of trash talk. Leadership can be defined in many ways, but one thing’s certain, petty smear tactics to obtain office is a precursor to performance in office.

Fair-minded voters reject personal attacks and view them as character flaws in the people who use them. No decent person admires a bully! Let’s hope we can have a civil discussion about what’s best for the residents, without exposing us to every insignificant peccadillo from a candidate’s past. I firmly believe that when the smoke clears after May 9, we’ll still be the luckiest people in the world to be living in this flower of North Texas.

Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.

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