Since my involvement with the Facebook group Crestview Citizens for Change, I have been viewing our city through a different lens.

My perspective was “I’m here because the housing market favors my preference,” and now my perspective is “Am I really getting value in my city services?”

I’ve since been enlightened on how to get things done in Crestview. The error in my ways was thinking the people tasked with these oversight jobs would be overseeing them.

I have learned that, to get anything done, I have to ask them to do it — to steal a quote, “In order to get things done, you have to make it more work for a civil servant to ignore you than to do the task you would like them to do.”

Let’s explore this for a moment.

A few weeks ago, I emailed [Crestview’s] director of public works, Wayne Steele, regarding some extensive vandalism and disrepair at the Countryview Park located at the end of Northview Drive.

My initial email was inquisitive because I wanted to learn what the city processes were in regard to addressing vandalism and repair needs for the playgrounds — after all, maybe my issue was with the process, not the employees.

I learned that the protocols in place were proactive enough that, if followed, any vandalism or repair needs should be identified within Monday through Thursday, and measures to correct the issues [would] be employed ASAP, and also involving the Crestview Police Department to have a report filed so we can get reimbursed for the costs of the city insurance.

Properly executed, this protocol would ensure swift fixing of any issues.

I let about a week go by — from learning from Wayne about the city processes to when I sent him pictures of the extensive problems I identified. (I visited the park a few times since then to give the process time to work on its own). I won’t share pictures, but items included: animal feces on the mulch in the playground area, written vulgarity and vandalism (writing on equipment, drawing obscene pictures, etc).

Mr. Steele was extremely helpful in educating me about the myriad of roles he plays and the extent of his job. Once he informed me that no reports of vandalism had been brought to his attention in the current month, I knew the problem was that the protocol was not being followed.

I sent him every picture I took, and that evening he assured me all items would be fixed by end of day the following day, and they were.

I trust he followed protocol and involved the Crestview Police Department by filing a report so the taxpayer money could get some relief from insurance, but I don’t know that for certain.

The problem isn’t isolated to public works, though — it’s everywhere. Our charter review committee met on June 13 and came to an agreement on frequency and duration of meetings, and the administrator in charge of getting that information available to the public didn’t do it until I asked her to — six days later. The administrator of the committee is our growth management director, Teresa Gaillard. She was fast about it, but I had to ask for it to be done.

Why?

I’d encourage every citizen — when you see a foul, call it how you see it. The only way you’ll get representation in our current setting is if you engage the people responsible for the problem you find.

I can say, for me personally, I have no faith that the system by itself will address concerns the way it should without me spurring it along.

This highlights a need for full-time oversight, in my eyes. 

Matt Gates, with the Facebook page Crestview Citizens for Change, is not to be confused with Matt Gaetz, the U.S. congressman. He lives in Crestview.