People surprise you all the time; you just have to let them.
I’ve tried to find a way to write this column so that it seems softer, or that it comes around subtly to my point, but really, I don’t have that many words for this, so I’ve decided the best thing I can do is say what I want to say.
Michael Fridovich –Gulfport’s Ward Four councilman and the subject of a column in which I slammed him for behaviors I found deplorable –has more character than I ever would have given him credit for having.
Look, I know some of you loved that column and many of you hated it. It was no party for me to write, and I’m fairly certain reading it wasn’t a waltz in the park for Mike, either. I felt – and still do – that he was jeopardizing the city as well as his ability to do his job effectively, and because I like what he’s trying to do and how he keeps his ward at the foremost of his actions, I wanted desperately to find a way to stop what I saw as risky behaviors.
The distinguished gentleman from the fourth ward and I will likely never agree on whether or not he behaved inappropriately or put the city at legal risk. However, since that column, after enough time had passed that he was able to contain what I can only assume was a pretty strong urge to throttle me, Mike and I have had a few conversations. The closest we’ve come to talking about the column was when he and I sat with a few others at Little Tommies Tiki and someone else spilled a beer. Mike looked me dead in the face, laughed, and made a joke about how I could never mock his eating habits again.
So, while I’m certain Mike is reading this now and thinking, “What the hell have I done now?” let me get to my point:
Michael Fridovich is a big man. It takes a big man to take what I dished out a few months back, and an even bigger one to realize that while he may fundamentally disagree with what I said, once he understood how his actions made some others feel, he committed to stop doing those things.
Councilman Fridovich and I haven’t discussed this, but this new behavior impresses people – myself included. Without running down a laundry list of the problems observed in the past, it appears he has worked to eradicate the behaviors some found unacceptable.
That is no easy task for anyone. I speak from experience. Recently, a person I don’t know that well suggested I had a tendency to be something of a bulldozer. I didn’t see it, but I asked El Cap, my editor, and the Gabber publisher. They all did. Of course, they’re all wrong: I know my heart, and in my heart, I’m not that person.
However, as much as I disagree, I realize that the only person who doesn’t see this behavior is me, and I don’t want to make people feel as though I’ve run them over when we disagree. Sadly, how I see my behavior doesn’t matter if I’m hurting other people.
In a perfect world, if Michael believed he did no wrong because he had no malice in his heart, well, then, he shouldn’t have had to change his behavior. I get that, I do, because I’m guilty of the same thing. Michael’s unfortunate reality as a councilman is that continuing to believe he was technically in the right and of pure intention will only weaken him politically, and will weaken his city.
That’s why, well in advance of anyone using my first column about Michael as campaign literature against him in the upcoming elections, I want to say this: Michael has not always behaved beyond reproach, but he has proven, at least to this jaded bulldozer of a writer, that he cares more about our city than about his ego.
And so, let me close with this: Councilman Fridovich, you have surprised me and earned my respect. I will strive to follow your example. I am proud to call you my councilmember and a fellow Gulfportian.
Thank you, sir.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.
This post appeared in the August 14, 2014 print edition of the Gabber Newspaper.