Reflecting on 2019

The year 2019 is coming to an end as I write, and as a goal-setter, I like to look back and think about the things I am most proud of and what I could have handled better. Every year it is hard to take time to give these things the proper reflection, as my life moves at a pace that sometimes feels like the speed of light, but each year I silently remind myself of the importance of finding some quiet time to reflect. Because, while we move forward each day with the best intentions, life can only be understood when we think about it in hindsight.

Our boys, Joaquin and Marc, are now on active military duty and I’m writing just days before they will arrive home for Christmas. Both have told us it is unlikely they will make it home for Christmas next year. While our daughter Alexandra lives in Bradenton, she is frantically busy with graduate school and working, and there is little time to spend together. Our children are now adults, and they have each developed their own philosophies and opinions, which are not always the same as mine. I’ll admit that I occasionally stop myself from offering them unsolicited advice and try to remember that offering them a warm and loving connection may be more important than my opinion. My husband spends the work-week in Pasco County, returning home only for weekends and holidays, and all of this reality underscores the importance of the coming weeks for me, as it may be the last time for a long time that we are all together.

As I reflect on my first year as a County Commissioner, I realize I have learned a lot, and there are two things that stand out: 1. Listening is more important than talking, and 2. keeping emotions in check is easy if you don’t take things personally. 

Being an elected official allows me to interact with many people, and some come to me with a problem or complaint. Sometimes their problem makes them angry and difficult, which can naturally place me on the defense. But each time I am reminded to take a breath, refocus my perspective, and to try and understand what they are feeling. I have come to realize this past year more than ever before, the importance of understanding other perspectives. I’ve found that when you try to understand each other, it is easier to bring compassion to the discussion rather than judgement. And if you didn’t already guess, being on the commission can sometimes feel like a crazy rollercoaster, but I’ve learned that being open to other ideas is how we build paths to walk together instead of putting up walls that stop us dead in our tracks. 

I am proud of what I, along with your help, accomplished as a commissioner in 2019.

Here are some highlights:

1. The creation of the District 4 Citizens Coalition on Growth, to add more voices to the discussion of how our community should grow. This was a campaign promise that was my first priority.

2.Adoption of the public safety ordinance was a big win, which will not only reduce panhandling, but hopefully reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities on our roadways. 

3. Our Board unanimously supported the adoption of a massage parlor ordinance in an effort to eliminate nuisance businesses that are straining our resources and contributing to human trafficking in our community. 

4. Many residents in Pride Park will soon receive surveillance doorbells thanks to Ring.com in an effort to increase safety, and our Sheriff’s Office has taken a lead role in this effort. 

Looking ahead, I am excited to work with our Code Enforcement Department and our major landlords in 2020 in an effort to develop a program together to foster community pride in our neighborhoods.

I believe that one of the keys to making sense of all of our relationships is to continue to expand our perspective from “how I feel” to “how others feel.” This shift removes the narrow blinders of our comfortable view, and widens our vision, sometimes to an uncomfortable place. Whether my role is a county commissioner, a mother, and even a spouse or friend, this shift has helped me when seeking to understand others.

As we begin the year 2020, I pray we can all take some time to savor the joys and sorrows of the past year and open our minds to the opinions of others as we build our future. And while we think about what is important, let us also broaden those thoughts to consider what is important not only to ourselves, but to our family, coworkers, and our community. Let’s make 2020 the best year yet!

Misty Servia is a Manatee County Commissioner who represents District 4.

You can reach her at misty.servia@mymanatee.org