Monday evening I was invited to speak to the Darke County Fire Chiefs Association. I was offered the chance to explain my article on joint fire districts for Darke County. Yes, I knew when it was written it would cause concern with some entities, especially our local fire chiefs and firemen. Yes, I expected a hostile audience. Yes, I figured there would be some rough patches in the meeting, but a lot of firemen voted for me in 2010 and I believed they deserved a crack at me for what I printed.
I believe if you are going to put your name to something, you better be willing to take the heat. And when you are wrong, admit it, don’t compound the error by making excuses. “Man up” as the saying goes. I expected the heat, but I also felt this was an issue that needed discussing publicly. That is why I wrote it, for public discussion, period.
The meeting started with a list of questions on what I meant in the article, where did I get my information, and who did I think I was. I expected all of that. What I did not expect was the reason for the anger towards me. I learned that the fire chiefs biggest complaint was that I did not come to them first with the idea and the article. I admit, I never even gave that a thought because I wanted to do it independently so as not to be tainted by personal agendas. I thought at the time I was doing the right thing. I was wrong.
I never even gave a thought to how the fire chiefs felt. I did not consider the fact that they would get ambushed by some of their constituents for answers and explanations to questions they themselves had not been subjected to. I wasn’t thinking.
This group of men deserved better than what I did to them publicly. Ignorance is no excuse, I did not think this through completely, like I have stated I always try to do. One chief accused me of doing it for ego. I didn’t think so at the time, but maybe in the back of my mind somewhere, he was right. I try to fight that human character flaw at all times, but I am human too, and I do slip up once in a while. My personality, and my saying outrageous things can be construed by some as arrogance, when really all I am going for is a laugh. It backfires sometimes. Maybe it did here. Having this group of men questioned by their constituents for things they were not privy to was, in retrospect, an unfair position to put them in. For that, I am truly sorry. I promise to be more careful of people, especially people and groups I do deeply respect, in the future.
Please, gentlemen, accept this apology from a person who meant you no harm, but caused you much anguish. I will do my best to see that you, or anyone else, is not publicly “called out” by one of my articles. I promise if I am asked about this again, and things change in the future, I will come to you first because you deserve that respect.
Please accept my sincere apology.
Mike Stegall, Darke County Commissioner