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Finding OB-GYNs where you least expect them

The labor room is new and interesting and I have a lot to learn as a nurse. A lot. I’m a newbie there.

In a newsroom, I’m an oldster and I miss it sometimes. I requested a buyout from the Orlando Sentinel when they were doling them out in 2008.

Back in those days when writing, on rare moments, I ran into OB/GYNs. There was one accused of sexual misconduct. I wrote about him. Then there was this one and the circumstances are somewhat relevant to today’s political climate. The Sentinel had given me an actual Sunday column, oddly enough, where I could speak my mind. It was a rare opportunity for someone who wrote news copy on most days of the week. And so I did.

July 30, 2006
AVON PARK — I kid you not: A pig truck whizzed by here along U.S. Highway 27 and left a stink as heavy as a humid day. Hawg truck, the old man told me. A retired ob/gyn, who upon hearing my name declared he’d birthed a Kelly many years ago.

“Her mamma said havin’ her was rougher’n a corn cob,” he said.

I had to chuckle.

Welcome to “The City of Charm.”

Until a few weeks ago, unless you were fine-tuning your bomb-dropping skills, you might not have heard of Avon Park. (For those who don’t know, the Air Force owns a 100,000-plus-acre bombing range near the town).

It’s a place where farmers still grow things: cattle ranchers, citrus growers and dairy farmers haven’t yet sold out to developers. Snowbirds flock in their annual trek, making up a significant “seasonal” migration.

Also among that fluctuating population are migrant farm workers.

Mayor Tom Macklin made national news and drew the ire of civil-rights groups and hundreds of protesters to last week’s City Council meeting with his get-tough proposal for an ordinance that seemed it could penalize anyone who as much as sold a loaf of bread to an illegal immigrant.

Thus, editors sent me southward to check it out.

I interviewed Macklin before and after the vote, in which his ordinance was defeated 3-2.

Macklin vows to not let the issues die. He says he will bring them back one by one, amending existing ordinances. But he said something else interesting.

He told me he was happy to see people who normally are not involved in the political process come out, voice their opinion and get involved. He said he hopes to set up committees to look for solutions to code-enforcement problems and some of the other issues residents complain about.

He told me he welcomed the input of his naysayers on those committees and went so far as to say that he would be inviting many of those people to lend their time and energies and voices to the committees to craft possible solutions.

Twenty migrant workers living in one house just won’t work, and he said he wants his detractors to help come up with answers.

There’s no doubt immigration issues are huge in our country, ranging from frustrations with the legal immigration process for people such as law-abiding British citizens who have been penalized because of the terrorist acts of 9-11, to the undocumented workers our economy now depends on.

But to the citizens of Avon Park: When you have a mayor who is vowing to hammer out these issues through more subtle means, with undoubtedly less media attention, and who is simultaneously inviting a diverse group of voices to the decision-making table, I believe I’d grab that opportunity with gusto.

Avon Park can be The City of Charm. But only if the citizenry makes it so.

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