The Five-Year War
Once upon a time, Fayette County politics was
much more fun.
Now, though, it's way too serious... and too often,
"Are you always such an eternal optimist?" someone
recently asked me.
Names were exchanged, but he already knew me.
Not from here primarily. Old friend of a friend, as
well as, at least, a sometimes reader here.
He said he hated to intrude, but had to ask. When
he was done smirking, he even managed to ask
with a perfectly straight face.
In follow up to something he had read me say on
the subject, he had to ask if I really, truly think --
or was what he read a joke, a satirical piece, or one
written in sarcasm -- that I could take our three
current Fayette County commissioners into a
private room and have them emerge as people who
get along and at least act as though they respect
one another's right to have a difference of
"And just how, ummm, long would that all take?
You, by yourself... could actually do this?" he tried
to ask next with that straight face, but just
couldn't. I thought it a bit much that he would
pause to pull someone else in to share the laugh at
"She thinks she can make the county commissioners
behave!" he brought the other guy up to speed,
pointing at me. The unsuspecting man brought
into the conversation looked confused, but looked
serious when he asked, "Is Susanne still in trouble
or jail?" He, of course, referred to a woman who
was county commissioner in the late 1980s.
To anyone reading who is laughing now also, please
hold that thought for now. The situation begs so
mercilessly for a sense of humor. As does the
For the most part, Commissioner Vince Zapotosky
has been very nice to me and answered most of all
questions I've asked him on various different
Every once in a while, however, he certainly gets
his dander in a real uproar and tells me off. I
really don't think he'll mind my sharing this
He has said a few times that I just need to get to
know him better. He thinks that because we are
not friends, he feels that I do not and cannot fully
understand him. It is his expressed belief that if I
knew him better, I would understand his reasoning
for voting a specific way or believing something
differently than I do. I would understand and
agree with him more often, if I knew him better
and saw him as a good person. He has said in those
Then, when he's really in a dander, Zapotosky has
even stated that he believes that I prefer the
minority commissioner over him.
Truth be told, I actually know Zapotosky better
than I know Zimmerlink -- and that's not saying
much, since I barely even know him. I do not
know her personally at all. She and I do not "hang
out" together. We don't chat on the phone. We
don't do lunch. We've sent so few other emails
even that have not been published here. Zapotosky
still may not really believe so, but that's reality.
Nobody has to know Zimmerlink or Zapotosky
personally to write about county politics. I agree
with Zimmerlink votes more often than I do with
Zapotosky votes. But is this column swayed by
what he says is favoritism, or am I more
impressed with reason and logic?
Zapotosky -- like many, relatively speaking, newer
readers, who were not around any of the first 6-7
years this website existed -- is not familiar enough
with long-term opinion here to know that they've
just about all been ranted at one time or another.
That I haven't criticized Zapotosky enough for
"doing whatever Commissioner Al Ambrosini
seems to want to do" is a common reader
complaint. That is a well-deserved criticism of
more recent months, since I acknowledge backing
off him for a bit -- i.e., after he loudly yelled at a
commissioner's meeting a few months ago.
We here just gave up hope of ever seeing any split
Democratic commissioner vote, and he seemed to
be having some of his most difficult days in office.
The conclusion that there will never be a split
Democratic vote was reached when Zapotosky
voted to stop any commissioner except the
chairman from directing the "interim" solicitor on
any matter, without majority permission from a
Elected or appointed officials are ranted only to
help make them be better elected or public
It's a moot point whether Zapotosky votes the way
he votes because he genuinely agrees with
Ambrosini or whether, on the other hand, he's
voting for something he really opposes, but
approves because -- as critics see it -- Ambrosini
expects the second vote. I don't understand why
some of his critics dwell on these possibilities.
Zapotosky has given enough quotes to media and
said enough prior to a vote at a county meeting to
demonstrate that he is comfortable with his voting
Though Zapotosky has been the first to say
sometimes that he had to save Ambrosini in a
public discussion, Zapotosky seems too
infrequently to appreciate when the minority
commissioner had to save both her fellow
commissioners or this or that board from making
incorrect or improper public decisions. A shame,
too, because she seems to be genuinely
appreciative whenever anyone else clarifies a
murky situation for her with details that help
them all make an informed decision or vote.
Since I ranted to try to help make Zapotosky a
better politician and public servant... and since he
sometimes asked for my opinion but never seemed
to take any of my requested suggestions seriously
anyway... Zapotosky became thought of around
here as someone who won't ever change. Hey, so
be it! And if we rant only to make them better
politicians and we think they've plataued or
reached their maximal potential, then what's the
point of continuing to rant them?
For about every one of every two or three times
that Zapotosky has sent sour letters to the editor
here that I don't know or like him, I ultimately said
what I almost always said -- i.e., that I knew that
the late Frank Mascara did not associate with
losers. That's a huge, sincere compliment coming
from this editor.
Even if we were best friends, I still would not have
excused Zapotosky's loud yelling at an elderly
person in attendance at a county meeting... and I
would not have ever supported his vote to stop one
commissioner from directing a solicitor unless a
second commissioner agrees the solicitor needs
That sometimes seemed to be Zapotosky's saving
grace here -- i.e., that Mascara had to have seen
something in Zapotosky to have hired and kept him
on his congressional staff. We gave Zapotosky that
much respect and credit from the start. But
whatever it was in Zapotosky that Mascara saw, we
don't get to see that really, in the day-to-day
operations of the county office... Should it all shows
up for work soon, we want to ask these things:
Why did Zapotosky stop caring about Highlands
Hospital? Really, we can't help but wonder.
Yes, he so kindly helped arrange for the hospital
staff and then political candidate Shuster to get
together last fall. (Then the two Democratic
commissioners left the group following introductions,
so that there would be no sunshine law violation.)
But except to help coordinate Shuster's visit,
Zapotosky seems to have ended trying to help
Highlands Hospital. Has he? Why?
Much has been said on both sides of another
matter, about a published letter to the editor from
former Ambrosini campaign supporters.
Zapotosky, too, finds himself on those kind of outs,
with at least one of his former campaign staff. He's
on his side of a line that he drew, between himself
and that former campaign worker, basically all over
a key county issue, the psychiatric hospital contract.
It's sad and it's unfortunate, because they were fairly
good friends -- from the sounds of it from both of
them -- for some time. Feelings have been hurt.
Tension took a mighty toll.
Even until more recent months, when Zapotosky
and his former campaign worker were still on
friendly terms, however, I have to wonder why he
was unwilling to talk or meet with the minority
commissioner, hospital staff and both attorneys
On the hospital or any subject, Zapotosky says I
should feel free to ask him anything. But on
occasion, when I've asked a few particular
questions, Zapotosky did not reply -- which was
very odd for him. Otherwise, he has been what
likely was bravely honest on a wide range of
subjects, including this one, when it first came to
Elected or appointed officials are ranted only to
make them better elected or public officials. How
they may perceive or take the rant is another thing.