This is my boss, Mark. For the last 16 years, he has served as the State Attorney for Hillsborough County. This Tuesday, he will be on the ballot seeking his 5th and final term as the head of one of the largest offices in the State of Florida. There are several reasons why he deserves your vote, namely his experience, professional judgment and commitment to his community. Mark, however, has something more; something that you can’t put on a bumper sticker or on a yard sign. It’s something that, unfortunately, has been absent during this election season. However, it was on full display today not in a debate or television spot, but in a library parking lot in front of only dozens of people.
For the last year, Mark has been immersed in a tough campaign that has seen a barrage of personal attacks level against him that are as devoid in fact as they are disgusting in demeanor. Today was no different as several dissidents levied insults against his office, his record and his name. How bad was it? At the entrance of the parking lot stood a life-sized casket (the one seen in the photo below) sporting a photograph of him above a banner labeling him as “The King of Pain.” Others carried cardboard tombstones around, calling for the political demise of a person who has spent the past 40 years living out the credo he gives to every person who receives an appointment to serve as an assistant state attorney: “Always do the right thing and follow the facts and the law, wherever they may lead you.” Now, many people would have taken one look at this less-than-enthusiastic reception and hightailed it out of there.
But not Mark. Instead of cowering in the corner or hiding behind a fort of security, he went up to the person who built that coffin, a person who had spent the past 30 minutes blasting everything from his record/how he runs his office/how he is as a person on a loudspeaker for all to hear. Did he lecture her or give her some talking points?
No. He just listened.
Within minutes, the megaphone that had been pumping out scores of vitriolic hatred began to slowly lower. Eventually, the two began to have a conversation. She began to listen. They continued to talk until a local pastor asked the crowd to bow their heads in prayer. It was then that, among the observant, stood Mark and the woman together in prayer. The hand that had, only minutes earlier, poked him in the chest, was now firmly joined with his as the pastor spoke. The microphone had been put off to the side.
Now, it’s very unlikely Mr. Ober gained many new votes at that location. in fact, there’s a good chance he may not have changed anyone’s mind. Yet, what he did do today, and every day since he took over the office sixteen years ago, was live his role as a leader for our community. This is the level of compassion and understanding that citizens deserve with a state attorney such as Mark Ober. The people of Hillsborough County are entitled to having people like him lead.
This Tuesday, I hope you agree.