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Shannon Nickinson: Gen-X has the power; it’s time to show leadership

The voters have spoken.

And mostly they spoke for the incumbent.

The results of the Nov. 4 general election brought one new County Commissioner to Escambia County, though all of the political blood sport in that race was contained to the primary election.

Sitting Commissioner Gene Valentino couldn’t escape the primary, where Doug Underhill defeated him. In the heavily Republican district, Underhill was essentially a shoe-in after the August primary.

When Underhill is sworn in on Nov. 18, he will be part of a wave of young leaders who have taken the reins of political power in the Escambia and Santa Rosa counties area.

The Escambia Commission now has four members under 50. The mayors of Pensacola and Milton, Ashton J. Hayward and Wes Meiss, both fall into that age group.

New Santa Rosa Commissioners Rob Williamson and Jayer Williamson join Commissioner Lane Lynchard to form a majority of under-50-somethings on their board.

So that means, friends it’s on us.

Everything about Gen-X’s moody, broody youths was set up to rail against the man. Our grungy music, our rap music, our pop music icons writhing onstage in fingerless lace gloves.

Our love of Bart Simpson, our youth informed by cautionary tales in After-School Specials, our coming of age in the era when AIDS was often still a mysterious — and always fatal — disease that put a damper on sex education in a way little else did.

Many of us entered the workforce in an economic slowdown. We watched a president be impeached for lying about having sex with an intern.

Many of our authority figures let us down.

But now we are the authority figures. So we have to do better.

We shouldn’t make the mistake that just because we grew up watching the same TV shows and listening to the same music that we will always agree.

But we ought to be able to agree on some things.

That we can embrace compromise where others have failed to.

That we can create open, responsive local governments that seek and celebrate transparency.

That we can pick up the ideals of equality of access for all that our hippie parents and yuppie older siblings left by the wayside and apply them to real life.

Because now we have the power.

If we fail to use it well, we’ll be no better than the guy who was The Man before.

Shannon Nickinson is editor of, a news and commentary site in Pensacola. Follow her on Twitter @snickinson. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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