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Taking responsibility

One of the best things any of us can do when a mistake is made is own up to it. We all make mistakes. We’re human. Taking responsibility for those actions garners respect.

After Sheridan City Councilwoman Shelleen Smith was arrested for driving under the influence last week, it appeared she was going to do just that.

After being released from jail, Smith issued a public apology that was published in Saturday’s edition of The Sheridan Press: “Regardless of how the test (blood alcohol level) will turn out, I want to say that I am deeply sorry for my behavior. It is never smart to drive after drinking and I certainly should know better.”
She added, “I accept full responsibility for this incident and will accept the full consequences for my actions.”

If you can’t forgive her missteps, one could certainly respect her willingness to accept responsibility for it. Monday, however, rather than make an appearance in Sheridan County Circuit Court, plead guilty and take responsibility for her actions, Smith entered a written not guilty plea.

Why?

The thoughtful apology clearly indicates the councilwoman knew she made a mistake.

Perhaps she is simply allowing the judicial process to play out.
Perhaps she is waiting for the results of her blood alcohol level test before considering a guilty plea. We don’t know because the councilwoman wouldn’t comment on her plea, but she indicated in her apology that she knew she shouldn’t have been driving. So why wait to legally accept responsibility for the mistake?

It isn’t easy being a public figure. You are constantly being watched by the rest of the community and your life — the joys and sorrows — often become the subject of public discourse.
You are typically held to a higher standard when you run for or accept such public positions.

This was not a personal issue that is typically reserved for gossip fodder, this was a crime that put Sheridan residents at risk. Above all, our elected officials are supposed to look out for their residents and do what they think is best for those they represent. In this case, that did not happen.

Friday morning, local emergency services will be holding a “Last Call” drill at Sheridan High School. The drill is designed to show high school students the possible outcome of a decision to drink and drive.

A valuable lesson for all.


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