December 21, 2011 —
In a bit of end-of-the-term merriment, the Sullivan County Legislature bestowed Gadfly awards on two county residents whose activism in certain areas led to significant changes. One award went to Dave Colavito, who was instrumental in tightening and expanding disclosure requirements that county legislators and other officials must adhere to.
The other award went to Ken Walter who for the last five years had been a vocal and persistent critic of some of the practices of Sullivan County Community College and who, some observers would say, hastened the departure of former college president Dr. Mamie Golladay.
Legislator Ron Hiatt, who presented the plaque to Walter, explained the award. He said, “In the natural world a gadfly is like a horsefly or a deerfly: they come at you—they can’t kill you—but they keep coming at you and keep coming at you. They’re very inconvenient, and they’re a pain in the neck, and you want them to go away, but they won’t.
“In the political world, however, a gadfly is not a bad thing but a good thing. For example, Socrates was a gadfly, and what he did was annoy the heck out of the city fathers in Athens. But he had vision and he had truth and he kept coming back at them.”
Hiatt left out the part of the story where Socrates was eventually forced to drink hemlock, a poison, because he was accused of corrupting the minds of the young and of not believing in the gods that his countrymen believed in.
In any case, Colavito was not on hand to accept but Walter accepted with good humor and urged other residents of the county to get involved in local issues.