Cerabino: PBC County Commissioner Dave Kerner cashes in his Gov. Ron DeSantis chip

Frank Cerabino
Palm Beach Post
Gov. Ron DeSantis meets with Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner at the the 2020 National Fraternal Order of Police Fall Board Meeting in Atlantic Beach. [Photo: Palm Beach County]

Now comes the hard part for Dave Kerner

Kerner traded in his post as a Palm Beach County Commissioner this month to be a useful Democratic prop for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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The governor appointed Kerner to run the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the delayed repayment for Kerner making a very public endorsement of DeSantis during the recent gubernatorial campaign.

County Dem helps turn commission to Republicans

Palm Beach County mayor Dave Kerner speaks during the County Commission meeting in West Palm Beach Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.

For DeSantis, this made sense. By moving Kerner out of the Palm Beach County Commission, he was able to replace the Democrat with Michael Barnett, the chairman of the local Republican party, a move that flipped the political makeup of the county commission to 4-3 Republican.

But what’s in it for Kerner, a lifelong Democrat who is now shackled to a thin-skinned, divisive governor who defines himself by the scapegoats he invents, and embodies none of the Democratic ideals that Kerner has followed during his terms as both a state legislator and county commissioner?

Being a Democratic supporter of DeSantis is like being a vegan working in a pork store. It’s gonna take some adjusting, not to mention a learned command of the gag reflex.

Kerner seems more than willing for the debasement. In the runup to the election, he submitted himself to an on-air lobotomy as a guest on Fox & Friends. Not everybody can get through that. 

But it’s going to take more now that he’s headed to Tallahassee to serve as DeSantis’ prop for his presidential run.

Prepping for move to DeSantistan

For starters, Dave, you get all your vaccinations (quietly) before you head to Tallahassee, and pray that your immune system is strong enough to go the distance no matter what’s ahead. No more shots for you. 

And no more COVID masks, either. After countless hours of reminding people in the Palm Beach County Commission chamber to be respectful of others and wear masks, you’re going to have to make a quick transition to proud super-spreader.

But that’s not the worst of it, Dave. You’re going to have to prove yourself to DeSantis in other ways to make your transformation complete.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, is sworn by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muniz, left, to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla. Looking on is DeSantis' wife Casey, second from right, and their son Mason. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The party’s over, Dave. The choice was my way or the Highway (Safety and Motor Vehicles department.) And you canceled yourself for the job. 

So, once you get confirmed by the Florida Cabinet this week, a formality in DeSantistan, your main job will be to prove to DeSantis that he didn’t make a mistake in tapping you to be a reliable token serving to advance his political career. 

I know. I know. It’s not going to be easy in the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. 

Ideas for transforming highway department

For example, it may be tempting for you to announce that in line with DeSantis’ “cidadel of freedom” declaration for Florida, you will push for the elimination of all speed limits in the state. 

“We trust Floridians to do their own research for them and their families on how fast they should be driving and whether or not to wear seatbelts,” you might say. “Let New York and California burden their drivers with laws that don’t work.”

“If speed limits are so good, why do drivers still get killed when traveling under the speed limit?”

Yes, Dave, I have no doubt that you can make yourself that stupid for personal gain. But you may want to proceed with more caution.

Eliminating speed limits would kill a disproportionate number of your new boss’ base voters.

Frank Cerabino

Better to stick to the scapegoating. I recommend you go after drag racing, and by that I mean speeding in the presence of children while wearing clothing that doesn’t conform with your birth gender. 

Racing in drag may not be a problem in Florida. But then again, neither are trans high school athletes stalking high school gym showers. So, it really doesn’t matter if something exists to turn it into a problem of major concern.

“The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reminds motorists to be on the lookout for drag racers you may encounter on the road,” you can say. “These drivers are operating motor vehicles in a way that doesn’t comport with our Judeo-Christian values, and are frequently traveling at high speeds while wearing high heels and eyelashes long enough to impair their vision of the road.”

“Doing this in the presence of children will only teach them all sorts of bad lessons, like dancing with their arms over their heads,” you could say. “If you see a drag racer, please call our hotline at “1-800-FAB GALS.” 

Specialty Florida license plates to push political aims

You could also use your post to expand the listing of forbidden specialty license plates. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles already has a list of license plate letters it won’t sanction on specialty plates. 

This list typically contains words of a sexual nature. But you could add other words to it, words that push DeSantis’ political messaging. 

Kids holding signs against Critical Race Theory stand on stage near Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as he addresses the crowd before publicly signing HB7, "individual freedom," also dubbed the "stop woke" bill during a news conference at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., on Friday, April 22, 2022. DeSantis also signed two other bills into laws including one regarding the "big tech" bill signed last year but set aside due to a court ruling, and the special districts bill, which relates to the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

“My department will not issue a specialty plate that has the letters WOKE on it,” you could say. “Not in Florida.”

And you can pile on Critical Race Theory by banning specialty plates with the letters CRT or the numbers 1619. 

That’ll buy you a few more months on the job. The key is to keep feeding the imaginary grievance mill. And remember, you’re there to serve. Not us. Him. 


Frank Cerabino is a columnist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at fcerabino@gannett.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.