Osceola leaders call residents angry over coal ash dumping ‘keyboard cowboys,' ‘hate-mongering'

An Osceola County leader called people who are upset over coal ash "keyboard cowboys" in a recent commission meeting.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Two Osceola County commissioners are taking heat for insulting their own residents.

This week, they called the vocal opponents of coal ash dumping "keyboard cowboys" and "the ringleaders of a hate-mongering session."

The entire county commission has been weathering a political scandal for weeks, and in the eyes of some residents, commissioners just upped the ante.

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The residents want to know why the commissioners are hurling insults instead of fixing problems and the commissioners want to know why the residents don't give them credit for the things they do right.

"You know, the keyboard cowboys out there on social media, that's what I like to call them."

That line from Commissioner Fred Hawkins may not have been heard around the world, but it was the shot heard around Facebook.

"Are you kidding me?" said resident Mikala Wells. “It’s not going to resolve any problems.”

Wells thought the comment was counterproductive.

Another resident, Loret Thatcher, found it rather head-scratching.

"If we're keyboard cowboys, well then I'm proud to be because we're not getting through showing up and speaking in person," Thatcher said.

Thatcher and Wells have spoken to commissioners in person recently, and they were curious whether Hawkins would stand by his remarks about people hiding behind keyboards.

"It's the social media person that is always negative, never involved in the community and just tears people down," Hawkins said.

Hawkins made his remarks after Commissioner Brandon Arrington made a few of his own.

"I won't be swayed, and I won't be moved by people who couldn't get elected to this office, or couldn't sustain a job with Osceola County as the ringleaders of a hate-mongering session that is happening in our community," Arrington said.

Thatcher has no ties to politics or county employment and neither does Wells.

Arrington had a county spokesperson send a statement saying he is proud of the work the county is doing, but did not respond to questions about his more controversial remarks.