Kenny Holmes wants to give back to his community

VERO BEACH — This is not a political endorsement.

Likewise, this is not NOT a political endorsement.

This column is politically neutral, in no way intended to sway the good people of Indian River County toward or against any particular candidate in the Nov. 2 elections.

It’s your county commission. It’s your vote. Cast your ballot for whomever you believe will do the best job for your community.

What I would like to do, however, is recognize — maybe even celebrate — something we don’t see enough of in America today.

I’d like to applaud a successful, former professional athlete who cares so much about his small, hometown community that, his playing days behind him, he now feels called to public service at a very local level.

I’d like to call attention to Kenny Holmes, the Gifford native who starred in football at Vero Beach High School, became a first-round draft pick at the University of Miami and spent seven years as a starting defensive end in the NFL, first with the Tennessee Oilers/Titans, then with the New York Giants.

“I was born here, I grew up here and I love it here,” Holmes was saying the other day, sparing a few minutes between campaign stops and his duties as Vero Beach High’s defensive coordinator. “This is my home. I care about what happens here. I care about the people. That’s why I’ve been as involved as I have. That’s why I’ve always tried to give something back, whether it was through charity work or donating my time or just being a good citizen and good neighbor.

“I want to make a difference, same as when I played football,” he added. “I want to do as much good as I can. And early this year, I decided I needed to do more. So why not start at the top?”

The county commission? In Indian River County? The top?

Well, yeah ... for Holmes, anyway.

“I have no ulterior motives,” Holmes said. “I don’t see this as any kind of stepping stone or launching pad for a career in politics. I’m not looking to use this to get into any other office. This county is very dear to my heart, and I plan to stay here and eventually retire here.”

That’s what makes his story so different.

True, there are plenty of other former professional athletes who’ve taken their sports fame to the political arena, a distinguished list that includes: basketball’s Bill Bradley (U.S. senator, New Jersey), Dave Bing (mayor, Detroit) and Kevin Johnson (mayor, Sacramento); football’s Jack Kemp (U.S. representative, New York), Steve Largent (U.S. representative, Oklahoma) and Heath Shuler (U.S. representative, North Carolina); baseball’s Jim Bunning (U.S. senator, Kentucky); and bodybuilding’s Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor, California).

Most big-name athletes who venture into the political realm, however, not only aim higher — they start higher.

Often, they’re recruited by influential leaders of political parties. Holmes wasn’t. This was his idea.

“Coming back home after my NFL career, hearing all my family and friends talk about the job situation and the unemployment rate in this county, I felt I needed do this,” said Holmes, who retired from the NFL after the 2003 season and will turn 37 later this month. “Career politicians tell you what you want to hear and, as a result, there are a lot of people out there who feel they don’t have a voice in government.

“I’m not a politician, but I want to be that voice.”

An independent voice.

Beholden to no political party.

“Timing is everything, and the independent movement in this country is starting to roll,” said Holmes, who is running against incumbent Republican Peter O’Bryan and Democrat Steven Deardeuff for the commission’s District 4 seat. “I’m excited about what’s happening.”

And a lot of people here are excited for him. They know him. They like him. They appreciate what he has done.

Even his football buddies from UM and the NFL, he said, have shown support for what he’s trying to do here.

“All I’ve gotten from anyone,” Holmes said, “is encouragement.”

Let’s offer some admiration, too.

Whether you vote for him or not.

Click here to order Kenny Holmes’s proCane Rookie Card.

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