The first time I heard Chaz Stevens' name, it was preceded by the words "Stay away from." I was talking to a person involved in Deerfield Beach politics, and that person was concerned that my interest in the subject would lead to an encounter with the man behind the curtain at Acts of Sedition.
If a character from early Quentin Tarantino flicks ever wrote a local political blog, it would read like Stevens'. He swears. A lot. He hurls vicious, personal insults at the city's leaders. He orchestrates elaborate pranks, some of which involve his staff "ninja" and video segments that are aired during commission meetings to inflict maximum public humiliation on his victim -- usually Mayor Peggy Noland or Vice Mayor Sylvia Poitier, who switched her name back to Ferguson in hopes Stevens would lose her trail, but he trampled that too.
Even those fellow activists who share his objections to Noland and Poitier don't agree with Stevens' methods. There are more civilized ways, they say, to defeat corruption.
But dirty politics is a tradition in Deerfield Beach, and as a blogger, Stevens is those politicians' mutant offspring. They created him. They have nourished his nihilistic rage. That so few have met Stevens in person only adds to the dread. I can imagine Noland, who was talking to me yesterday as she strolled through the aisles of Winn-Dixie, wondering whether the person standing next to her in the checkout line was him. I asked for her thoughts on Stevens' announcing Monday that he was retiring from the blogosphere. "He is?" she said in a hopeful tone -- but also skeptical about a prospect that may have seemed too good to be true.
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My own reaction: This is one of those Brett Favre retirements. I think Chaz will miss the thrill of combat. And I think he'll come back to dole out some more verbal body slams -- only with less frequency.
For the moment, he's mourning a fallen comrade. "You only get one good dog in your life," he told me Tuesday. "And this was that one -- I knew it right away."
And if Stevens is finally exhausted by his own rage, who can blame him? Especially considering that when he tendered his resignation Monday, it still looked as though the city would repeal its ethics code. Even Stevens' enemies have to admit that if he goes into exile, the city's political scene will be a little less exciting.
I asked him whether he had a final message for City Hall. "Yes," he said. "Eat me."