Michael Ertel

Remember what happened in Florida the year before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged Louisiana?

Four hurricanes struck all over the state, on both the west and east coasts of the peninsula and on the panhandle. The weakest of them topped out at 120 miles per hour. It all happened in the space of six weeks.

I bring this up because, if anyone in any state should have empathized with victims of Katrina in 2005, it’s people who had seen nature’s force up close in 2004. Not that it should take such personal experience for someone to imagine the horror of watching an entire metro area go underwater. But if basic human decency doesn’t do the trick, then at least having something to identify with should.

Nope, not in the case of Mike Ertel, who was briefly Florida’s Secretary of State until photos surfaced in The Tallahassee Democrat of him costuming in blackface and drag as a “Hurricane Katrina victim” on Halloween of 2005. Ertel was already a public official at the time, holding the title of Seminole County Commissioner of Elections.

Think back to what was happening then. Bodies were still being discovered. Residents were still trickling back in and trying to figure out what to do about their destroyed homes. Many thousands were trapped elsewhere.

Report: Florida Secretary of State resigns after photos surface of him in blackface, 'Katrina Victim' shirt

Apparently Ertel found humor in the situation.

Thankfully, nobody else does, and he’s now out of a job.

So here’s a thought: Florida got slammed again just last year. Maybe Ertel can volunteer to work in the recovery in, say, one of those Gulf Coast communities that are still reeling from Hurricane Michael, the Category 4 storm that struck in October.

Although he might want to think about sticking to street clothes this time.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.