• Michael Maguire

Strong Mayor or strong citizenship?

This post was originally published in June, 2015 and has been updated to reflect the “election” of Bill Read in place of Keith Merritt. Read did not face the voters because he faced no opposition after Mr. Merritt decided not to run two weeks before the qualifying period ended, thus giving Mr. Read a free pass to the commission.

A primary argument proffered by proponents of the ‘strong mayor’ form of municipal government is that an elected official will be more responsive to input and pushback from the citizenship.

The most cynical response to this argument would be that once elected, such a mayor would only be challenged once every four years and that since most incumbents win, it probably wouldn’t be much of a challenge anyway. And when he or she serves his or her final, lame-duck term, what would inspire civic responsiveness at all?

Most cynical indeed.

A less cynical view recognizes the sincerity and positive motivations of anyone willing to stand for public service. Power and money are not really factors in cities like ours with part-time commissioners, all of whom sincerely want the best for their community.

These folks #lovelakeland. No need for further debate about that.

However, ( you knew that was coming, didn’t you? ) over the last eight years they may have given in to their affection for us by spending more money than they had in order to provide the safety and quality of life they believe we deserve. Now the debt is due.

Now we should tell them, thanks, but no thanks. Do not ask the citizenship to add to its financial burden in order to fill the hole you have dug for us. Say “no” to the Fire Assessment Fee. Tell them to find savings, not new revenue. Tell them today. Let’s see what kind of influence we have with elected officials.

Kudos to Billy Townsend for his work in support of gay city employees.

But, as a reference point, who can provide another example of citizens swaying commission opinion? When did it ever change its collective mind about a policy or project as a result of citizen activism? And isn’t that what it is supposed to do?

One commissioner noted that, “besides the bathrooms around Lake Hollingsworth … [ the Fire Assessment Fee reaction ] is the most civic engagement we’ve had in eight years.” If that’s true, shame on us.

But, if that’s true, maybe the commission should take it, and us, into account.

Here’s your test. Contact your commissioner and state your case, for or against. Then let’s see what kind of responsiveness we get from elected officials.

Don Selvage donald.selvage@lakelandgov.net

Justin Troller justin.troller@lakelandgov.net

Phillip Walker phillip.walker@lakelandgov.net

Edie Yates edith.yates@lakelandgov.net

Howard Wiggs howard.wiggs@lakelandgov.net

Jim Malless Jim.Malless@lakelandgov.net

Bill Read bill.read@lakelandgov.net


E-mail the commissioners

But one at a time, please!


For the most part, when recipients open an email that includes others they are less inclined to take it personally. Make sure your message resonates by sending it to each commissioner separately.

Scott Franklin - Stephanie Madden -  Sara McCarley - Chad Mcleod

Bill Mutz - Bill Read - Phillip Walker

Each of these noble citizens represents all the rest of us. The four geographic designations - Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, etc. - apply only to the residency requirements for commissioners, not to their constituents. Bill Read, for instance, lives in the city's northeast quadrant and is likely to be more in tune with the businesses and neighborhoods in that area, but serves us all as our representative to the city management and staff.

It will always help to send your message to City Manager Tony Delgado  because it's his job to implement whatever projects, resolutions, and ordinances the Commission proposes in response to our communication.


State legislators representing Lakeland

Representative Colleen Burton

Senator Kelli Stargell