Commission and Mayoral Candidates Answered Questions From the Public
Some Differences Emerge in Positions
Last updated 3/9/2022 at 8:29pm
Two candidates for mayor and a single commission candidate discussed their visions for the future of Lake Wales Monday evening at a community forum, with broad agreement on most issues, but with a few significant differences emerging in their positions.
Curtis Gibson and Tammy James, both pursuing the mayoral post, and James Loydd, seeking the district 4 commission seat, all accepted invitations to the forum, sponsored by Rotary on the Ridge and LakeWalesNews.Net. About 25 persons witnessed the event in person, while others watched online. The video is viewable on the Facebook page of Rotary on the Ridge.
The trio spent 90 minutes answering questions submitted by the public and read by moderator Brandon Alvarado. (Editor's note: None of the questions were submitted by the News, which is preparing a written questionnaire for the candidates.)
All three offered support for City Manager James Slaton, with Tammy James offering her observation of the changes evident since he took the reins less than two years ago from former manager Ken Fields. "At different times there were units that weren't even speaking to each other," she said, "and I don't think that a city can properly function like that." She also saluted Slaton's provision of agenda packets. presented in a workshop setting a week before the meeting, allowing for full discussion.
Loydd offered a similar assessment, saying that it's important to allow "dialog to find solutions, not just discuss problems."
Gibson and Tammy James differed on the issue of the city's lawsuits to acquire title to the Walesbilt and Seminole Hotels, with Gibson saying that the city failed to work with the property owners in each case. James said that the city had "no choice" but to file suit against Walesbilt owner Ray Brown due to the lapsing of the 10-year statute of repose, which would have left local government locked out of any future deal on a building they had originally given to Brown.
Loydd concurred with James, saying "I grew up on Crystal (Avenue) and I have been waiting for something good to come out of that building my whole life. 2009?" he asked rhetorically, referring to the year the agreement was struck with Brown. "I don't think so."
On the topic of development, both Gibson and Tammy voiced opposition to allowing new septic tanks within the city limits. Gibson went further in his response to a question on the topic, pointing out that absent candidate Jack Hilligoss "voted to allow septic tanks" for a large development planned along Masterpiece Road. They "can cause environmental problems," Gibson said.
Hilligoss, a sitting city commissioner and mayoral candidate, had declined the invitation to answer questions from the public, as did city commission candidate Danny Kreuger.
Gibson, who read most of his responses from prepared notes, touted his prior two terms on the city commission as leaving him better prepared to serve.
Tammy James, currently working toward a master's degree in Public Administration at the University of South Florida, cited her education and years of financial management experience with the WWF running international conservation programs. James is also an investor in downtown Lake Wales, having recently purchased a building with the intention of restoring it to full use.
James Loydd, a former football and track star at Lake Wales High School, was modest in his opening and closing statements, failing to mention his degrees in sociology and political science, earned by using his athletic prowess to earn a scholarship to Austin Peay University. He returned to Lake Wales to work with youth sports programs and works with his parents to operate an after-school program.
Gibson is presently an insurance adjuster with Geico. In response to a question about supporting aspiring first responders, he cited his own experience struggling to pay for studies at a police academy. When asked afterwards why he wasn't working in law enforcement, he replied that "it didn't work out."