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City Manager Slaton Says He Will Likely Stay in Lake Wales "At Home, Where I Belong"

Revelation Comes During Celebratory Mood After Huge Grant Award

In an emotional moment during a city commission workshop Wednesday afternoon, Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton, in a halting statement, revealed that he has had a change of heart and plans to withdraw his name from contention for jobs in other cities.

Courtesy City of Lake Wales video archives

The moment came in the midst of a celebratory mood marking the announcement of an award of a grant of nearly $23 million to construct the "complete streets" program of the Lake Wales Connected plan. That award, by the US Department of Transportation, should fund the completion of the vast urban renewal project.

Slaton's revelation came as he responded to a question from Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson, who congratulated him on the leadership that led to the grant. Saying "this has been tough." Slaton paused before adding "walking away from Lake Wales, I'll tell you, it's been difficult."

Citing a commentary published last week in Lake Wales News, Slayton said "I don't know who wrote the editorial in the Lake Wales News, but, man, that, uh, that got my attention. I think that we can... I feel pretty comfortable that we can work something out that I'll stay right here, at home, where I belong."

The audience of about two dozen burst into applause at the statement.

The article cited by Slaton listed a number of innovative changes and initiatives that have prospered under his administration.

"We have a lot of work left to do here, we just heard today, ok we got the money, that's one thing, we've got to go build this stuff. This all has to get done," Slaton said.

Courtesy City of Treasure Island

Slaton hesitated before speaking to the Treasure Island City Council about the accomplishments he has achieved in Lake Wales.

Slaton has been named as a finalist in city manager searches in at least three other cities around the state and has participated in interview and familiarization sessions with at least two of them.

Citing "life changes" that may be part of his motivation for his job search, Slaton revealed that he is a finalist for a manger's job in yet another west-coast city, but told the commissioners present that "I'm likely just going to withdraw from that."

Slaton cited "our success here in Lake Wales" as the suspected reason he has been contacted by other cities interested in recruiting him.

"I've felt my entire life...I'm five-four, that I've always punched above my weight," Slaton said. "We do that here in Lake Wales. I'm proud of that, quite honestly."

News file photo

Lake Wales City Manager James Slaton has been recruited by other cities around Florida, but says he has come to recognize the special qualities of Lake Wales.

Saying that the recruitment process he has been though has sparked "organizational assessments, both internal and external," Slaton said that "I guess I knew it, but now I really know, how progressive and advanced we are here in Lake Wales...I think I would like to keep doing it."

"Ever since Thursday or Friday when someone sent me that Lake Wales article I've been thinking about this around the clock," Slaton added. He then told commissioners that the only request he would have of them would be permission to convert some of his accumulated sick hours to cash.


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