4 candidates vie for Lakeland mayor post

By Rick Elmhorst, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, November 06, 2017, 10:14 AM EST

Lakeland voters go to the polls Tuesday to pick a new mayor.

They will also vote on a proposed ammendment to the city charter that would change the city's mayor from a first among equals city commissioners with the mayor title to the city's chief executive: a so called strong mayor.

The four candidates have very little in the way of politics in their backgrounds.

Jim Green is a Florida Southern College business major who believes he has innovative ideas to invigorate the city's economy. One would be to eliminate city property taxes.

"I believe eliminating the property tax is going to raise property values and encourage people to move to the city," he said. Green received attention for older social media posts that were antagonistic to LGBTQ causes. Green said he maintains his views but would express them in a less caustic way.

Patrick Shawn Jones is known for being a heavy metal DJ and an openly gay married man who has pushed for city employees in same sex relationships to receive city family benefits. He sees himself as having an average person's perspective.

"Actually I think I'm the best because I'm a normal person," he said. "Actually I work check to check. I work day to day. I am not a business owner. I am not out to reinvent the wheel. The only you really need to know about being mayor or running city commission is Roberts’ Rules of Order."

Former Polk detective Chris Diaz is now a small business owner who is pushing for a high speed internet initiative. He sees it as just one way to bring in new businesses to the city and to keep talented young people in the city.

"We are ready to take the next step to bring new industry into Lakeland," he said. "We are trying to make up that ground. Our median income is well below the rest of the state of Florida.”

The candidate seen as the front runner is former Lakeland Automall owner Bill Mutz. He has been involved in many civic organizations an charities in the city. He's all for attracting new businesses to the city. But he is also stressing bringing people of different socioeconomic groups together.

That might include focusing on helping disadvantaged young people get plugged into opportunities including internships.

"But the city can also be through our parks and recs programs, through organizations like PAL part of the process of bringing those things together heart to heart or individual to individual as well," he said.