Outgoing Lakeland mayor sad to leave office

By Stephanie Claytor , Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, December 30, 2017, 5:26 PM EST

Three commissioners and its mayor are leaving office and the newly-elected are moving in.

  • Outgoing Lakeland mayor sad to leave office
  • Howard Wiggs has spend the last 4 years as mayor
  • He's proud of starting the #LoveLakeland movement

Current Mayor Howard Wiggs said he’s bitter about leaving office.

Term limits have forced him out. He served the city’s commission for 25 years, spending the last four years as mayor.

“I've just loved it so much," he said. "I love being mayor. I love being involved with the city of Lakeland. So I’ll miss it."

Wiggs said almost every day for the past 25 years, he’s spent his time inside City Hall.

He's most proud of starting the “#LoveLakeland” movement as well as the “City Makers” awards, which are privately funded and recognize the city’s unsung heroes.

He also is proud of the college roundtable he created two years ago, where the presidents of the five major colleges in Lakeland meet with city officials and the Lakeland Economic Development Council to come up with ways to retain young adults in the city.

Upon being elected mayor in 2013, Wiggs said one of his main goals was to bring civility and respect back to the commission.

"We'd gotten into sort of a combatant attitude or approach but also in the city," Wiggs said. "You'll recall back in 2013 we had a lot of problems with police department. We had some sexual scandal things. And the city was uncomfortable with itself. People were angry and frustrated. I really wanted to see the city return to normalcy.”

He believes he accomplished that goal.

Wiggs also shared some of his regrets, one of them being not reducing homelessness in the city.

"Our homeless issue, situation has gotten worse over the years," Wiggs said. "I've had a lot of calls from business leaders and individuals saying we're being accosted in the downtown area."

Wiggs said the city has moved forward on a homeless coalition program and hired a consultant to find solutions, but it has taken longer that he would've liked.

Wiggs said he has a lot of faith in the next commission and mayor. One of the projects he can't wait to see come into fruition is the new "Catapult" office, a small business incubator.

“That’s going to be the genesis of all sorts of incubator opportunities, small business opportunities,” he said. “One of the best programs maybe in the country you will see come out of the Catapult.”

Although he’s sad to leave office, at 70 years old, Wiggs said he doesn’t plan on ever running for anything else again. Instead, he plans to continue managing properties he owns and running a consulting business with his wife.

He also plans to take some vacations.