LAKELAND, Fla. — With current at-large Lakeland commissioner Justin Troller term-limited, four candidates are now vying to fill his seat.
- Early voting begins Oct. 28
- Election day Nov. 5
- More Polk County stories
The four candidates — educator Dr. Shandale Terrell, public relations business owner Chad McLeod, tow truck business owner Ricky Shirah and former hospital vice president Carole Philipson — all bring very different experience and different priorities to the race.
“I’m really focusing on what this community looks like in 20 years and a big driver of that is my kids,” said McLeod.
“I’m home grown, and I think I have our interests at heart here in Lakeland," explained Shirah. "I know what goes on. I keep up with what’s going on at city hall."
“The experience that I bring day one and the community commitment, the fact that Ive been involved in community, is the reason the voters should select me,” said Philipson.
“I went to K-12 schools here. I know the pros and cons to issues," said Terrell. "I work with special needs students. I deal with everyday people no matter who they are. I’m understanding and I can relate."
Where are they on the issues?
One major question facing the candidates is where they all stand on the city's proposed broadband initiative.
While Terrell and Shirah support the city moving forward on it, McLeod and Philipson do not, but for different reasons. McLeod stated he’s not sure the city could keep up with ever-changing technology, while Philipson says there are legal concerns with the initiative that have not been addressed.
On another major city-wide issue, the candidates are more in agreement — all of them say they want to keep Lakeland Electric a city-owned utility.
Beyond those two topline items, the candidates' difference in issue prioritization becomes clear.
“In public safety, I believe in competitive salaries for our police and fire and expanded community policing and neighborhood policing,” said Philipson, who also said she was concerned about abandoned houses.
“One thing I really hate is red-light cameras. I would love to do away with red light cameras, period,” Shirah said. He also said he doesn’t approve of the S. Florida Avenue "road diet" project, either.
“Decrease the blight and do more redevelopment projects in Lakeland, because I think that’s very important,” said Terrell, who also said he’d like to see more done to help the homeless.
“Transportation — how do we improve our roads?” said McLeod, who like the others also mentioned he wants to make it easier for people to start businesses in Lakeland.
Advantages for each candidate?
In addition to their different priorities, each of the four candidates has advantages over the others in the race.
McLeod and Philipson have raised the most cash. Philipson has the police and fire unions backing her.
McLeod worked for a congressman for several years and he speaks Spanish. He even lived in Venezuela during his college years.
Terrell and Shirah, meanwhile, have run in elections before and may have more name recognition.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Early voting starts Oct. 28. Voters must live within Lakeland city limits to vote in this election.
Also on the ballot are several charter amendments dealing with Lakeland Electric and term limits, as well as the northeast district commission seat, where incumbent Bill Read is running against Jiwa Farrell.