Two candidates are vying for the seat on the City Commission representing Northwest Lakeland in the Dec. 5 runoff election. (See a map of commission districts.) Registered voters throughout Lakeland can vote in this election.

Both candidates — Guy LaLonde Jr. and Samuel Simmons — were among eight people who applied last year for a one-year position as interim city commissioner after three-term Commissioner Phillip Walker resigned to run for another office. The remaining six city commissioners selected Simmons for the interim position.

During the Nov. 7 city election, LaLonde captured 47.8% of the citywide vote, and Simmons came in second at 30.9%. A third candidate, Lolita Berrien, received 21.1%.

Read on to learn about the candidates and their views on city government.

Why this matters: City commissioners are elected to set policy for Lakeland’s municipal government and its $747 million budget on a multitude of issues that include police and fire protection, growth and development, transportation, recreation, and utilities — including water and electricity.

City commission races are non-partisan. Commissioners’ pay for 2023-24 is $32,639 with an expense allowance of $1,800.

On this page: Guy LaLonde Jr. | Samuel Simmons | News & videos
Also: Compare candidates’ answers | How, when and where to vote | Campaign finance

All candidates in both City Commission races on this year’s ballot responded to a LkldNow questionnaire. Their responses are presented as submitted without editing. They are listed in alphabetical order:

Guy LaLonde Jr.

Age: 56 | Occupation: Business Owner / Publix

Lake Gibson Sr High School 1985
Continuing education courses with Cornell University

Brief biography:
Married to Tonya LaLonde with 7 grown children and 3 grandchildren
Honorably discharged USN/ USNR veteran, 1984-1990
Employed by Publix 30 + years in numerous different managerial roles.
Small business owner – Lakeland Moonwalk (19 years) “Best of Central Florida 6X winner”
Small business owner – Under One Tent Events (3 years)
I was born in Plymouth, New Hampshire, the son of a Chief of Police and a nurse.
My family moved to Florida when I was 12 and very quickly fell in love with Lakeland and all its beauty.
Very early on in my life service and duty was always taught, mentored and expected.
For the last 44 years my love of our city has only grown and now I seek to represent and lead my beloved NW District for improved quality of life for all citizens here in Lakeland.

Campaign website | Facebook | Instagram

Campaign slogan:
For Lakeland – For YOU! – “I’m your GUY!

Civic involvement:
Polk County Housing and Finance Authority – Vice Chair
KidsPACK – Board Chair
Central Florida Speech and Hearing – Board Member
Relay for Life – assist or donate
Special Olympics – assist or donate
Campfire – assist or donate
March of Dimes – assist or donate
United Way of Polk County – assist or donate
Alliance for Independence – assist or donate
Bridge Local – member
Chamber of Commerce – business member
Lakeland Rotary Club – member

Lakeland FOP Lodge 185 / Police
Lakeland Professional Firefighters / Lakeland Fire Department
Business Voice / Lakeland Chamber of Commerce
Lakeland Realtors
Honorable Mayor Howard Wiggs


1. What is the main barrier keeping Lakeland from being a more livable city? How can you as a city commissioner help solve it?

] Infrastructure –
We must take a deep look at our already congested roads, the need for improved drainage, water usage, and electrical resources. We have shovels in the ground and growth is happening at a rapid pace.
Revisit our out paced growth management plan and meet our citizens needs for improved public safety and quality of life.
] Workforce Development –
attract more high tech jobs and businesses that offer better wages and career opportunities.
As a commissioner I would work closely with City of Lakeland’s Community and Development Department and the LEDC to attract more better paying high tech / trade jobs and ensure we have the proper resources for them,
Work with local business stakeholders, schools, colleges, technical trade schools to ensure we are addressing workforce needs and help with career sourcing needs.
I will work with the Public works department, FDOT and the Polk TPO to address our need for improved roads and drainage.

2. Lakeland’s rapid growth is adding stress to roads and other infrastructure. What are your priorities in dealing with growth?

We must revisit our current growth management plan and advocate to make proper adjustments for our current and continued rapid growth that is outpacing or current infrastructure.
I will work with the city, state and federal FDOT as well as the Polk Transportation and Planning organization to advocate for improved roads, bridges, drainage and utilities necessary to maintain and improve quality of life.
Transportation, commerce, clean water and electrical resources all rely on these vital resources.
I am a strong supporter of OUR Police and Fire departments.
I will continue to always strongly advocate for more and better public safety. We must ensure that that the men and women that serve and protect our community have the proper equipment that is necessary and required
I will continue to strongly advocate for the much needed station 8 in our beloved NW District, although we are close to near future resolution we already have need for another station in the fast growing SW District

3. Is there something that Lakeland’s city government is doing that should be ended? What is it? Is there something the city isn’t doing that should be added? If so, what is it and why is it needed?

I have some reservations about the cities acquisition of 19 automated cameras to be installed on city roads, functioning as an additional surveillance tool for law enforcement, the Ledger reported the cost at $57,000 dollars annually, totaling $285,000 over a five year period.
With funding being drawn from the cameras , my concern lies with allocation of resources, as I believe we have more pressing priorities than expanding our surveillance technologies.
Moreover, I have deep concerns regarding the protection of our citizens privacy, the storage and utilization of collected data.
While I whole heartedly support our dedicated law enforcement personnel and their safety, I am not in favor of the proliferation of the red light cameras or the introduction of additional surveillance in our neighborhoods.
In my view, the government should play a limited role in citizens lives.
Instead we should be fostering public private partnerships to address our challenges.
We should enable them.

4. What do you bring to the City Commission that has been missing?

I believe that once elected I will bring more than just my passion for people, but a fresh and innovative set of lens that will work well with others on the commission.
I will bring the expectation of maintaining a quality of life to our residents through the adoption of fair policies and practices that get measured and quantifying results.
I have lived in Lakeland, specifically the NW district most of my life.
I raised my family here, I have started and successfully run my businesses here, I know and understand the current challenges we face as a city and a community.
I will bring strong leadership skills with the understanding of the local issues and the ability to make tough informed decisions and help guide our city in the right direction.
My dedication to serving the public and ability to build trust within our city using my strong commitment to transparency.
I commit to being a servant leader, and always listen to the concerns of the residents.

5. What is your assessment of your opponents and the kind of city commissioners they would be?

For more than a year I have either sought appointment or campaigned relentlessly to serve OUR beloved City of Lakeland’s citizens for a improved quality of life.
I have a great respect for my opponents, both whom have outstanding records of community service.
Their dedication to our city is commendable.
However, I believe that it is my work ethics set me apart. My track record of community service, military service, and successful running of a small business reflects my unwavering commitment to serving our city with unmatched dedication and and determination.
As I have emphasized numerously, I am committed to working tirelessly maintaining open communication with community stakeholders, attentively and actively considering city staff recommendations, and decisions that put our city’s best interest first.

Samuel Simmons

Age: 66 | Occupation: Entrepreneur

Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) from Walden University
Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Webster University
Bachelor of Science Degree from Florida A. and M. University (FAMU) in Public Administration / Political Science
Associates of Arts Degree in Accounting from Lakeland Business College

Brief biography:
I am a born-again Christian, and the servant of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have been married to my wife, Shawn Simmons, for 33 years. We are the parents of Malachi and Tiffani. I am the founder and owner of Samuel Simmons Housing and Financial Services, Inc., an accounting, consulting, and real estate business. The business has been in operation for over 15 years.

Campaign website | Facebook

Campaign slogan:
The right choice, for your voice!

Civic involvement:
I am currently the Lakeland City Commissioner for the Northwest District. My term extends through November 7, 2023. I am running for re-election. I served over 20 years as President of the Webster Park Neighborhood Association. I also serve the as executive director and vice-president of the Central Florida Business Diversity Council, Inc., and was one of the founders of the organization. CFBDC’s mission is to advocate, educate, and facilitate on behalf of minority and small businesses.

None at the moment.


1. What is the main barrier keeping Lakeland from being a more livable city? How can you as a city commissioner help solve it?

I think many people believe that Lakeland is becoming more livable by virtue of its accelerated growth. However, to pinpoint one particular facet, I would say homelessness could be seen as a barrier keeping Lakeland from being more livable. How can one human being enjoy the city, while seeing others on the streets suffering? I plan to work with homeless-focused organizations to see if we can help the homeless find better living conditions.

2. Lakeland’s rapid growth is adding stress to roads and other infrastructure. What are your priorities in dealing with growth?

I believe the biggest challenge we face as a city is the ability to mitigate the effects of growth on the quality of life in Lakeland. Infrastructure improvements must accompany and accommodate the growth that we are experiencing. One major area of infrastructure improvement will be the completion of the western trunk line. This is a $51,000,000 pipe refitting project. Much of the need for the project is wear and tear throughout the years, growth has been identified as a key factor. Growth also affects our roads and roadways and contributes to traffic congestion. One option that has been floated is the referendum of a half-cent sales tax. A schedule has been devised that projects Lakeland’s portion of the funds for each year over a 20-year span. So far, this is the only plan that I am aware of that would effectively address our roadway concerns. I plan to advocate for the necessary infrastructure and road improvements to address growth as it occurs in each section of the city.

3. Is there something that Lakeland’s city government is doing that should be ended? What is it? Is there something the city isn’t doing that should be added? If so, what is it and why is it needed?

A greater focus needs to be placed on homelessness. The fact that countless homeless people align the streets of Lakeland is a shame our society for not adequately addressing the need. I plan to work with the various homeless shelters to devise a strategic plan for addressing homelessness. We shouldn’t be comfortable seeing any human being suffering on the streets.

4. What do you bring to the City Commission that has been missing?

The sensitivity of a citizen advocate would be the unique perspective that I bring to the current commission. Serving as president of the Webster Park Neighborhood Association for 20 years, I have had many occasions to address the city commission on issues that affect the quality of life of residents within our community. As such, I have adopted a personal philosophy on governance: I believe we govern honestly when we are able to empathize with those whom our decisions affect. I also bring the notion that all policy decisions should be filtered through the concept of quality of life, which simply means that we ask ourselves does the decision contribute to the quality of life of Lakeland residents or detract from it.

5. What is your assessment of your opponents and the kind of city commissioners they would be?

I think each one has the intelligence and the passion to be a good city commissioner.

News coverage, forum videos

  • Sam Simmons faces Guy LaLonde in Lakeland’s Northwest District runoff | The Ledger, Dec. 3
  • Berrien Gives Simmons Last-Minute Endorsement in Lakeland City Commission Runoff | LkldNow, Nov. 30
  • Early Walk-In Voting Begins in Runoff for Lakeland’s NW District | LkldNow, Nov. 27
  • Two candidates compete in Lakeland runoff election | ABC Action News, Nov. 17
  • As Lakeland Prepares for Runoff, NW District Is Divided Between LaLonde and Simmons | LkldNow, Nov. 10
  • New faces win elections across Polk. 1 longtime incumbent loses. And there are runoffs | The Ledger, Nov. 7
  • City Commission Election Results: McLeod Wins, LaLonde and Simmons Head to Runoff | LkldNow, Nov. 7
  • High-Stakes Week For Lakeland Candidates Yields Strong Moments – and Few Stumbles | LkldNow, Oct. 15
  • NW District Commission Candidates Face Voters at Downtown Event | LkldNow, Oct. 6
  • Affordable housing and homeless are core issues at Lakeland’s Northwest candidate debate | The Ledger, Oct. 6
  • Read Is Reelected; Six Vie for Two City Commission Seats | LkldNow, Sept. 22
  • Three city commission seats up for grabs in upcoming Lakeland election | The Ledger, Aug. 23
  • City Elections: Simmons Draws Two Challengers; Two Commissioners Remain Unopposed | LkldNow, Aug. 10

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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