Two  forums scheduled for Tuesday evening will let Lakeland voters meet and hear from  candidates running in the Jan. 15 special election to fill the Southwest District seat on the Lakeland City Commission.

All three candidates have agreed to speak at the Dixieland Historic Neighborhood Association’s 6:30 meeting at Hillcrest Coffee, 119 Hillcrest St., organizers say. Two of the candidates say they will speak at a forum at LkldLive, 202 N. Massachusetts Ave. Doors for that event open at 7 p.m., and the forum is expected to start at 7:30.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Candidates in the race are Patrick Shawn Jones, Sara Roberts McCarley and Bill Watts. The winner will fill the remaining three years in the term vacated when former Commissioner Michael Dunn resigned. (Read LkldNow interviews with all three candidates.)

Editor’s note: This article was updated Monday afternoon to indicate Jones will participate in the LkldLive event.

With the campaign season falling during the holidays and a shorter-than-normal planning horizon for the special election, there have been few public events with all three candidates. Planning for the LkldLive event started just last week as members of the Lakeland Votes Facebook group expressed concerns there were few chances to hear from the candidates.

Roberts turned down the invitation to speak there, telling organizers she had already committed to two events that evening — the Dixieland meeting and a family occasion that’s important to her daughter.

Jones confirmed Monday that he will attend after saying earlier that it would probably be Tuesday before he decides whether to participate in the LkldLive event: “I’ll be at the Dixieland event since I’m a Dixieland resident. For the LkldLive event, I have to follow my heart and instincts.”

At the 6:30 meeting at Hillcrest Coffee, each candidate will have 10 minutes to speak, followed by 20 minutes of audience questions, a spokesman for the Dixieland Historic Neighborhood Association said.

At LkldLive, moderator Zenapha Milton will introduce the candidates, who will have two minutes each to give an opening statement. Milton will ask about eight questions of the candidates. Organizers hope there will be time to include questions submitted by audience members.

LkldLive, a nonprofit organization, is providing the venue and light refreshments. A cash bar will be available.

LkldNow is planning to live stream both events on our Facebook page and will post any videos to our home page later Tuesday night.


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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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