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Lakeland voters today re-elected Bill Mutz as mayor with a 2-to-1 margin that decisively endorsed his call for inclusion and growth over far-right challenger Saga Stevin’s push to “Keep Lakeland, Lakeland.” Two first-term City Commission incumbents — Mike Musick and Sara Roberts McCarley — also scored decisive wins over challengers who sought to bring new faces to the board overseeing city government.
With all votes counted, the tallies were:
- Mayor: Bill Mutz 66.8%; Saga Stevin 33.2%
- City Commission District C, Southwest: Sara Roberts McCarley 62.6%, Allyson “Al” Lewis 37.4%
- City Commission, District D, Southeast: Mike Musick 55.6%, Shandale Terrell 44.4%
Turnout was 23.55%, according to City Clerk Kelly Koos. That’s a hair higher than the 23.21% showing in November 2017, the last election featuring a mayor and several commission seats; in that election, the strong-mayor issue was credited with boosting turnout.
Voters also approved two proposed changes to Lakeland’s city charter that were on today’s ballot:
- Amendment 1, which changes the method for vacancies on the City Commission, passed with 61.6% voting yes and 38.4% voting no.
- Amendment 2, which provides alternate members on the city Canvassing Board, passed with 61.1% voting yes and 38.9% voting no.
- (Check background on both amendments here.)
Mutz commented after his victory: “I am very grateful for the strong support expressed by our citizens. I regard this as their mandate to continue responsible growth and thriving opportunities. Lakeland’s best days are yet to come.”
Mutz vs. Stevin
The race for mayor captured far more attention than anything else on today’s ballot. drawing news coverage from Tampa TV stations and the statewide Florida Politics website. It also drew last-minute attack mailers against Mutz from a Jensen Beach political action committee.
Attacks painted Mutz as a far-left radical despite his reputation as a consensus-seeking conservative developed during 25 years’ involvement in local business organizations and nearly two decades as co-owner and chief executive at Lakeland Automall.
Mutz, 67, was endorsed by business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Voice and the Lakeland Association of Realtors.
Stevin’s endorsements came from unions representing Lakeland’s police officers, firefighters and electric workers, all of whom have been through grueling negotiations with city management.
Stevin had initially planned to run for City Commission but switched to the mayor’s race in August, saying she was urged to do so by people she didn’t name who felt a change was needed.
Stevin, 63, grew up in Lakeland but moved away soon after graduating from Kathleen High School. She moved back to Lakeland last year after living in Minneapolis for 24 years. She said she was motivated to run for office after seeing in Lakeland what looked to her like foreshadowing of the racial tension that shook Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd.
Musick vs. Terrell
The race for the Southeast seat on the City Commission was a reprise of this past spring’s runoff in a special election. Initially, four candidates ran to fill the months remaining in the term of Scott Franklin, who had resigned from the commission in connection with his successful run for the U.S. House.
Voting in the initial election on April 6 resulted with Terrell in the lead with 39.74% of the vote to Musick’s 33.65%. A runoff was held May 4 since no candidate received a majority, and Musick won the runoff with 50.7% of the vote, a margin of 146 votes.
Musick, 49, heads a construction company that specializes in roofing. As a commissioner, he has focused on fiscal responsibility. His run for commission last spring was his first attempt at elective office.
Terrell has run for office five times since 2016, including his two tries for City Commission this year. Previous to 2021, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2016 and 2018. In 2019, he ran for an at-large seat on the City Commission and came in third in the four-way race that ultimately resulted in Chad McLeod’s election.
Terrell is a Lakeland native and special education teacher at Crystal Lake Middle School. In campaign appearances he emphasizes his civic involvement, including chair of the Lakeland Police Advisory Board and member of the Lakeland Citizens Advisory Committee, Budget Advisory Committee, Police Athletic League Board of Directors and Gang Task Force.
McCarley vs. Lewis
Lewis, 28, has positioned herself as a voice for a new generation of leadership that listens and advocates. She is a high school history teacher and entrepreneur who is seeking her first public office. She first became known in Lakeland for hosting a series of “Call to Consciousness” forums last year following two racial justice protests in Munn Park.
McCarley, 50, was elected in January 2019 to fill the remainder of the term of Michael Dunn, who resigned from office. Her career has focused on leadership of nonprofit organizations; she was executive director of Polk Vision and currently heads the Randy Roberts Foundation, which promotes civics training for students.
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So happy Mr. Mutz was re-elected. Yes!!!
Congratulations Mayor Mutz
So happy Mayor Mutz won !
Trounced…? Poor editing. It appeared to be a fair election with a fair outcome.
Am very happy with the results ! Congratulations to the winners, now let’s get to work improving our City !!
The election of Bill Mutz affirms that our community values honesty, inclusion and progressive conservatism.
Although I voted for Mayor Mutz, I did not vote for more growth, a greater drain on our limited water resources or our hopelessly clogged streets. I voted for what I considered the lesser of the two negatives. Excessive growth or stagnation. There needs to be a middle ground. We need to understand that we do not have unlimited resources that primarily reward the realtors and developers that run this city as Noah Pransky understood it. Sad that Mr. Mutz only sees the positive side of growth but then again neither Mr. Mutz or Mrs. Stevin really haven’t lived here long enough to see the devastation that population explosion has caused. I understand that the beautiful groves will never return but being replaced by warehouses and shopping centers is a poor option.
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