The Eight Applicants for Interim City Commissioner Will Be Interviewed in Public

Lakeland city commissioners today scheduled a public meeting to interview the eight applicants for interim commissioner representing northwest Lakeland. The person chosen by the commission will fill out the remaining 13 months in Phillip Walker’s term in office.

Walker resigned from the commission effective Nov. 7 in connection with his unsuccessful run for Florida House of Representatives. He had sought appointment to the interim position but withdrew last week after discovering term limits likely disqualifying him from continuing in the position.

City commissioners are tasked with appointing an interim commissioner to serve until the next election when there is less than two years remaining in the vacant term, per Lakeland’s city charter.

This morning, commissioners decided to invite the eight candidates to participate in interviews to take place during a public meeting at City Hall at 8 a.m. on Oct. 10. The commission will then make their selection during their regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. on Oct. 17 at City Hall.

Before that, commissioners will submit potential questions and topics for the applicants to discuss. City Attorney Palmer Davis will compile the questions; then at the commission’s agenda study meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 30, they will decide which ones to pose to the applicants.

All of the applicants will be informed of the topics they will be asked to address, and they will be given 10 minutes each during the Oct. 10 interviews.

Applicants who are unable to attend in person will be allowed to participate via Zoom or another virtual meeting platform, Mayor Bill Mutz said.

Residents will be able to comment on the applicants before the commission makes their decision at the Oct. 17 meeting.

The Oct. 17 meeting will be the last one that Walker attends as a commissioner. His resignation takes effect Nov. 7, making Nov. 6 his last day in office. The new commissioner will be seated at the commissioners’ Nov. 7 meeting.

The City Commission is a non-partisan board consisting of the mayor, four commissioners who represent four geographic portions of the city and two at-large commissioners. They set policy for the city and directly supervise the city manager and city attorney.

The applicants for interim city commissioner are:

  • Lolita Berrien, a member of the city Planning & Zoning Board and former presiding chair of the Neighborhood Association Coalition. She has been an administrative assistant in Polk public schools for 25 years and has been vice president of the Webster Park South Neighborhood Association.
  • Tracy Faison, a registered nurse who has been a business owner and president of Lake Gibson High Booster Club and Lakeland Storm Youth Football and Cheerleading. She is regional administrator for Pediatric Health Choice in Lakeland, Haines City and Daytona.
  • Daryl Forehand, a pastor and former correctional service consultant who is a previous president of the Lakeland Police Athletic League. He has served in the U.S. Navy and is currently pastor and diocesan bishop at Immanuel Temple Church and interim dean of W. L. Bonner College in Columbia, S.C.
  • Guy LaLonde Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran and Publix meat manager who owns Lakeland Moon Walk of Polk County Inc. and Under One Tent Events Inc. His volunteer work includes Relay for Life, United Way of Polk County and the Special Olympics of Polk County.
  • Veronica Rountree, a community health services advocate whose community activities include president of the Neighborhood Association Coalition, chair of the Code Enforcement Board and Police Advisory Board. She is a community advocate for Peace of Mind Community Healthcare Services.
  • Ricky Shirah, a former Publix truck driver who owns a towing business, has taken the Chamber of Commerce course for potential candidates has run for City Commission previously. He has run for City Commission three times, including for the northwest district seat in 2015 and an at-large seat in 2019.
  • Samuel Simmons, a former city of Lakeland accountant who is president of the Webster Park Civic Association, a past president of the Neighborhood Coalition Council and a co-founder of the Central Florida Business Diversity Council. He currently owns a housing and financial services consulting firm
  • Saga Stevin, who ran for mayor of Lakeland last year and lost to Mutz. She has been a platelet rich plasma technician and is a member of the board of directors for the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom and Polk Education Foundation.