Voter Guide: Fall 2021 Mayor and City Commission Election

LATEST UPDATE: NOV. 2
Lakeland’s mayor and two of its city commissioners face challengers in the Nov. 2 city elections. The non-partisan election is open to registered voters who live within city limits.

Read on to learn about the election, the candidates and the two charter issues on the ballot. We will continue to update this Voter Guide through Election Day.

CONTENTS: Voting | Mayor | Commissioners | Amendments | Forum videos
Also: Campaign finance via thecityzenship.org

Voting:

  • Election Day: Nov. 2. Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Who can vote: Registered voters who live within Lakeland city limits. While two races are for seats that represent specific quadrants of the city, any registered voter may participate in those elections. There were 69,983 people eligible to vote as of the Oct. 4 deadline to register in time for this election.
  • Sample ballot: Here
  • Where to vote: Polling places are being consolidated for this election. Find your precinct number here and then find your polling place here.
  • Early voting: Walk-in voting is available weekdays 8:30 to 4:30 from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 at the Polk County Government Operations Center, 930 E. Parker St. Other locations (same dates and times) are Polk elections offices at 250 S. Broadway Ave. in Bartow and 70 Florida Citrus Blvd. in Winter Haven.
  • Mail ballots: The deadline to request mail ballots was Oct 23. allots must be received by the Polk Supervisor of Elections by 7 p.m. on Election Day. They can be placed in the mail or placed in a secure drop box at the Polk Supervisor of Elections offices in Bartow and Winter Haven.
  • COVID Precautions: Fewer people at a time may be admitted inside polling places, according to the Polk Supervisor of Elections Office. Masks are encouraged but not required; election workers will be masked. Voters may bring a black or blue pen to mark their ballots.

Mayor

Bill Mutz (incumbent)

  • Age: 67
  • Occupation: Mayor
  • Campaign slogan: “I’m still all in for ALL of Lakeland.”
  • Links: Website | Facebook | Personal Facebook
  • Brief bio: Mutz grew up in a small town in Indiana. He moved to Lakeland in 1996, when he and his sister bought Lakeland Automall, which he ran for 18 years. Mutz became involved in numerous local organizations, including board chair of Lakeland Regional Health and Lakeland Economic Development Council. (See a longer list here.) His successful run for mayor in 2017 was his first attempt at elected office.
  • Endorsements: Business Voice (Lakeland Chamber of Commerce), Lakeland Association of Realtors, Florida Family Policy Council

Saga Stevin

News coverage:

  • Political newcomer and incumbent face off – The Ledger, Sept. 21
  • Mayoral contest features candidates with opposing views – Bay News 9, Sept. 29
  • Mayor candidates differ on ways to develop northwest Lakeland – LkldNow, Oct. 6
  • Stats: Police calls are evenly distributed among Lakeland quadrants – LkldNow, Oct. 8
  • Campaign mailer raises question of Sheriff Judd’s mayoral endorsement – The Ledger, Oct. 8
  • Mutz says challenger Stevin feigned Grady Judd endorsement – Florida Politics, Oct. 12
  • Stevin takes heat at the NAACP’s forum and claims she was “set up” – The Ledger, Oct. 13
  • Candidates exchange allegations on theft and improper use of signs – The Ledger, Oct. 19
  • Candidates for mayor differ on issues – ABC Action News, Oct. 22
  • Candidates discuss business and diversity during final forum – The Ledger, LkldNow video, Oct. 27
  • Lakeland Gazette publisher denies link to unregistered political action committee – Florida Politics, Oct. 29
  • Stevin campaign wrongly claims Mutz voted for liberal causes – The Ledger, Oct. 29
  • Last-minute attack mailers hit Lakeland mayor race – LkldNow, Oct. 31
  • Mutz faces far-right political newcomer – Florida Politics, Nov. 2

District C: Southwest

Allyson “Al” Lewis

  • Age: 28
  • Occupation: History teacher at Evans High School, Orange County; Subway franchise owner
  • Campaign slogan: “Here to Listen. Here to Serve. Passionate about the PEOPLE!”
  • Links: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Personal Facebook
  • Brief bio: Lewis grew up in Lakeland and graduated from Harrison School for the Arts, where she focused on drama. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Virginia State University, a law degree from Barry University and is pursuing a master’s in education leadership and policy. She came to public notice last year when she organized a series of forums on racial justice in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
  • Endorsements: Ruth’s List Florida, The Collective PAC

Sara Roberts McCarley (incumbent)

News coverage

  • Allyson Lewis challenges Sara Roberts McCarley – The Ledger, Oct. 3

District D: Southeast

Mike Musick (incumbent)

  • Age: 49
  • Occupation: Owner of Musick Construction and Roofing
  • Campaign slogan: A conservative, small business owner pushing for transparency in your local government
  • Links: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Personal Facebook
  • Brief bio: Musick moved to Lakeland from Williamsport, Pa., when he was 7 years old. He has been married for 22 years, and all three of his children are in college. His wife was a labor and delivery nurse at Lakeland Regional for 20 years and now teaches nursing at Southeastern University. His business started out in general contracting and now focuses on roofing. His successful run for City Commission last spring was his first attempt at elected office.
  • Endorsements: Business Voice (Lakeland Chamber of Commerce), Polk Republican Executive Committee, Lakeland Professional Firefighters, Lakeland Association of Realtors, Polk County Builders Association, Fraternal Order of Police

Shandale Terrell

  • Age: 46
  • Occupation: ESE teacher at Crystal Lake Middle School
  • Campaign slogan: Making a difference in our community
  • Links: Website | FacebookPersonal Facebook
  • Brief bio: Terrell is a Lakeland native who attended Auburn University on a football scholarship. He has a bachelor’s degree in education from Florida A&M University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in education specialties from Nova Southeastern University. He has been a member of the Lakeland Citizens Advisory Committee, Budget Advisory Committee, Police Athletic League Board of Directors, Gang Task Force and the Police Advisory Board.
  • Endorsements:

News coverage

  • Mike Musick, Shandale Terrell face off again – The Ledger, Oct. 1

Campaign finance

Check a searchable table detailing campaign finance: who gave, how much, how many people per candidate, total dollar amounts, etc. Thanks goes to Michael Maguire of The City Zen Ship for compiling the data.

More news coverage

  • Stephanie Madden re-elected to city commission – LkldNow, Sept 17
  • Catching up with the candidates: campaign finance – LkldNow, Oct. 13
  • Mutz zooms ahead in campaign finance – LkldNow, Oct. 25

Charter amendments

The November ballot includes two proposed changes to the Lakeland City Charter, the document that acts as a constitution for the municipal government. Both are fairly technical in nature.

CHARTER AMENDMENT 1 modifies the procedures for filling vacancies on the City Commission. Commissioners and City Clerk Kelly Koos stated two goals when discussing the changes at a July workshop:

  • Save money by reducing the number of times when special elections are needed. It typically costs the city $150,000 to run a special election and runoff, Koos said.
  • Eliminate the need for three elections for the same seat in one year. That happened this year when a special election and runoff were held this past spring for the southeast Lakeland commission seat currently occupied by Mike Musick. Musick and Shandale Terrell, who ran in both spring elections, are currently facing each other in the fall general election.

VIDEO: View the one-hour discussion that led to the two charter amendments.

THE DETAILS: Check the resolution authorizing the two amendments to see the exact wording changes that would be applied to the City Charter if the amendments are approved.

HOW IT’S DONE NOW: The current method of choosing a replacement for mayor or commissioner is spelled out in Section 6 of Lakeland’s city charter. The wording is technical, but basically the commission chooses a successor if there are less than six months left in the term or six months until the next city election. If there are more than six months left in the term and it’s more than six months until the next election, the commission chooses a successor and schedules a special election in the next 60 to 90 days. 

WHAT THE PROPOSAL CALLS FOR: The commission would appoint the successor, who would serve until the next scheduled city election. Since city elections are held every two years (in odd-numbered years), no appointed commissioner would serve more than two years. 

Here is the wording for Charter Amendment 1 that voters will see on the ballot: Do you favor an amendment to the Lakeland City Charter to fill vacancies on the City Commission at the next regular City election following a vacancy rather than at a special election; requiring that interim commissioners appointed by Commission to fill vacancy in a district seat until next regular election reside in same district as the vacant seat; and prohibiting the interim appointment of individuals otherwise precluded by term limits from serving on the Commission?

The proposed changes mirror the procedure used in many Florida cities, Koos said. It is also similar to replacement of county commissioners and other county elected officials in Florida, where the governor appoints a replacement until the next election if there are less than 28 months remaining in the term.

BACKGROUND: The proposed change came about in part because of confusion over the timing of elections to select a replacement when former Commissioner Scott Franklin resigned to run for U.S. House, an election he won.

Around the time Franklin announced last spring he would run for Congress , he submitted a resignation of his city office effective Jan. 3 of this year, the date Congress convened; that filled the requirements of Florida’s resign-to-run law and left a full year unexpired in his four-year City Commission term.

Franklin and others had assumed his resignation would trigger an election for his successor in last November’s general election. However, the Polk Supervisor of Elections Office has moved municipal elections away from the large even-year elections to odd years for logistical reasons.

As a result, the remaining commissioners appointed Don Selvage — a former commissioner who had not reached term limits — to fill the gap between Franklin’s January resignation and the conclusion of an April special election and May runoff. 

In that runoff, Musick defeated Terrell with 50.7% of the vote. The upshot: Both men are now running in their third election during 2021.

CHARTER AMENDMENT 2 involves the composition of the Canvassing Board, which reviews and certifies contested ballots in city elections. Currently, the members of the City Commission make up the Canvassing Board with the exception of commissioners running in the current election.

The proposal on the ballot reads: Do you favor an amendment to the Lakeland City Charter providing for the appointment of the City Attorney and City Manager to the City canvassing board if fewer than three (3) members of the City Commission are available to canvass the returns of a City election?

The issue was placed on the ballot as a safeguard. The city attorney or city manager would be called upon as alternates only if fewer than three city commissioners were able to serve on the canvassing board one year, according to City Clerk Kelly Koos, who prompted the amendment.

On years when four commissioners are running for election — it would have happened this year if Stephanie Madden had received an opponent — only three commissioners would be eligible to serve on the Canvassing Board. The amendment provides an alternate in the event one of the three remaining commissioners is unable to attend the Canvassing Board meeting.

The Canvassing Board meets in the Polk Supervisor of Elections Office in Bartow at 5 p.m. on the day of each municipal election. Its main job is to compare the signatures of vote-by-mail ballots where questions had been raised about whether the signatures on the envelope and the voter ID match. When signatures are questioned, the voter is contacted and has an opportunity to prove the signature on the envelope is valid, and that often happens prior to Election Day, Koos said.

Forum videos

Mayoral debate at Lakeland Kiwanis, Sept. 17
(The video was shot by the Stevin campaign and used with permission of Lakeland Kiwanis.)


Mayoral debate at Believer’s Fellowship, Oct. 1


NAACP Forum, Oct. 12, 2021

This video is currently unavailable.


LkldNow Mayoral Forum, Oct, 19, 2021


LkldNow City Commission Forum, Oct. 20, 2021

Note: The audio is spotty for the first 20 minutes but improves after that.

Libertarian Party of Polk County/Republican Club of Lakeland Forum


Central Florida Business Diversity Council Forum


Corrections, additions?

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