Phillip Walker will keep his Lakeland City Commission seat, winning 60 percent of the vote in today’s election. Ricky Shirah, in his fourth run in six years, received 21 percent, and newcomer Alberto (AJ) Rodriguez got 19 percent.
Turnout was around 12 percent in an election that had but one race on the ballot.
The race for the seat representing northwest Lakeland was cast as a contest between an incumbent who offers stability and experience, a newcomer with fresh ideas who connects with Millennials and Hispanics, and a business owner who offers a common-sense approach.
Williams and Shirah are both Lakeland natives and owners of small businesses — Williams an insurance agency and Shirah a towing company. Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Polk State College student, was born in Puerto Rico and grew up mostly in Lakeland.
Asked about his top issue by lkldnow.com, Rodriguez pointed to economic development as a way to solve a range of issues from gang violence to balancing the city budget.
Shirah said his top issue is making Lakeland a place where businesses want to locate. He also channeled his opposition to recent tax increases and the decision to sell Henley Field to Florida Southern College.
Walker’s top issue was maintaining quality of life through better public safety and efficient government.
Walker was the clear winner in the race to collect campaign contributions. Oct. 30 reports showed he collected $20,740, compared with Rodriguez’ $7,809 and Shirah’s $1,500.
The City Commission will see one new member when it is seated in early January. Bill “Tiger” Read drew no opposition for the northeast Lakeland seat being vacated by Commissioner Keith Merritt.
Merritt chose not to run for re-election saying the nominally part-time, $18,000-a-year commission job was not affording him the time needed to build his law practice.
Commission Justin Troller was re-elected to his at-large seat without opposition.