Search for Consensus

The creation of the Lake Wales Charter Schools System demonstrated that, if a consensus exists within the Lake Wales Community for achieving a particular priority — that priority will be accomplished. The purpose of this Community Survey is to determine whether such a consensus exists concerning certain community priorities.

As the survey progressed, the respondents provided their answers to a set number of open questions. A number of the answers contained good ideas but were not mentioned frequently enough to demonstrate a community consensus. As to subjects mentioned with such frequency as to represent community consensus, they are identified with an asterisk in this Survey Report.

The Report also includes recommendations for implementing the consensus items for the benefit of the community.

Survey Method

The survey method was to pose a series of open questions so the answers could not be steered or influenced by the interviewer. Each person interviewed was asked the same questions so the answers could eventually be compiled to determine whether a community consensus exists for achieving a given priority. The questions were as follows:

Community as a Whole

  1. Strengths
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Priorities for achievement

Community Segments

  1. What role should City government play to address the priorities?
  2. What role should Greater Lake Wales play to address the priorities?


  1. Who are the most admired and respected individuals in the community — those informed persons whose judgment the community would most likely rely upon.

During the interviews, 165 individuals were identified among the most admired and respected individuals in the community. Personal interviews were conducted of the most frequently mentioned individuals, 42 in number. In addition, a group interview was conducted of 15 persons from Lake of the Hills. Those surveyed turned out to be a diverse group who exercised their leadership in various segments of the community. The individuals consisted of different occupations, gender, ethnicity, and age groups.


Strengths of Community

The respondents identified a good number of strengths. Where the same thing was said in a different way, or strengths were related to each other, they have been grouped into one category. Six such categories received the most mention. Community strengths, starting with the most frequently mentioned, were as follows:

Sense of Community.* The quality of the people and their willingness to work together for the community was described in a number of different ways: “sense of community,” “community spirit,” “support for good causes,” “involvement,” “pride,” “tendency to pull together,” “friendly atmosphere,” “love of community,” “church and faith community,” “family oriented,” “tight knit,” “people care about each other,” “Mayberry mentality” “volunteers for youth sports” “philanthropy,” “strong professional community,” “leadership families,” “promising young leadership,” “volunteers for programs,” “support at community events,” among other such sentiments.

Schools.* Respondents were quite positive about the schools, particularly the charter schools. Mention was made of the turn-around the charter schools have achieved, where the out-migration of students has been reversed, and younger families are now moving to town for the schools. A businessman stated that the schools were perceived as “being quite good and moving in the right direction.” Significantly, two charter school principals were among those who are most admired and respected in the community. Several respondents also pointed out that the community is the location for three colleges, a remarkable achievement for a community of our size.

Economic Development Council.* The creation of the EDC was considered a welcome move by the City. Respondents were happy that the City has become more “business friendly” and remarked several times about the good working relationship among the CEO of the EDC, the Mayor and the City Manager. Several remarked about progress for obtaining new businesses and noted the recent acquisition of Merlin’s Lego facility in Longleaf.

Location.* Lake Wales’ location on the map and its natural, rural setting was viewed as a strength, both economically and for quality of life. The “crossroads of U.S. 27 and Highway 60” was considered an economic advantage. People like the “hills and lakes,” “Lake Wailes Park,” “trails, camps, and natural beauty” of the area. Respondents appreciated the fact that Lake Wales has its own identity as a community. The town is not “hemmed in” like many others where it’s “difficult to determine where the town begins and ends.” A realtor pointed out that “Lake Wales has room to expand, residential and commercial property is available, we are poised for growth.”

Bok Tower* was recognized as a national landmark bringing a number of visitors to the area. An engineer remarked that it was viewed as an “enclave from the chaos of the other attractions.” Admiration was expressed for its recently completed fundraising success, the significant capital improvements presently under construction, and the patronage from younger families that will result.

Care Center* was often mentioned as a highly valued organization performing a vital service for the community. The organization was appreciated for setting the tone for the way that people in the community help each other. The Care Center’s leadership was often praised along with the dedicated number of volunteers who were considered evidence of the quality of the Lake Wales citizenship .

Others receiving mention: Library, Arts Center and Cultural Opportunities, Youth Sports, Cost of Living, Hospital, Downtown’s potential, Agriculture, Community Theater, Our Children’s Academy, YMCA, becoming multi-cultural and bilingual, future Polk Parkway.

Weaknesses of Community

Oddly enough, even though the Walesbilt Hotel is the largest feature of downtown, the respondents mentioned it separately from downtown — as its own distinct problem. If downtown and the Hotel are placed in the same category, they become the largest community weakness by far. Treating the Hotel as a separate category (as did the respondents), the weaknesses, in order of mention, were as follows:

Downtown.* Concern was expressed about the City’s “lack of redevelopment” of downtown,, the lack of private investment in recent years, decline of retail, offices that take the place of retail, and the decline of the tax base because of tax exemptions given to charitable entities located downtown. Complaints were registered about lack of retail, a good restaurant for dinner, and “nothing going on at night.” A prominent attorney missed the “Vinton’s days” when downtown was vibrant and active.

Negativity.* Dislike was expressed for the “negative gadflies nipping at the heels of the Commission.” The sentiment was that the naysayers were actually a small group that set a negative tone and “give a bad impression” of the town. A CPA was critical of the newspaper which had allowed itself to be “littered” with negative controversy creating the impression that the community was not on the right track. A number of respondents felt the controversy surrounding the City Manager’s salary and the fire fee tended to “scare off” new residents, “folks who might otherwise become involved,” and harmed City employee morale. Several suggested an accounting to find out what all the negativity winds up costing the City in the way of legal fees and personnel costs.

Leadership. Concern about leadership was expressed at several levels. A businessman commented that the community’s “leaders have been serving as spectators and observers and not as players.” Some felt that the City Commission was not composed of City leaders with expertise and ability for dealing with a $40 million budget. Others were concerned that so much of the community’s talent in commerce and business lived outside the city limits and were unable to play a role in resolving important issues impacting the City, which in turn impacted the community at large.

Hotel. The Hotel was identified as a problem that many respondents didn’t know what to do about. Some expressed appreciation for the paint job and remarked favorably about the lights at night.

Others Receiving Mention. In order, they were: job opportunities, City Manager’s lack of people skills, McLaughlin Middle School and Spook Hill Elementary not part of charter school system, apathy, lack of city’s identity, Longleaf, fire fee, racial differences, aesthetics, citrus decline, drugs and adverse environment in the housing projects, lack of recreational director, Lake Ashton, code enforcement.


The priorities were predominantly economic. One respondent quoted a Mountain Lake observer who stated that Lake Wales is a place with “unlimited needs and limited resources.” Several respondents stressed the need to prioritize the expenditure of limited tax dollars. Two priorities were predominant. They were:

Economic Development/Job Growth.* The EDC was considered the best hope for quality industry and commerce to provide good jobs, expand airport to attract business, market Longleaf so it does not become a burden, and increase tax base to generate revenue. Several acknowledged business leaders also stated that the EDC efforts should be aimed at quality businesses that were “non-polluting — water, air, ground.” Other comments included the need for good zoning to keep out substandard development while being business friendly to quality businesses. Longleaf was viewed as both an opportunity and a potential albatross.

Downtown Development.* The top priority for many respondents was the redevelopment of downtown. Respondents often remarked that the health of downtown is a visible symbol of the health of the community. A lawyer remarked that “It’s pretty tough for the EDC to market a place with a declining center.” Repeated mention was made of downtown as the “heart” of the community. Sentiment was expressed for the proper utilization of the Community Redevelopment Agency, and return to a properly functioning Main Street Program employing a full-time downtown manager. The wishes were for more destination stores and shops, a good restaurant at night, “don’t let the Hotel define downtown,” more green space, “plants are cheap compared to structures,” one downtown without racial differences, “we’re all in this together,” and City inducement for private investment downtown.

After the two front runners, a number of other priorities emerged. In order, they were:

Emphasize the Positive. In order to offset the negativity, a number of respondents felt it was essential to have an organized campaign to emphasize the positive things that were being accomplished, and note the events that bring people together to work in the same direction, such as building on the educational successes of the charter schools.

Improve Gateways to the City. A number of mentions concerned the poor impressions given by the gateways to the City, particularly the approach on Highway 60 West of town. Recognition was given to the fact that such an effort would probably involve cooperation from the county.
Responsible Growth. Concern was expressed for managing the inevitable growth so as not to lose the small town charm that is the community’s distinctive characteristic. Several mentioned the need for a long term vision in place of the tendency to operate in a survival mode from one year to the next. The need to return to the Martin & Vargus Plan was expressed. A businessman emphasized the need for an established “brand” to be used as part of a long term vision.

Lake Wailes Park. Several respondents mentioned that the City cannot afford to duplicate Haines City’s Lake Eva Complex, but it can afford to cost-effectively beautify Lake Wailes Park as its public gathering place. Two respondents mentioned the concept of connecting Lake Wailes Park to downtown with a landscaped corridor which would provide access to the play park, recreational areas, and library and provide access for the downtown to a park-like setting that it does not otherwise have.

Other priorities mentioned: Need for high-end homes so local executives would have choices for living in town, code enforcement, manage traffic flow to and from Bok Tower to the economic advantage of the City and downtown, strengthen McLaughlin Middle School, strengthen B Street Center, defeat salary cap, recreation director, evaluate liability the City will have for pensions in the future, better working relationship with Polk County, stay alert with the legislature to avoid unfunded mandates.

Economic Decline of the Community's Center

The past 35 years or so has seen a migration from the City to Country Oaks, Highland Park, Mountain Lake, Babson Park, Hillcrest Heights, Country Club, Crooked Lake, Lake of the Hills, and the like. Of the 165 different persons identified by respondents as admired and respected in the community, the 42 most frequently mentioned were personally surveyed.1 Of that number, 29 (69%) resided out of town. In short, a good part of the community’s personal talent, expertise, investment capital, and residential property values/tax base exists outside the City.

Before reporting on the two survey questions that addressed the issues concerning those in town as opposed to out of town, it was felt that some background research might be helpful to the reader.

Decline Within the City Limits

U.S. Census data together with the Polk County Zip Code Boundary Map show that the average household income of Lake Wales residents has declined to only 73% of the average household income of those who live in the areas surrounding the city limits. In reality, the residents outside the city limits still consider themselves as citizens of Lake Wales even though they cannot vote in city elections. As shown in the table below, the household income of Lake Wales city dwellers also did not stack up well against other comparable towns.

Zip Codes and Census Data


Zip Codes

# of Businesses


Average Home Value

Average Income per Household





$ 99,900



33830, 33831



$ 99,700


Haines City

33844, 33845



$ 95,400


Lake Wales, City






Lake Wales, W. of City




$ 95,400


Lake Wales, E. of City




$ 92,900


Babson Park, S. of City






River Ranch




$ 97,100








Winter Haven




$ 89,700


Winter Haven




$ 82,300


Winter Haven










$ 78,300


The Glory Days of Downtown Redevelopment

In spite of the decline, there was a period in history where Lake Wales’ downtown bucked the tide and was on an upward trend. In 1973, Lake Wales was the first in Central Florida to complete comprehensive downtown streetscape improvements. The City’s Mayor and the Chair of its Downtown Development Commission were invited to the White House in Washington D.C. where they received national recognition on behalf of the City for excellence in urban landscaping. Lake Wales thereby became an acknowledged leader in the country’s efforts for downtown revitalization.

Thereafter, the town became one of the first in Florida to be designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Florida Main Street program as a Main Street City, bringing with it the requirement for full time downtown Manager. In addition, the historic downtown was placed on the National Trust’s register of historic downtown districts whose structures were made available for historic tax credits during reconstruction.

Lake Wales was also among the early cities to take advantage of the state’s Community Redevelopment Act with the creation of a CRA district for its historic downtown. As building improvements in the downtown district worked to increase property values, that increase generated a tax increment that funded the CRA’s trust fund. The trust fund went for downtown improvements which again increased the tax base, thereby creating an upward economic spiral. These increases were separate from general revenue and did not adversely impact the City’s main budget.

Decline of Downtown

Following the disastrous citrus freeze of 1989 and the City’s mismanagement of its general revenue funds in the early 1990s, the City fell on hard times. To make up for deficits, the City reached in and took the CRA’s trust funds for the City’s general government needs. The loss of its trust funds decimated the Main Street Program and its downtown redevelopment. The full time downtown manager left for employment in Winter Haven — from which Winter Haven’s downtown handsomely benefitted. The Lake Wales effort, once Central Florida’s recognized leader for redevelopment, has been passed up by the proper utilization of CRA trust funds in Bartow, Auburndale, Winter Haven, Haines City and Lakeland.

The biggest reason for downtown’s decline is the fact that downtown’s tax increment has not been allocated for downtown. It was lumped in with a greatly expanded CRA and committed to pay bonded indebtedness for City-wide capital improvement projects. In fiscal year 2011-12, the tax increment raised from downtown property values was $82,322. The increment has steadily declined since then, to the point that in 2015-16, it was $55,142 — a loss of 33%. While downtown’s increment was experiencing loss, the City’s CRA increment generated from property values outside downtown went from $482,341 to $523,782, a gain of $41,441.

Community Issues
Impacting City and
Greater Lake Wales

The survey demonstrates that the economic differences between inside and outside city limits are more pronounced than most people might have realized.  However, the Greater Lake Wales Community performs as one economy, causing the City and Greater Lake Wales to rise and fall together.  If the city’s government is to perform in a leadership role for the community as a whole, it will have to do so from a weak economic base.  In order to overcome the discrepancy, and strengthen the economy of the community as a whole, two special questions were asked of the survey respondents.  Many were slow in responding, since they hadn’t given much thought to the discrepancies discussed above.  The questions were as follows:

How Can the City Help the Community?

Economy.* Make City business-friendly in order to enhance community economy, attract new business, work with EDC for to provide inducements, attract downtown business such as bakery, coffee shop, restaurants and nightlife, attract business at airport, build on EDC momentum.

City Facilities. Attract community with good leisure services, Lake Wailes Park, bike path, lights at night, parks and green spaces, corridor linking Lake Wailes Park, play park, Library, and downtown, attract young professionals, youth sports activities, walkable community, safe downtown.

Tie-in with Bok Tower. Work with Bok Tower to enhance both entities, as the Tower heads for a larger visitor base with a younger demographic occasioned by its extensive improvements now under construction.

Community Vision. Provide leadership, thoughtful long-term planning, and a big picture mentality for the benefit of — not only the City, but the community as a whole.

Emphasize the Positive. Work cooperatively together to overcome the fact that “1% can make themselves 99% of the problem.”

Others mentioned: Explore annexation of higher-end surrounding communities such as Country Club and Country Oaks, clean up Highway 60 West, code enforcement, Mayor should be visible leader for community as a whole.

How Can the Community Help the City?

Most of the respondents acknowledged that a great deal of community leadership — particularly young leadership — now resides outside the city limits. Nonetheless, the feeling is that everybody has “skin in the game” and is decidedly loyal to the Lake Wales Community as a whole. In the order mentioned most frequently, the following:

Personal Involvement*. The community wants to support the City and is willing to participate in community involvement such as volunteers for youth sports, soccer, Little League, and community events such as the recently successful Orange Blossom Revue.

Economic Support.* Respondents often mentioned the need to support local merchants, but also stated that many of the shops and stores they would patronize aren’t presently in town. A number of business persons expressed the need for those outside the city limits to invest and rehabilitate downtown properties as a way of attracting the stores and shops so many would like to have available downtown, particularly a nice restaurant for lunch and dinner. The need to enhance the tax base was expressed and some were concerned about so much of the downtown property that is tax exempt. Several referenced the need for leadership for investing in downtown similar to the way that the Six/Ten, LLC has done for Winter Haven.

Annexation. Explore annexation of Ridge Manor and County Oaks. Most do not realize that Hunt Bros. has agreed to the annexation of its offices, plant facility, and some grove lands into the City.

Community Plan. Several felt strongly about the need for planning responsible growth for the community as a whole, with the feeling that the plan must include what is the real community rather than being limited to the artificial boundaries created by the city limits.

Consensus-Based Recommendations

Community consensus has identified “Sense of Community” as the community’s number one strength.  As it turns out, this strength has enabled the community to achieve some commendable results in spite of limited resources.

The “Lake Wales Way" for Getting Things Done

The community’s most successful achievements have not been confined to the City’s boundaries. They have been community-wide. Examples include: Care Center, charter schools, Economic Development Council, YMCA, Little League, Soccer Club, civic clubs, Arts Council, YMCA, Unity in Community, and others. All are community-wide and volunteer driven. One could speculate that “Sense of Community” is the number one community strength because it reflects a culture whereby community folks are accustomed to working together to get things done. If the City had undertaken these efforts with paid employees and confined the benefits to city limits, they would have never succeeded.

A prime example of the failure of such an effort was the City’s unsuccessful attempt to mount its own economic development initiative. It duplicated the economic development effort of the Greater Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce. Working separately, the two were at odds with each other and never really accomplished much. Finally, the City aborted its separate economic effort and joined with the Chamber of Commerce by providing $100,000 annually to facilitate the formation of the Economic Development Council to serve the entire community. This combined effort under the EDC has enjoyed much greater success than the two previous separate efforts.

Thus, the Economic Development Council comprises only the latest embodiment of what might be termed the “Lake Wales Way” for getting things done with limited resources. Over the decades, here’s the way it has successfully worked for virtually every successful community endeavor:

  1. A community consensus emerges as to an important need to be addressed for the benefit of the community as a whole.
  2. The consensus forms a non-profit corporation.
  3. The operation of the corporation is based within the City.
  4. The City provides the seed or a partial subsidy for the effort.
  5. Community volunteers do the work through their non-profit corporation for the benefit of the community as a whole.

The examples of the Lake Wales Way can be shown in the following chart:


Nonprofit Corporation

Serving Community Need

How the Community Gets

It Done

City Seed or Partial Subsidy

B Street Community Center

Education, training, resources for under privileged

Government grants, paid staff member, community volunteers

City conveyed property; tax exemption; appropriation to Green & Gold
Economic Development Council Strengthen economy, job growth Paid Director, community volunteers $100,000 seed money; property tax exemption
Lake Wales Arts Council Arts and Culture

Economic Development

Paid staff member, community volunteers Property tax exemption
Lake Wales Care Center, Inc. Faith based service for people in need Paid staff and community volunteers Property tax exemptions
Lake Wales Depot Museum & Cultural Center Local History Paid staff, community volunteers Paid Director; depot building; utilities; maintenance
Lake Wales Little League, Inc. Youth Recreation Community volunteers Facilities; playing fields; maintenance; clean-up
Lake Wales Pram Fleet Youth Recreation Community volunteers Pram storage facility on City property
Lake Wales Public Library

Community Library

Paid staff, community volunteers City-owned building; dedicated millage; property tax exemption; maintenance
Lake Wales Public Schools Education Paid staff, community volunteers Property tax exemption
Lake Wales Soccer Club Youth Recreation Community volunteers Facilities; playing fields; restrooms; maintenance
Polk State College Education Polk State staff Property tax exemption


Sponsoring Entity

Community Purpose

How the Community Gets It Done

City Seed or Partial Subsidy

Lake Wales Art Show Community Event

Economic Development

Community volunteers Lake Wailes Park; utilities; maintenance; clean-up
Lake Wales Car Show Community Event

Economic Development

Main Street, Inc.,

Community volunteers

Barricades; policing; clean-up
Lake Wales Farmers Market Community Event

Economic Development

Main Street Inc.; LW Care Center; Community volunteers Marketplace Mall
Lake Wales Pioneer Days Community Event

Economic Development

Community volunteers Lake Wailes Park; City shoulders all costs; maintenance, clean-up
Make it Magical Community Event

Economic Development

Arts Council,

Community volunteers

Barricades; policing; clean-up
Orange Blossom Revue Community Event

Economic Development

Community volunteers Lake Wales Park; power; maintenance; clean-up

Private investment in downtown property would be a major part of enhancing the tax base and increasing the resulting CRA increment. An analysis of downtown property ownership shows that investment from greater Lake Wales is already a factor in property ownership. Only 33.3% of the properties located in the downtown area are owned by city residents. Investment in downtown by those living in greater Lake Wales is already significant, comprising 34.4%. The remaining 32.3% of the ownership is based outside the Lake Wales Community. (See Appendix A)

The Lake Wales Way as Applied to Identified Priorities and Weaknesses

The survey identified community consensus concerning certain weaknesses as well as the priorities that should be tackled in order to benefit the community. The application of the Lake Wales Way to those priorities and weaknesses might look something like the following:

Downtown. Downtown was identified in the survey as the number one weakness in the community and — after economic development/job growth*The Lake Wales Way is already in operation
for economic development, thanks to the
Chamber of Commerce’s nonprofit corporation,
its chief executive, and the work of competent
and able community volunteers on the Chamber’s
Board and Economic Development Committee.
— was identified as the second greatest priority to be addressed for the benefit of the community. Fortunately, the pieces necessary for applying the Lake Wales Way to downtown are already in place:

  1. The survey confirms the community consensus for downtown redevelopment.
  2. The nonprofit corporation known as Lake Wales Main Street, Inc., the remnant of the earlier effort, is in place.
  3. The operation of the nonprofit is based in the City’s downtown.
  4. The City has the capacity to provide the same $100,000 seed money for Lake Wales Main Street, Inc. that it provided for the Greater Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce for the successful launch of the Economic Development Council. As with the EDC, a portion of this amount could be allocated for the employment of the full-time Main Street Manager as required by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with the balance of the funds to go toward establishing a small office in downtown for a full-time operation.
  5. The existing community volunteers in the present Main Street organization are available to do the work for the effort under the non-profit corporation and its full-time management.

The Lake Wales Way Applied to Other Weaknesses and Priorities

Although not rising to the level of consensus, several other weaknesses and priorities could also benefit by the application of the Lake Wales Way. They are:

Leadership. The Lake Wales Way places a heavy reliance on competent, no-cost community volunteers. The City has a number of committees and boards that serve in an advisory capacity to the City Commission. The committees and boards should be restructured to better meet the present needs of the community.

Any limitations that restrict membership to City residents should be removed, so the City can capture and benefit from the talent and expertise that exists in the greater Lake Wales area. The City Charter was recently amended by the electorate to give the Mayor the authority to reach out, solicit, and appoint competent citizens to the City’s boards and committees, subject to the approval of the commission.

Lake Wailes Park. The City cannot afford to match Haines City’s Lake Eva Complex and its auditorium for public events. The City can afford to landscape and improve Lake Wailes Park as its public assembly point in a setting of exceptional natural beauty. As stated by a noted local horticulturalist, “plants are cheap compared to the cost of buildings.” The organizations that benefit from the present use of Lake Wailes Park — Lake Wales Art Show, Orange Blossom Revue, Pioneer Days, and others could consider using their events to raise funds for enhancing the Park, thereby improving the quality of their own events.

The City could well explore the application of the Lake Wailes Way to several proposals that have been made recently concerning the tie-in of the Lake Wailes Park to downtown and the Depot Museum. Lake Wailes Park and the bike path have a loyal patronage, the Park is the setting for several major community events (see chart above), and the Depot Museum will have to have a board or advisory commission for its operation. These interests could be combined into a nonprofit corporation for a Heritage Trail beginning at the Depot Museum, running along the property between Scenic Highway and the railroad tracks, passing by the historic railroad freight building, the Stuart House, the Library, the play park, picnic area, senior center and shuffle board courts, across Lakeshore Boulevard, through Lake Wailes Park and linking up with the bike path around Lake Wailes.

The non-profit corporation would perform the same function that has been successfully performed by the previously mentioned community-wide nonprofits. Once again, the City would provide the land and facilities and perhaps some seed money.

Arts Council Office. The Lake Wales Arts Council (as distinguished from the Arts Center) is a prime example of a successful organization that has employed the Lake Wales Way. Ever since Polk State College took over the Lake Wales Arts Center, the Arts Council — presently based in temporary quarters at the Arts Center — does not have a permanent home. The Historic Stuart House, now located at the intersection of Central Avenue and the railroad tracks, is a significant City structure with hardly any utilization. An arrangement could be worked out with the Arts Council whereby the Stuart House would become its headquarters with the City providing the space and the Arts Council providing the maintenance and upkeep of the structure. The location of the Arts Council in the Stuart House would enhance the Lake Wailes Trail and downtown, and provide a permanent home and community visibility for the Arts Council.

City Gateways. While not rising to the level of consensus, a great deal of mention was made of the need for improving the gateways to the City. This particular need is not as well adaptable to the Lake Wales Way as are others that would benefit from a non-profit corporation operated by community volunteers. In every instance, the gateways are at a boundary between the City and the county. Accordingly, this issue is probably best handled by the City in conjunction with the county.

Combating Negativity. The opposition to negativity did rise to the level of consensus. There will always be differences concerning the operation of City government. Dealing with negativity is a function of two elements: 1) how the negativity is handled by the City Commission and the City administration, and 2) devising a way to turn negative criticism into a positive.

First, the City Commission and the City administration should not fear or automatically react against dissent. Dissenters serve a valuable purpose and keep the leadership honest. Those in control should seriously consider criticism and make sure they have good answers for the malcontents. If good answers are not available, then the endeavor needs to be modified accordingly. The British value what they term the “loyal opposition” as a way of improving the final product. Lake Wales can do the same.

Second, the City should request of the media that the same space given to negativity also be given to the positive response. In addition, the City should not fear editorial opinion. In this part of the country, the media does its level best to be objective. Just because this objectivity may be in opposition to what one thinks it should be, doesn’t necessarily mean that the media is biased or prejudiced.


City government should adopt the community’s proven method for getting things done in spite of limited resources. The City is operated by a nonprofit municipal corporation just as are the nonprofits that have for decades been getting things done for the community as a whole. Governance challenges can be successfully handled the same way. The City is the only governmental entity in the larger community. Its structure and staff doesn’t have to be invented, it is in place and functioning.

The application of the method would be for the City-based nonprofit to lower its artificial barriers and envelope the talent, expertise and investment capital that exists in greater Lake Wales for the benefit of the community as a whole. City government should take a leadership role for the community’s governance issues the same way the Economic Development Council has taken the leadership for business development, the charter schools for education, the Care Center for the under privileged, Little League for youth baseball — on a community-wide basis. The people in the City cannot afford to shoulder the entire expense, but they can provide the structure and the seed or a partial subsidy for a successful effort to be carried out by the community as a whole.

The survey found its consensus: “Sense of Community” was identified as the top characteristic of the people living in greater Lake Wales. That consensus has developed the “Lake Wales Way” for nonprofits to get things done. The City should adopt as much of the method as possible for its governance and thereby measurably improve the quality of life for us all.