Lake Wales attorney Robin Gibson is throwing his hat into the ring for a seat on the city commission. Gibson, who was one of the key figures in helping imagine and start the Lake Wales Charter Schools system and who was Citizen of the Year in 1974, would be running against at least Christopher Lutton, who indicated two weeks ago to The News that he would be seeking re-election for Seat 2, a district that covers much of eastern Lake Wales.
It could be at least a three person race as Robert Wood has also picked up nominating petitions, according to city clerk Clara VanBlargan.
Nominating petitions are due back at the clerk’s office by noon Friday, so a final field of candidates won’t be fully determined until then. As of Tuesday morning, VanBlargan indicated that Gibson and Wood had so far returned signed petitions. Lutton has picked up petitions, but has not submitted them as of Tuesday morning. VanBlargan was expecting to get the returned petitions verified by the Polk County Board of Elections yesterday.
Gibson said he decided to run after doing his own survey — subtitled “Search for Consensus” — of local stakeholders.
One issue in particular that concerns Gibson is the downtown area, which has had trouble attracting and keeping viable retail and restaurant operations in recent years. In May, it will mark the 50th year that his law office has been in downtown Lake Wales.
“There’s a part in there (his survey report) about the golden era of downtown development, and how it was decimated,” Gibson said. “Since then, the city has made some serious mistakes, and I have kicked myself because if I were there, I might have been helpful. I can’t take it anymore, so I’m going to give it a shot.”
Seat 4, which represents much of the city’s northern tier, is also coming up in April. Incumbent Terrye Howell has said she is going to seek re-election, and Ed Bowlin, who is attempting to cap city salaries and eliminate the fire fee through charter amendment petitions, has also indicated he is running. Bowlin had returned his petitions early in the week, and Howell had also picked up but not yet returned petitions.
Commissioners must run for the seat in the district where they live, but are voted on by all city voters. The election is April 5.