T. Michael Stavres, Winter Haven Deputy City Manager recently received the Credentialed Manager designation from ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. Internationally, there are only around 1,300 local government management professionals currently credentialed through the ICMA Voluntary Credentialing Program; Deputy City Manager Stavres is the only manager/deputy manager in Polk County with the ICMA-CM credential. Stavres is qualified with more than 25 years of professional local government executive experience.



The 10th Annual Polk Emerging Leaders Awards were held on August 19th to celebrate and honor the work that young professionals are doing to improve Polk County. The 2021 winners are: Lauren Jensen, Dr. Andy Oguntola, Brian Yates, Sara Beth Reynolds and Dr. Michelle Henne. Katie Worthington Decker was awarded the Polk Emerging Leaders Visionary Award for all of her work to start these programs and give opportunities for the young professionals of Polk County to be recognized for their commitment to their communities.



Polk State College was selected from a competitive field of community colleges across the country to receive $50,000 to transform the future of students in the community. Funded by Metallica’s All Within My Hands (AWMH) Polk State College continues to prioritize careers in Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Machining through the Metallica Scholars program. Interested students visit “Polk State College is proud to continue its partnership with Metallica’s AWMH and the AACC to provide quality CNC machining training at no cost to students to fulfill local workforce needs,” Polk State President Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti said.



Polk County’s Rental and Utilities Assistance program application deadline has been extended until Sept. 30. The Board of County Commissioners allocated $17 million for the program earlier this year and the county began taking applications June 1. The application deadline has been extended to give those who need it more time to apply. This funding can provide up to $12,000 in assistance directly to landlords, property management, and utility companies on behalf of qualifying Polk County residents. Information about income restrictions, the paperwork required to apply, and other program eligibility requirements can be found on the county website at



Polk County Waste & Recycling’s residential customers may be experiencing collection service delays. This may not end soon, Polk’s contracted residential haulers are experiencing a shortage in labor supply. Polk County contracts with Advanced Disposal Services and FCC Environmental for residential curbside collection. With recent spikes in COVID keeping employees out of the workforce, the two hauling companies are running daily routes with about 12 less truck drivers than normally scheduled. If residents need to report a missed collection or request bulk pickup service, please submit a service request on



Polk County’s Development Review Committee followed the proper guidelines and allowed for due process when approving a 28.5-acre development off Crystal Beach Road in May 2020, according to an order from Circuit Judge Wayne Durden. The order denied all claims made in the petition by residents challenging the approval of the Winter Haven development. The proposed development from Heritage Investments of Polk LLC had already been denied when it was originally proposed as a 94-unit development in 2017. The company challenged the denial in court and lost in a 2019 ruling. The development was later approved as an 87-unit residential infill development. The DRC provided more than 70 comments to the applicant regarding the application. Following a May 14, 2020 hearing, the applicant submitted a revised site plan and addressed the numerous comments. The DRC ultimately approved the plans on Aug. 10, 2020.



This exhibition is a unique collaboration between the Polk Museum of Art and the Lakeland Symphony Orchestra. Guest curated by instrumentalists of the Orchestra, “Pictures at an Exhibition” pairs artwork from the Museum’s permanent collection with hand-picked musical selections performed by the musicians themselves for a unique multi-sensory viewing and listening experience. Days and times vary, view the full schedule online. On view September 11, 2021 through January 9, 2022.



Six rides, six themed playscapes, a water play area and even more oinktastic experiences have been revealed for the World’s First Peppa Pig Theme Park. These all-new attractions will create an unforgettable day of adventure at the new standalone theme park, opening in 2022, just steps away from LEGOLAND® Florida Resort. Designed to be the ultimate day for little ones, the new theme park combines interactive rides and themed playgrounds with character shows and an indoor cinema for quieter moments. Every corner of the new park is crafted with preschoolers in mind, from their first roller coaster rides with their parents and free fair games for the whole family, to an all-terrain course where they will pedal tricycles through a sensory-rich trail and a colorful splash pad that celebrates “muddy puddles” jumping fun!

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