Scott Franklin, Other Republicans Dominate In Local Elections

Scott Franklin will be moving from an office at Lakeland City Hall to one in the U.S. Capitol after he handily defeated Democrat Alan Cohn for a seat in Congress in the November general election. He had already vanquished Republican incumbent Ross Spano in the primary, entering the race because he felt he was better suited to ensure the district remained red. Republicans dominated in Polk local elections, as voters returned Bill Braswell to the County Commission and Colleen Burton, Josie Tomkow, and Melony Bell to the Florida House of Representatives.  


Polk Remains Red, But Lakeland Edged Toward Purple

While Polk County remains solidly red in politics, some people like to say that Lakeland tends towards purple — a nearly even mix between red and blue. That was nearly true in the presidential election. Lakeland voters favored Donald Trump, but by a lower margin than in 2016. That year, Trump won 54.9% of votes cast in Lakeland precincts; this year, it was 51.9%. Unlike 2016, when Lakeland voters favored Trump by the same percentage as countywide Polk voters, this year Lakeland’s margin was 4.6 percentage points lower than the county’s 56.5% tally. Two precincts near downtown that favored Trump four years ago flipped to Joe Biden this time.


Chamber Plans Business Resource Complex Near RP Funding Center

The pink Park Trammell Building perched above Lake Morton projects heritage. But the 1926 structure proved inhospitable to modern technology, so the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce has been looking to vacate it for a new home. Their grand idea is to create a Business Resource Center to house up to a dozen other business-serving organizations. They found a spot to build it on city-owned property just north of the Hyatt Place Hotel next to the RP Funding Center. Now that the city has agreed to sell the land and defray some development expenses, the next task is to secure more funding. Completion is expected in 2022 or 2023.


Candlelight Vigil on Lake Morton Pays Respect to Victims

Shock waves rippled through the sedate South Lake Morton neighborhood when police tape cordoned off a block containing some of the lakefront’s largest houses. Shock turned to dismay and grief when it was revealed that an intruder bent on robbery ended the lives of two residents as they were preparing for breakfast. Edie Yates Henderson, 67, built a successful CPA firm with her late first husband and served a dozen years on the Lakeland City Commission. David Henderson, her 63-year-old husband of eight years, was a lawyer turned commercial real estate developer. Friends held a candlelight vigil along the lake to mourn their passing.


New Monument Honors Veterans Of Desert Storm

Military veterans serving during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield in 1990 and 1991 are honored by a new monument at Lakeland’s Veterans Park. The cube-shaped stone marker was dedicated during the Polk County Veterans Council annual commemoration held the Saturday before Veterans Day. The event was co-sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Lakeland. The ceremony also honored World War II veterans, a veteran of the year, a veteran supporter of the year and Florida Southern College’s cadet of the year. The U.S. led a 35-nation coalition in the Gulf War conflicts 30 years ago in repelling Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.


Facebook Group Provides Info on Businesses Requiring Masks

A crowd-sourced Facebook group has become the go-to source for more than 1,900 Lakelanders who want to know which local businesses still follow strict coronavirus protocols. The group, Lakeland Business — Operation Face Mask, launched before the city of Lakeland put a mask mandate in effect for three months, and the group’s manager has been busy with updates ever since the mask requirement ended in October. The project took on extra urgency then because residents started wondering which businesses would still require masks and other precautions.


Businesses Suffer as Coronavirus Keeps Canadians Home

Coronavirus precautions prohibiting Canadians from crossing the border for non-essential purposes have affected local businesses that rely on the annual winter influx of northern retirees. The city of Lakeland’s RP Funding Center had to forego an estimated $73,000 in revenue when the annual Snowbird Extravaganza was cancelled. While Canadians can still fly into the U.S., the vast majority of Lakeland’s annual Snowbird influx arrives by car. Also declining: sales of bumper stickers saying, “We don’t care how you did it up North.”


Hand-Painted Street Banners Hang Downtown

People walking and driving in downtown Lakeland started seeing hand-painted banners hanging from light poles last month. This new-to-Lakeland form of public art was created by members of the Lakeland and Bartow Art Guilds. Those organizations were beneficiaries of an auction of the signs at an Art and Wine Walk sponsored by the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, keeper of the pole signs. “We really want folks to remember that the arts are a big part of the economy,” said Julie Townsend, chief downtown booster.


Lakeland Residents Open Indian Buffet, Hot Chicken Restaurant

New locally owned restaurants generating buzz include a small Indian buffet on the east side of Lakeland and a soon-to-open quick-service spot bringing the Nashville hot chicken trend to South Florida Avenue. Kamini Kumar was known for her catering before she opened My Indi Kitchen in a Winn Dixie-anchored shopping plaza on Lakeland Highlands Boulevard. Meanwhile, Jeremy Brumley is drawing on experience as a chain restaurant exec to prepare LoveBird: Almost Famous Chicken the converted gas station that most recently housed the Beacon Road Starbucks. He anticipates opening this month.


Lakeland’s Last Dairy Farm Approved for 170-Home Development

Mike Carey says it’s been tough making a living operating Lakeland’s last dairy farm, so he’s been trying to sell his property off Walker Road in west Lakeland. A developer agreed to buy H.C. Dairy Farm and place 170 homes there, but the project faced opposition from neighbors who feared development would compound the area’s flooding problems. County commissioners favored the developers, approving the project 3-1. The neighbors say they are looking into appealing the county decision in court.



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