Q&A With LW Mayoral Candidate Curtis Gibson
by James Coulter
With more than four years of experience serving on the Lake Wales City Commission, Curtis Gibson seeks to go one step beyond his previous position as a city commissioner and hopefully serve his city as its mayor.
Gibson, 37, was first elected to the Lake Wales City Commission in 2017 and re-elected in 2019 with more than 63 percent of the vote, as reported by Lakewalesnews.net. He stepped down from his position last year to attend to his family and prepare for his mayoral run.
During his two terms as commissioner, Gibson has assisted the city with infrastructure, economic growth, and airport expansion. He has worked closely with the Dover Kohl Lake Wales Connected Plan, an initiative to help revitalize the downtown and northwest business districts.
Gibson first moved to Lake Wales at age 13. Upon graduating from Lake Wales High School in 2003, he went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree from Keiser University, his associate’s from Bryant and Stratton College, and complete police academy at South Florida State College.
Currently, Gibson works as an insurance adjuster with Geico. He and wife, Danielle, have five children. Curtis is a charter member of Rotary on the Ridge and has been active in other community groups and coaching youth sports.
We recently sat down with Mr. Gibson to ask him some key questions about local issues and concerns and to inquire about his positions. Here is what he had to say.
Q: The City of Lake Wales is predicted to triple in size in the next 10 years with 8,500 new homes approved in the city limits. What are your plans for the city to facilitate this growth?
A: Positive growth will expand our tax base and bring in new business, but we need to make sure it is well-planned, reasonable and reflects the culture and history of our community. Planned communities should follow the “Lake Ashton model” and incorporate decorative lighting and signage, green space, lower density housing and winding roads.
Q: Concerns have been raised about waiving impact fees, especially in light of the approval of new development. These fees are necessary to fund any potential infrastructure. How do you think the city should address this issue?
A: By annexing property, the city can place more stringent requirements on a developer. If developers can’t afford utilities and quality enhancements, they should either not develop or reduce the scale of their projects. The city needs to require that developers bear the full cost of bringing sewer water and other amenities to their property I oppose expanding use of septic tanks, something Mr. Hilligoss voted for, which can cause environmental problems and if developers cannot afford utilities in quality enhancements, they should either not develop or reduce the scale of their projects.
Q: Another prescient concern is education, especially about potential overcrowding and understaffing. How will overcrowding be addressed? Will developers be required to set aside “so much” land for schools? Will you put pressure on the Polk County School Board to allocate funds to the Lake Wales Charter Schools?
A: To be clear the expansion of schools is not in the scope of the mayor’s office. However, we can sit at the table and have a discussion about working in partnership we must ask new businesses and developers to buy into our city it should not always be the other way around we must create an environment for them to succeed while holding them accountable. With respect to pay, organizations attract and retain talent when employees feel valued and respected. Competitive pay and benefits allow employees to live, work, and raise their families with dignity.
Q: Finally, there’s infrastructure. Many citizens have voiced concerns about Chalet Suzanne Road and their desire to see a sidewalk there. Others want existing streets to be repaved such as the road in front of Spook Hill Elementary. What plans and priorities towards infrastructure do you want the city to implement?
A: Maintaining our roads, trails, and sidewalks may seem mundane until you feel the wear and tear every day on your way to work. We’ll stay on top of it with the help of the people and our dedicated staff. That’s how we ensure we are focusing on all areas of need, not just downtown. Trees, benches, lighting improvements, and new road configurations will draw people in and keep them safe. We’ll finish that work together. The next mayor and commission needs to work to get the city back on track with its six-year repaving plan, which was understandably delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.