Q&A With Tammy James
by James Coulter
Tammy earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University and working on the certificate to Master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of South Florida. She has over twenty years of experience in the Private and Nonprofit sectors leading Finance and Operations teams.
She is currently working as a Strategic Advisor with World Wildlife Fund, concentrating on financial stability and sustainability, conservation impact, and development coaching. Tammy James and her husband, Stephen, purchased a family friend’s home in 2016. Stephen is the third generation to call Lake Wales home.
Tammy James is currently running for mayor of Lake Wales against Jack Hilligoss and Curtis Gibson. We recently sat down with her to ask questions about pertinent local issues and her position on them. Here is what she 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: Lake Wales has been discovered as an extraordinary place, something we’ve known all along. Rapid growth is a significant challenge, and we will need to take a strategic approach to managing future development. Additional services are needed for our city to remain the place we love to live in. It will require us to set, and enforce, high development standards. Lake Wales is the beneficiary of the vision of Edward Bok and Frederick Olmsted who helped make us a City in a Garden. To ensure that new development meets that standard, as mayor I will ensure the coordination of the Development Services department, the CRA, Mainstreet, and the Chamber of Commerce to partner with developers to ensure they are sharing and supporting that vision.
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: Impact fees are necessary and provide the funding for new infrastructure required by growth, so that current residents aren’t asked to subsidize new ones. Consideration is given to those who are redeveloping areas with pre-existing infrastructure. The city is currently considering adding a “mobility” fee” to help pay for transportation impacts, a move I support. Impact fees rates are continuously reviewed and have been recently increased, but remain lower than in the surrounding areas.
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: While the Mayor and Commissioner do not have direct authority with the Charter School system, education is an essential element of a “livable city.” Strengthening the partnership with the County and the school system is necessary. The City can set requirements for large projects, and setting aside acreage for school sites is a serious possibility. The understaffing of schools is not unique to Lake Wales. and uniting the community behind the Charter School system ensures that they can continue to provide an excellent education for our students.
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: Mobility is a required element of a livable city and providing access to mobility is a factor in assuring that our housing remains affordable as well. Mobility includes the issues of safety, congestion, maintenance, and various modes of transportation walking, driving, public transportation, and vehicles. Partnering with county, state, and Federal governments to seek funding for new sidewalks, turn lanes, and similar projects. Strategic planning for infrastructure that will be needed for the future is essential and should be continuously reviewed. I recently attended a luncheon with business leaders where the message was “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.”