Why have a town hall meeting?

OKEECHOBEE — When Okeechobee City Councilman Bob Jarriel ran for city council in 2018, one of the things he wanted to do was to begin holding town hall meetings. Councilman Jarriel said he wanted to “ask the people what they wanted to see done and then work on those things one by one.” He said he also felt it gave business owners, who did not have the opportunity to vote for the city council, a chance to express their view. “After all,” he said, “they pay the majority of the taxes in the city. They should be heard, too.”

In 2019, the city council did hold two town hall meetings, an evening meeting in March and an afternoon meeting in October.

At each meeting, citizens were given a chance to express their concerns and/or ideas and then in the days following the meeting, they were each contacted by someone who followed up on that comment and if there was a problem to be solved, they attempted to solve it. The council did not engage in any back-and-forth conversation with the commenters during the meeting but, rather, used the meeting more as a time to let the people speak.

Council member Monica Clark suggested they do things a little differently this year. She wanted to converse with the people who comment. “If they ask a question we know the answer to, I’d like us to answer them rather than just sit there,” she said. Mayor Dowling Watford said as long as everyone understood this was not a time for debate, he did not mind if they answered questions, and everyone agreed they would answer questions that they were able to during the meeting and if they could not answer, they would follow up later as they did in the past meetings.

The meeting will be held on March 11, at 6 p.m., at the Okeechobee Freshman Campus auditorium. The address is 610 S.W. Second Ave. (behind Golden Corral). Questions and comments can even be sent in advance to lgamioteas@cityofokeechobee.com or call 863-763-3372, ext. 9814.

Prior to the meeting, there is a community open house at 4 p.m. This open house is to give the community a chance to be involved in setting priorities for economic development. For more information, visit http://www.cfrpc.org/okeechobee-florida.

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