Dowling Watford is new mayor of the City of Okeechobee

OKEECHOBEE — Dowling Watford was elected mayor at the reorganization meeting at the first Okeechobee City Council meeting of 2017.

Watford replaced Jim Kirk who retired after 26 years as mayor.

“I appreciate it and I understand the responsibility of the position. I have always been involved in and have loved the community,” Watford said and thanked the council for their support and that he takes the job as quite an honor.

Watford said he received a lot of great advice from former mayors like Dr. Edward Douglas, Oakland Chapman and Jim Kirk.

Watford said he plans to continue to hold professional meetings and conduct business in a civil manner.

“I feel very honored and very humbled. I just can’t tell you how humbling it is to be in this position,” he said.

Watford said a lot of people have encouraged him to pursue the position over the years and he is glad to take on the responsibility.

“I’m just honored that they think I can do a good job,” he added.

Watford said he intends to vote on all motions. Former Mayor Kirk did not vote unless there was a tie vote.

“I feel like it is my responsibility as an elected official to vote and I will therefore vote on all the motions,” he added.

Watford said holding the title of mayor should help him when he works with the Treasure Coast League of Cities on issues of regional importance.

Several city employees also received awards from the city council at the meeting. Patty Burnette, Director of General Services was honored for five years. Pam Wilkerson received a five-year award.

Dowling Watford (right) was elected mayor for the City of Okeechobee Tuesday at the first city council meeting of 2017. In the photo above, Patty Burnette (center) was honored for five years with city general services. On her left is city administrator Marcos Montes De Oca. Photo by Okeechobee News/Charles Murphy.

Marty Thomas was honored for five years with the City Clerk’s office, Jeff Treece five years with Public Works, firefighter Steve Weeks for 10 years with the city fire department and Police Chief Bob Peterson for 20 years of service.

Police Chief Robert Peterson was given the oath of office by City Clerk Lane Gamiotea.

New police officers Brandon Griesemer and Luis Rojas were also sworn in by the clerk. The police department also announced the promotion of Police Lt. Donald Hagan to major. The chief also honored officer Kelly Margerum after she received an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Indian River State College.
In business actions:

• Council approved an ordinance to vacate an alleyway requested by Okeechobee Asphalt & Ready Mixed Concrete. The property is owned by the company and located south of N.W. Ninth Street between N.W. Eighth Avenue and N.W. Ninth Avenue.

• The council approved appointments on various boards and committees. Mike O’Connor represents the city on the Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Gary Ritter will serve on the Treasure Coast League of Cities, Mayor Watford will serve on the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, Ritter on Healthy Start, Councilman Noel Chandler and Mike O’Connor on the Tourist Development Council, O’Connor on Main Street, Monica Clark on the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Council, and Watford on the Okeechobee Historic Society and Friends of the Okeechobee Battlefield, the Shared Serves Network and Juvenile Justice Council.

• The council approved the closure of a section of N.W. Second Street near the Okeechobee County Court House for the County Centennial kickoff event scheduled for Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.

• Council appointed Jeanna Lanier to the City General Employees’ Pension Board.

• They also approved two contract addendums with CAS Governmental Services for lobbying work in Tallahassee. The firm is paid $18,000 annually.

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