Okeechobee City Council sets goals for the new year

OKEECHOBEE — It’s the time of year when most people are thinking about their New Year’s resolutions, and our city council men and woman are no exception, as they each have some goals for the city they would like to implement in the coming year.

Councilman Elect Bob Jarriel would love to hold a town hall meeting during the first part of the year so the council can ask the residents what is important to them. He would then prioritize that list and begin working on accomplishing each item on it. He would like to have a specific time during the monthly meetings for citizens to talk — kind of an open time to bring up things that might not have been on the agenda. He would also like to add a time during the meetings for the council to talk to each other. He explained the Sunshine Law prevents the council from meeting to talk about things informally, and this would give them an opportunity to talk about things that might not be on the agenda but one of them might want to discuss. He said the South Florida Fair Board does this, and it works out very well. He would also like to see more transparency in city hall, lower the millage rate, and balance the budget. Another goal is to fill the empty buildings in Okeechobee — dress up neighborhood — not just the downtown, but also the alleyways. His personal goal is to be a good listener.

Mayor Dowling Watford said the first thing they need to do is to get the new council members acclimated and up to speed as this is the first time in many years they have had so many new members. Bobby Keefe and Bob Jarriel are newly elected. Wes Abney took office in August, and Monica Clark has only been on the council for two years. Once they have accomplished this, he would like to see them continue working on Centennial Park. He would also like to see new commerce coming into Okeechobee and is excited about Checkers restaurant coming soon, and says a developer is in the process of bringing in a high-end mobile home park. Some of the other things on Mayor Watford’s agenda are working on budget issues, raising revenue to support services and the ongoing struggle to preserve local control of our own government. He feels we need to continue fighting the perception the lake causes all the problems in the surrounding areas, and says that is an uphill battle.

Councilman Wes Abney said he is still new in his position, but he enjoys it very much. He feels fortunate to have an opportunity to give back to the community in some way. He believes we are making progress in improving the appearance of the main corridor of the city, but there is still room for improvement. He would like to see the city continue on that path. Although he is an advocate for individual property rights, Councilman Abney believes the city should be proactive about code enforcement and feels moving from a code enforcement board to a magistrate system will be of great benefit to that end. Councilman Abney is looking forward to welcoming the two new council members and can’t wait to see what the next two years have in store for the city of Okeechobee.

Councilman elect Bobby Keefe said he was both humbled and excited to have been elected to the city council, and is very thankful for the support and confidence of the city residents.

He looks forward to working with the other council members to bring some new growth to the city, and he would like to see some beautification projects around Okeechobee.

Centennial Park is another priority for him, as he would like to see it completed in the near future. He said the budget is in place for the year already so he won’t be doing anything not already budgeted for.

Councilwoman Monica Clark’s goal for the city council is to make sure each and every person that lives in or visits our city feels safe and that we continue to support our business community. She believes Okeechobee needs to find a way to keep the benefits of a small town without sacrificing the need to grow and prosper with healthy economic development.

“I want people to love our little city and want to come back whether they are a visitor or a senior in high school,” she said. Councilwoman Clark would like to see the city continue working on the beautification of the parks and the downtown area, and she would like the council to continue to update ordinances which reflect the needs and wishes of Okeechobee residents. She also believes supporting new businesses and helping to provide a safe community through the support of Okeechobee schools and businesses using all resources at the council’s disposal is a priority.

Bobby Keefe and Bob Jarriel will be sworn in on Jan. 7, 2019 and their first meeting as official councilmen will be on Jan. 15.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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