Wiggs become Lakeland’s new mayor

Howard Wiggs is Lakeland's new mayor.
Howard Wiggs is Lakeland’s new mayor.

City Commissioner Howard Wiggs, who has said he wants a shake-up in City Hall’s leadership, defeated incumbent Mayor Gow Fields on Tuesday, receiving 52 percent of the vote.

Wiggs, 66, received 6,834 votes to Fields’ 6,221 votes, or 48 percent.

The voter turnout was 22 percent, which is high for a city election. The mayoral race had nearly 900 more votes than one for an at-large City Commission seat that was also on the ballot. In a three-way mayoral race in 2009, turnout was 19.5 percent.

Wiggs, a Mulberry native, will be sworn in Jan. 6. Because of term limits, he will only be allowed to serve one four-year term. He has served as a city commissioner since 1993.

The race turned into nearly a one-issue affair, with Wiggs and Fields arguing over how to fix problems at the troubled Lakeland Police Department.

Wiggs said he wants City Manager Doug Thomas to resign and Police Chief Lisa Womack fired, while Fields said the two have handled the troubled situation well.

Neither Thomas nor Womack could be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Celebrating from Preservation Hall downtown, Wiggs reiterated that there needs to be a leadership change in City Hall.

“This election is part of the process,” Wiggs said. “For the sake of the community, we need new leadership.”

Wiggs said he thought most people who voted for him want a change in City Hall leadership.

Fields said he was disappointed in the results. He said he wasn’t sure if the vote means residents want a change in leadership.

“It’s one factor,” he said after the results were in. “I don’t know … without polling voters.”

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.