Three candidates vying for two Lakeland commissioner seats this fall

By , Special to the Daily Memphian Updated: August 27, 2020 4:36 PM CT | Published: August 27, 2020 2:41 PM CT

With the ballot for the various municipal elections finalized this week, three candidates will seek two Lakeland commission seats on Nov. 3.

Vice Mayor Josh Roman – choosing not to seek re-election – is vacating one of the offices. The other is held by Wesley Wright, who will seek another four-year term. In Lakeland, candidates for commissioner do not run for a specified board seat. Instead, the top two finishers of the three will win positions on the Board of Commissioners.

Jim Atkinson

<strong>Jim Atkinson</strong>

Jim Atkinson

This is Atkinson’s first time seeking elected office. He worked nearly 14 years in multiple roles for the City of Lakeland, including planning director, director of administration, and city manager. He left in 2018 to work in the private sector as a consulting planner.

“I love my city, and I believe my past experience as Lakeland City Manager and Planning Director can add value to the Board of Commissioners,” Atkinson said. 

When he and his wife moved their family to Lakeland in 2014, they pulled their three children out of private schools and enrolled them in Lakeland School System.

“The school funding debate has ruled our city since 2015,” Atkinson said. “Now with the Lakeland Middle Preparatory School open and Lakeland Prep High School beginning construction, the debate will shift to other priorities moving forward.”

Some of the initiatives in his campaign will include creating a clear vision and undertaking long-term planning, keeping property taxes low, maintaining infrastructure at a high level, completing construction of Phase 1 of the Athletic Complex, supporting the city’s high-performing school district, aggressively paying down the city’s debt, promoting high-quality development that will keep property values high, and bridging the city’s political divide to build consensus.

“As city manager, I was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city,” Atkinson said. “No other candidate has that level of experience and understanding of what makes the city tick, nor understanding of how policy development impacts the operation of the city and the everyday lives of our citizens. I believe this experience will be a huge benefit on the board as we set the vision and policy direction for the future.”

Scott Carmichael

<strong>Scott Carmichael</strong>

Scott Carmichael

Carmichael served three terms as Lakeland’s mayor from 2001 to 2013 and served as a commissioner from 1997 to 2001.

“I’ve been out of office for seven years, and watching the debt for the city increase so dramatically since then I wanted to see what I could do to slow it down a little bit,” said Carmichael, a 26-year retired Naval officer who teaches business courses at several local universities and is national sales manager for Data Capture Solutions.

Looking at Lakeland’s growth, the former mayor thinks the city needs good solid businesses infrastructure in place. He also would like to see a second fire station in Lakeland.

“I think we need to look at short- and long-term strategic planning and financial strategic planning as to where are we and where do we need to be,” said Carmichael. “There needs to be controlled growth. We don’t just want to sprawl out all over every place. We’ve already lost a number of our tree canopies, so I don’t know if we’re doing that right or not.”

He is also concerned about the city’s large retired population that is on fixed incomes and does not want to see taxes increased. He sees the need for balance between funding schools and looking to the future. He hopes his experience sets him apart from the competition on election day.

“I’m doing this to help the city and make the city where I live the best that it can be,” said Carmichael, who serves on Lakeland’s Municipal Planning Commission (MPC)/Design Review Committee (DRC) and has lived in Lakeland for 29 years. “Obviously, I’ve proved that I’m willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary to get the job done.”

Wesley Wright

<strong>Wesley Wright</strong>

Wesley Wright

Wright is running for his second term as city commissioner, and also serves on Lakeland’s MPC/DRC board.

“Lakeland citizens have witnessed my consistent advocacy for our top-performing schools, accessibility and transparency, upscale residential and commercial design standards for future commercial or residential projects, conservation, and walkability that have all helped establish our city as a benchmark community in the region,” he said. “I hope to be given the opportunity for another four years of public service in order to elevate our town even more.”

During his first term, Wright, who owns a landscaping business, helped bring Flock safety cameras to Lakeland, initiated a moratorium on new apartment construction, and brought forth the Lakeland 2040 Vision Plan.

 “Much has been accomplished, and I believe there is still much more that can be done to keep Lakeland special,” said Wright, who has lived in Lakeland with his family for seven years. “We can grow in quality not quantity, be upscale and unique, preserve the beauty around us and still focus of revamping the exit at Canada and the U.S. Highway 64 corridor.”

He believes the next four years are critical to the future of Lakeland.

“I want to make sure U.S. Highway 70 stays pastoral and New Canada Road is the best it can be, both in safety and aesthetics,” Wright said. “I want residents to be able to walk trails, play in parks and dine at restaurants. We need a balanced community. Finally, we need to aggressively pave our streets that are greatly in need of attention.”

He hopes that his proven track record will set him apart from the other candidates.

“It has been a privilege serving Lakeland,” said Wright. “I’ve been proactive and forward thinking. My plans are broad in scope, but attainable.”


Wesley Wright Lakeland Mayor And Board Of Commissioners Scott Carmichael Jim Atkinson 2020 Elections

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.


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