Florida League of Cities names new leadership, award recipients
Lakeland Commissioner Phillip Walker. Image via Florida League of Cities.

Lakeland Commissioner Phillip Walker copy
The new leaders will serve in the 2021-22 term.

The Florida League of Cities announced a change of command Wednesday, including a newly elected president and two officers.

Lakeland Commissioner Phillip Walker will serve as the League’s president.

Walker, a former police officer, was first elected to the Lakeland City Commission in 2010.

Among other affiliations, he is an immediate past president of the Florida Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and serves on the advisory board of the Salvation Army.

In a statement, Walker described the role as his “dream job.”

“I’m confident about our future, and I’m focused on the issues impacting Florida cities,” Walker said. “I believe we’re in a tremendous position to be stronger and more impactful in the coming year, and I look forward to building on the foundation that’s already been laid.”

Additionally, Port. St. Lucie Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo will serve as the League’s first vice president, and Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross will serve as second vice president.

Walker will serve a one-year term.

The League also announced the recipients of two annual awards.

The League named Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan the winner of the 2021 Defender of Home Rule Award.

The Home Rule Award — the League’s most prestigious honor — is typically awarded to lawmakers who advocate on behalf of the League and member cities during the Legislative Session.

This year, however, is the first time the award is presented to a local official.

Florida League of Cities Director of Legislative Affairs Casey Cook described Ryan as an “incredibly engaged” and “highly effective” advocate of home rule.

“You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has worked harder to protect Home Rule during the last decade,” Cook said.

In a statement, Ryan pointed to the horizon and hoped for more anti-preemption bills in the upcoming Legislative Session.

“I want to thank the League for this recognition. But this isn’t all about me,” Ryan said. “This is about Home Rule and the ability of all of us to have a voice in Tallahassee. So, I also want to thank the members of our policy committees as well as the local leaders throughout Florida representing their communities.”

Not least, the League announced Lake Hamilton Vice Mayor Marlene Wagner as this year’s recipient of the League’s E. Harris Drew Municipal Official Lifetime Achievement Award.

Named after Supreme Court Justice E. Harris Drew, the award recognizes local officials who made a “lasting and worthwhile” contribution to their communities.

Drew coined what would later become the League’s motto: “Local self-government, the key to American democracy.”

“I’m speechless,” Wagner said. “There are so many people throughout the state that have done so much for their cities. I sincerely appreciate being selected among my fellow city officials to receive this award. Thank you!”

Among her many contributions, Wagner oversaw implementing many city projects, including a new water treatment facility and a Polk County Fire and Rescue substation.

Wagner served as mayor of Lake Hamilton for 13 years and now serves as Vice Mayor.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.

One comment

  • Harold Finch

    September 3, 2021 at 8:06 am

    The Leauge of Cities is so ineffective and has basically no influence in the Legislative process. It is primarily a Democratic orginzation that leadership in both Houses could care less about.
    Just look at their track record over the last 15 years!!

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