Mayor Watford named 2018 Home Rule Hero

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee City Council June 19 meeting Tuesday, kicked off with a surprise, last-second addition to the agenda. Mayor Dowling R. Watford Jr. was surprised he was named a 2018 Home Rule Hero by the Florida League of Cities for his work to protect the Home Rule powers of Florida’s cities during this year’s legislative session.

The Okeechobee City Council was presented with 25 “No Smoking/No Vaping” signs to be placed throughout the city designating smoke free facilities. The signs were presented by Courtney Moyett on behalf of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Okeechobee. Pictured (left to right) are Councilman Noel Chandler, Councilwoman Monica Clark, Courtney Moyett, Mayor Dowling R. Watford Jr. and Councilman Gary Ritter.

The Florida League of Cities recognized 89 city officials with the 2018 Home Rule Hero Award. Mayor Watford was presented the award from Treasure Coast League of Cities executive director Patricia Christensen.

“It’s one of those additions we didn’t want you to know about,” City Administrator Marcos Montes De Oca jokingly said to Mayor Watford, of the agenda add-on.

Home Rule is the ability for a city to address local problems through and by local decision makers with minimal state interference. The Home Rule Hero Award recipients are local government officials – both elected and nonelected – who consistently responded to the League’s request to reach out to members of the legislature and help give a local perspective to an issue.

“These dedicated municipal officials are some of the Florida League of Cities’ biggest advocates for municipal issues,” said Florida League of Cities president Gil Ziffer. “Their efforts during the 2018 legislative session were extraordinary. The League and its legislative team are proud to recognize and thank them for their service.”

Founded in 1922, the Florida League of Cities is the united voice for Florida’s municipal governments. Its goals are to promote local self-government and serve the needs of Florida’s cities. Florida’s cities are formed by their citizens and governed by their citizens.

The League is founded on the belief that local self-government is the keystone of American democracy. For more information, visit floridaleagueofcities.com.

In other business at the June 19 meeting, Ordinance No. 1169 was adopted by the council.

Per the ordinance the following persons are entitled to an exemption from a business tax and any fees: a Veteran of the United States Armed Forces who was honorably discharged upon separation from service, or the spouse or unremarried surviving spouse of such a Veteran; the spouse of an active duty military service member who has relocated to the county or municipality pursuant to a permanent change of station order; a person who is receiving public assistance as defined in Florida State Statute Section 409.2554; or a person whose household income is below 130 percent of the federal poverty level based on the current year’s federal poverty guidelines.

The ordinance also makes mention of acceptable forms of identification for an applicant seeking veterans exemption from the permit fees. The word “Veteran” must be exhibited on the identification card of a veteran. Acceptable forms of identification consist of: a DD Form 214, issued by the United States Department of Defense; Veteran health identification card, issued by the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs; Veteran identification card, issued by the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs pursuant to the Veterans Identification Card Act of 2015 or; other acceptable form specified by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

In business actions at the Tuesday meeting:

• The council was presented with “No Smoking” signs by Courtney Moyett from the Tobacco Free Partnership of Okeechobee. There were a total of 25 signs that will be placed throughout the city.

• The council also reviewed and approved the 2017 Fiscal Year Audited Financials that was presented and put together by Debbie A. Goode on behalf of Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC and by City of Okeechobee Finance Director India Riedel. During the discussion, the council was informed that the city’s total assets exceeded its liabilities at Sept. 30, 2017 by $18,166,670, the city’s total revenues were $6,172,735 for the year ended on Sept. 30, 2017, compared to total expenses of $6,537,295, which resulted in a $364,560 decrease in net position. Expenditures for the fiscal year 2018 adopted budget for all funds of the city total approximately $8,956,414, an increase of 1.2 percent or $112,078 from the prior year budget. The decrease in expenditures is based mostly on the decrease in capital expenditures.

Executive director of the Treasure Coast League of Cities, Patricia Christensen, presented City of Okeechobee Mayor Dowling R. Watford Jr. a 2018 Home Rule Hero Award on behalf of the Florida League of Cities at the Okeechobee City Council regular meeting Tuesday, June 19.

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