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Lakeland’s past, present compete to oversee its future

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Although only three candidates have thrown their hat into the ring for this year’s Lakeland mayoral race, all three bring a wealth of political experience familiar to Lakeland residents.

Scott Carmichael is the town’s current mayor. Jim Bomprezzi was once the town’s mayor and a former town commissioner. And Wyatt Bunker, a newcomer to Lakeland politics, is a sitting county commissioner and former Shelby County school board member.

The Bartlett Express sent each candidate the same form via a confirmed email address. The candidates were asked to provide their names, ages, seat sought, family information, occupational information, a short bio statement of no more than five sentences and a list of previous offices or community activities not already included in the bio.

They then were asked the same six questions: (1) Why are you seeking a seat on the Board of Commissioners, and what are your goals?; (2) What do you believe is the biggest issue facing Lakeland?; (3) What does Lakeland need to do to establish its identity separate from Memphis and develop its business district?; (4) How do you propose Lakeland will build and pay for its municipal school district?; (5) Do you think the current tax base is adequate? If not, what do you propose?; and (6) What sets you apart from your challengers?

Below are the responses from each candidate. All responses were formatted similarly for typesetting and edited lightly for spelling, grammar and newspaper style. Because the candidate’s answers were more lengthy than the newspaper could accommodate, some of the answers had to be cut significantly. The use of the ellipse (…) indicates significant deleted information.

Scott Carmichael (incumbent)

Age: 64

Family: Married 39 years; daughter, Jennifer; grandson, Kevin Scott Ward

Occupation: National Sales Manager at Data Capture Solutions

Bio: Graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy for 26 years. Currently a sales manager for a company providing maintenance for hand held bar-coding and wireless hand held computers and software integration, including data encryption security protocols. Holds a bachelor’s degree from United States Naval Academy and a master’s degree from University of Arkansas. Has held elected office in Lakeland since 1997, serving as a commissioner from 1997-2001, vice mayor from 1999-2001 and mayor since 2001.

Previous offices/community involvement: Lakeland Municipal Planning commission; Lakeland Design and Review Commission; Board of Zoning Appeals; Metropolitan Planning Organization.

1. Lakeland being the best that it can be is my vision and something I take great interest in and am passionate about … Specific goals include: Ensuring the Lakeland Municipal school system is successful; completing the I-40 interchange and Beverle Rivera Drive; continuing to do long and short term strategic planning; looking to building funding bases for the Lakeland Municipal school system with an eye on future police and fire services as needed; continuing to support … the economic growth of Lakeland; maintaining the current property tax rate; leading efforts in bringing new housing construction and development.

2. … Increasing retail development and revenues without losing the uniqueness of Lakeland. Our 12 year program providing an atmosphere that is conducive to maintaining our … natural resources while encouraging quality retail and residential development is a continuing challenge … A related challenge is providing for retail and residential development within our limited resources. The city has established a plan and schedule for financing infrastructure without becoming a burden to residents … .

3. Lakeland has maintained itself as an alternative for Memphis since it was established … . Lakeland provides a personalized community that Memphis cannot offer … Lakeland prides itself on responsiveness to residents in their concerns about quality and diversity of commercial development, protection from commercial intrusion and being environmentally responsible …

4. Lakeland provides double the forecasted funding needs for our school system. We committed all the additional half-penny sales tax to the system. As our property tax base and our sales tax base increases from … our economic development efforts, these funds are committed to our school system. …

5. The current tax base is adequate for our needs but must and will be increased. I propose to continue our economic development program and emphasize the need for responsible development. …

6. As the saying goes, I am a workhorse, not a show horse! Except for Lakeland commissioner, Lakeland mayor is the only elected position I have ever sought, unlike my challengers. As illustrated in the campaign, I tell it like it is, not what I think our residents want to hear. … I know of no higher honor than this service.

Jim Bomprezzi

Age: 74

Family: Wife, Barbara Bomprezzi, Wife; daughters, Connie McCarter and Debbie Carrigan; son Jim Bomprezzi Jr.

Occupation: Retired Memphis Police Lieutenant and Commander; Certified Real Estate Broker and Real Estate Instructor; former Lakeland mayor; former Lakeland commissioner.

Bio: I am a Christian and a Republican. Lakeland has been our home for 33 years. In 1986 I was selected Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for “Outstanding Dedication To Law Enforcement and the Community”. Being retired law Enforcement, I know how to keep Lakeland Safe.

Previous offices/community involvement: Founder, charter member and Board of Director of Lakeland Civic Club; helped to start the Lakeland Lions Club.

1. To make Lakeland a better more “affordable and family oriented” place to live, play and raise a family and to keep property values high. Goals include: Abolishing Lakeland’s Property Tax; aggressively develop and pursue economic development Opportunities;  … establishing and funding high quality/affordable Lakeland schools.

2. Lack of economic development and the municipal school system. The current mayor and BOC have not been business friendly therefore causing tremendous debt and property taxes. Lakeland has only one school and will eventually be required to build a middle school and a high school.

3. Abolish Lakeland’s real estate property tax. Be known as the “business friendly” city. Encourage new business, businesses harmonious with Lakeland’s character and small town values, businesses both large and small, to locate in Lakeland. Actively encourage a business friendly environment, assist and encourage business development and success, therefore bringing added sales tax revenue to Lakeland.

4. Residential Development! New Residential development will play a big part in building Lakeland Schools in the Bomprezzi administration. Require developers in all new residential developments to set aside a percentage of land to be deeded to the city as an area for a future school. Establish a “School Enterprise Fund.” Developers could pay money in lieu of land to the city to be set aside in a special “school enterprise fund” for future school construction. This will save the city millions … .

5. Lakeland property taxes should be abolished and economic development should be THE priority. Being a “No Property Tax City” will make economic development more desirable and enhance Lakeland property values.

6. I know Lakeland and I know the inner workings of Lakeland city government. As a life long fiscal conservative, I am well connected in local, county and state government. I have the road map and business plan to turn Lakeland around. As Lakeland’s former mayor, I was and still am known for being a full time mayor. And a business friendly mayor. … “Ill be on the job to do the job”. My opponents can’t say the same.

Wyatt Bunker

Age:  41

Family: Wife, Meredith; daughter, Breileigh; son Baylor

Occupation: Director of Security, Baptist Hospital Memphis

Bio: I’ve been a resident of Lakeland for 9 years. My education and professional experiences are in law enforcement with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, graduate of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Collierville Police Officer and Director of Security for Baptist Hospital Memphis.

Previous offices/community involvement: Shelby County Board of Education (2000-2006); Master Level School Board Member; National School Board Association “Outstanding Service Award”; PTA “Lifetime Membership Award.”; Shelby County Commissioner (2006-present).

1. I will work to establish a successful school system, move economic development forward and set better spending priorities at city hall.

2. Creating a successful municipal school system is the biggest issue. I’ve always been a supporter of education. As a Shelby County School Board member, I served as vice chairman of the board, achieved my master level school board designation, lifetime membership to the PTA and was one of nine board members (statewide) who received the “Outstanding Service Award” from the National School Boards Association.  Additionally, I have a 6 year old in first grade at Lakeland elementary and my 4 year old will begin kindergarten in 2014. …

3. Our current politicians have actively opposed economic development and are noted in the business community for their indecisiveness and unclear approval processes. This reputation has devastated Lakeland’s economy resulting in a larger property tax than necessary. …

4. Federal, state and local funding follows the child in Tennessee, so the burden of funding schools isn’t totally on Lakeland. But a cooperative agreement between Lakeland and Arlington is imperative to our success. Our cities need one another to provide sufficient operational funding and facilities for our students. …  We must also plan for future capital needs by establishing a “Pay as You Go” account. This will act as a savings account designed to reduce or eliminate the need to leverage our city when meeting capital needs. …  Failing to set aside capital funding will force us to issue excessive bond debt resulting in tax increases. …

5. The current tax base is sufficient for now, but we have to set better spending priorities while getting economic development moving forward to maintain lower tax rates.  

6. My experience as a member of the Shelby County Board of Education and County Commission has uniquely prepared me to address the challenges facing Lakeland over the next four years.

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