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Sebring City Council election March 14
  • Updated

SEBRING — Election Day is Tuesday, March 14 for Sebring registered voters who will cast their ballots with five candidates vying for three seats on the Sebring City Council.

The candidates are Tom Dettman, incumbent and council president; Lenard B. Carlisle Jr., incumbent; Josh Stewart, a lifelong Sebring resident and local business owner; Harrison Havery, a third generation downtown resident, and Bobbie Smith-Powell, community advocate.

Profiles and bios have been provided in today’s edition of the Highlands News-Sun.

The precincts that will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day are as follows:

• Precinct 7 & 11S – Sebring Elks Lodge, 2618 Kenilworth Blvd., Sebring.

• Precinct 8 & 15S – Sebring Recreation Club, 333 Pomegranate Ave., Sebring.

• Precinct 9 – Boys & Girls Club, 111 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Sebring.

• Precinct 10 – Sebring Masonic Lodge, 1809 Home Avenue, Sebring.

Sebring has 6,545 active eligible voters who could vote in the election.

Early voting starts Monday and is from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through March 10 at the Highlands County Supervisor of Elections Office, 580 S. Commerce, Ave., Sebring.

Mail-in ballots must be at the elections office before 7 p.m. on March 14. They can be dropped off in person or mailed.

The City Council terms of office are three years.

Harrison Havery ready to give back

SEBRING — Harrison Havery is one of five candidates vying for three seats on the Sebring City Council in the March 14 election.

Havery is a third generation downtown resident. His grandmother moved to Sebring and set her roots on South Commerce Avenue.

“That’s were my dad, Harry, was born and raised,” Havery said.

He attended South Florida State College and earned his bachelor’s degree in business supervision and management.

After college, he moved to Montana to do something completely different, he said. It turns out Montana is very cold, and that did not work out well for the Florida native.

“Coming back to Sebring after about two years in the cold, I realized how much I took Sebring for granted,” Havery said. “The community, the businesses, and the people are incredible. Coming back after gaining a new perspective made me realize that this is the place that I want to be.

“This is the community that I want to invest in and set roots in,” he said. “I believe that I can make a difference in the community now, and do not want to wait another 20-30 years before giving back and investing into the community.”

During high school, his first job was working for the Ostrowski family building chiropractic adjustment tables, Havery noted. They had a location in the industrial park near the racetrack, then they relocated to the industrial park downtown.

Then he took a part-time job at Wicks, Brown, Williams & Company during tax time.

“The partners and the team heavily invested into me, and eventually, the part-time time job turned into a full time position,” Havery said. “They helped me find my passion — bookkeeping and accounting. I would not be in the place I am today without them, and I will forever be grateful for the entire team.”

In 2019, he started Havery Services, LLC. In the beginning, the business was used for keeping track of income and expenses related to doing sound and lights for California Toe Jam (a local band his father started).

“Now we have a couple of excellent part-time staff, and we are working hard to help businesses with their bookkeeping.”

Havery said, “There are three things that I am working on now, during the campaign, and hopefully as a councilmember: supporting downtown growth, supporting businesses, and supporting local organizations that encourage positive growth.”

There are similarities in all three goals, and the common denominator is people, he said. “If we want to achieve these goals, we need to be intentional about growing relationships and caring for the community together. Not a single candidate has all the answers on their own, but we can get the best answers and solutions by working with individuals, businesses, and organizations.

“Sebring and Highlands County have invested into our family for many years, and I am very excited for a chance to give back as a member of the Sebring City Council,” Havery said in conclusion.

Homeless campsite removed from Sebring Parkway area

SEBRING — What appeared to be roadside trash free for picking along the Sebring Parkway on Friday was actually the belongings from a homeless campsite that had been removed from a nearby property.

It was hard enough for the people living on the street to deal with being evicted but to watch others from the public stop by in their cars to rummage through their belongings was even more difficult for them to swallow.

“What do they think they are doing,” said one 26-year-old transient man, who did not want to be identified, as he watched an older couple pull over on the side of the road, get out of their car and pick through their items.

The young man, who will be referred to as John, became agitated and angry as he tried to figure out why people would take their only possessions. “It’s not like we have much,” he said as he tinkered with a small car stereo in his hands.

John admitted that he had several mental health issues. “I am schizophrenic, bipolar and have high anxiety. I have multiple personalities, which makes it difficult to figure out what is real.”

John and his older friend, who will be referred to as Bill, stood by their belongings waiting for John’s girlfriend to return with a truck to help them load up their items. They were uncertain where they were going but Leslie Behm, director of Hope Haven Transitional Housing in Sebring, was notified of their situation.

“I have offered them a safe place where they can go,” Behm said. “I am full (referring to Hope Haven’s apartment units). But, Hope Haven is trying to get them into another place.”

Bill, who has epilepsy, said he had been residing at this campsite, just west of Home Avenue, for the past two years with no problems but apparently a neighbor complained. He said people come and go so it was undetermined how many lived there. Formerly from Tennessee where he drove a semi truck and even worked in a factory inspecting laminated products, he moved to Sebring in 1987 and had worked at Lykes Bros. in Lake Placid. It was not until a couple years ago when he got kicked out of a friend’s home that he became homeless.

John has been homeless since last September struggling with his mental illness.

“I hear voices. I have more audio than visual problems,” John said. “I really didn’t get diagnosed until three years ago.”

John lost his mother at age 3 due to an illness and shortly after her death his father committed suicide. He came to Florida to live with his grandfather and eventually became his grandfather’s caregiver until he passed away.

“I lost it after that,” John admitted. “I was very close to my grandfather.”

John said he is very mechanically inclined and worked at a pool company. He said he loves to work but finds it difficult to find an employer who understands his mental health issues.

Stressful times such as being evicted can be very uneasy for anyone, let alone someone with mental health issues. Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Scott Dressel cautioned the public about taking matters into their own hands, especially when individuals could have mental health or substance abuse issues. He advised property owners to contact the Sheriff’s Office to handle these type of situations to keep things calm.

The Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the scene when they were notified of people illegally dumping on the side of the road but soon realized it was a landowner who had evicted the individuals from his property.

“We try to be problem solvers,” Dressel said of the Sheriff’s Office. “We don’t search out the homeless campsites to disperse.”

As for John and Bill, they worked along with several other individuals from the campsite into the wee hours of the night picking up whatever items they could fit into a truck to relocate to a new place.

Tom Dettman plans for growth with 'hometown feel'

SEBRING — Council President Tom Dettman is hoping for another term on the council that oversees a place he loves. He is one of five candidates vying for three seats on the Sebring City Council in the March 14 election.

“The City of Sebring is very special to me and my family,” Dettman said.

Many know him as “Chief” Tom Dettman because of his nearly 19 years as city police chief.

He has served the past six years on the City Council.

“These are exciting times for our great city. We need to be prepared for future growth and yes, it is coming,” he said.

“Though growth is inevitable, we need to keep a watchful eye on preserving that ‘hometown feel’ that we all love and cherish. We need to keep up with maintaining and expanding our infrastructure, preserving our precious water and making good solid decisions on quality housing and commercial and business ventures,” he said.

He said he is “super excited” about the Harder Hall project. The “Pink Lady” is currently in the process of “rising again.”

Dettman said the City of Sebring has an amazing workforce that is focused and dedicated to maintaining and improving the services that the residents have come to appreciate. “We learned to ‘live within our means’ by keeping taxes low while continuing to provide a clean, safe and pleasant community to live, work and play.”

Dettman feels the state of the city is “solid.”

“We together, the citizens of Sebring, in concert with our elected and appointed officials, have a serious responsibility to always conduct ourselves in the best interest of our community.

“As your police chief and city councilman, I have and will continue to work with our city administration and department heads to deliver the best service possible, while maintaining the fiscal responsibility you have grown to know and expect.

“Over my 45-year career in law enforcement, as well as my six years as your city councilman, I have often said, ‘We are ordinary people with extraordinary responsibilities.’

“With that in mind, I promise I will never intentionally disappoint you. I will do my very best to fairly represent you in all my decision-making.”

Bobbie Smith-Powell ready to help shape Sebring

SEBRING — Bobbie Smith-Powell is among five candidates vying for three seats on the Sebring City Council in the March 14 election.

She said her upbringing on her family’s 116-acre farm in Georgia has equipped her with the skills and mindset to work hard as a member of Sebring’s city council.

Her post-secondary education, including a doctorate degree, placed her in employment positions where she utilized accounting and business management skills, strategic planning, shared decision-making techniques, legal research and meeting facilitation skills.

She said her experience as a business owner, a parent, a spouse, an educator, a social worker, a pastor, and a board member on numerous boards is proof that she is a “people person.”

“Through these lenses and experiences, I have grown in my desire to see that certain needs affecting our residents are met: living in safe neighborhoods; learning in safe schools; receiving timely emergency medical services; having revitalization plans for our city; recruiting, researching and developing for positive economic growth; transitioning our recreational complex into a multi-purpose recreational facility, addressing the lack of medical providers for our youth and providing services for our elders in the least restrictive environment,” she said.

In order to improve and maintain the quality of life for the city’s residents, she believes in continuous attention to the following:

• Neighborhood safety so that every neighborhood is a place where residents can live without fear of being harmed, especially when the neighborhood is the building block of the city.

• Free and appropriate public schools and safe schools where children are provided with a free and appropriate education in a safe school environment, especially when learning in fear would negatively affect them in acquiring that education.

• Healthcare and timely EMS services available for all residents, which includes Certified Emergency Response Teams. Since the city is growing daily and because minutes play a critical role in the outcome of health in emergencies this would be 20/20 foresight, proactive preparedness;

• Revitalization plans that would address the shortage of affordable and workforce housing in our city; wherein the plan includes rehabilitation and new growth in selected areas; this would provide our long-term residents with a better standard of living and available housing for the workforce being recruited to our city.

• Economic development where there are ideas and plans that allow recruitment of industries, new ventures and recovery research that will include a viable solution for our citrus industry.

• Recreation that includes developmental opportunities, including the transition of the Highlands County Sports Complex on Sheriff Tower Road into a multi-purpose recreation complex that includes outdoor and indoor activities for all ages, genders and abilities.

• Youth and elder care with recruitment of pediatric specialists and the opening of additional daytime sites for seniors that will include hot meals at the site and meal delivery for those unable to visit the location.

“In shared decision making, we should be shaping our city together, that’s why every vote that I cast, if elected, will give weight to the concerns and opinions received from those I will have been elected to represent and serve,” she said.

Powell-Smith has a well-known history of giving of her time, talents and resources to the City of Sebring and its residents. “I did not relocate to Sebring seeking a handout or expecting others to provide for me, I came as a compassionate giver and a qualified contributor.”

She said that falls within her strong belief in a quote from her favorite president, John F. Kennedy, as a child, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

“Therefore, I ask not what Sebring can do for me; but I ask, what I can do for the residents of Sebring,” she said.

Civilians flee embattled town as Ukrainian pullout looms

KHROMOVE, Ukraine (AP) — Pressure mounted Saturday on Ukrainian troops and civilians hunkering down in Bakhmut, as Kyiv’s forces tried to help residents flee the beleaguered eastern city amid what Western analysts say may be preparations for a Ukrainian withdrawal.

A woman was killed and two men were badly wounded by shelling while trying to cross a makeshift bridge out of Bakhmut on Saturday, according to Ukrainian troops who were assisting them. A Ukrainian army representative who asked not to be named for operational reasons told The Associated Press that it was now too dangerous for civilians to leave the city by vehicle, and that people had to flee on foot instead.

Bakhmut has for months been a key target of Moscow’s grinding eastern offensive, with Russian troops, including large forces from the private Wagner Group, inching ever closer to Kyiv’s key eastern stronghold.

An AP team near Bakhmut on Saturday saw a pontoon bridge set up by Ukrainian soldiers to help the city’s few remaining residents reach the nearby village of Khromove. Later, they saw at least five houses on fire as a result of attacks in Khromove.

Ukrainian units over the past 36 hours destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one linking it to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to U.K. military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

The U.K. defense ministry said in the latest of its regular Twitter updates that the destruction of the bridges came as Russian fighters made further inroads into Bakhmut’s northern suburbs, ratcheting up the pressure on its Ukrainian defenders.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, assessed late on Friday that Kyiv’s actions may point to a looming Ukrainian pullout from parts of the city. It said Ukrainian troops may “conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sections of eastern Bakhmut,” while seeking to inhibit Russian movement there and limit exit routes to the west.

Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks, but it might rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and allow the Kremlin’s forces to press toward other Ukrainian strongholds in the eastern Donetsk region.

As the fighting raged on, civilians remaining in the area spoke about their daily struggles amid near-constant enemy fire. Bakhmut resident Hennadiy Mazepa and his wife Natalia Ishkova both chose to remain in Bakhmut, even as fierce battles reduced much of the city to rubble. Speaking to the AP on Saturday, Ishkova said that they suffered from a lack of food and basic utilities.

“Humanitarian (aid) is given to us only once a month. There is no electricity, no water, no gas,” she said.

“I pray to God that all who remain here will survive,” Ishkova added.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s emergency services reported Saturday morning that the death toll from a Russian missile strike Thursday that hit a five-story apartment block in southern Ukraine has risen to 10.

The Main Directorate of Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said in an online statement that rescuers overnight had pulled three more bodies from the wreckage, some 36 hours after a Russian missile tore through four floors of the building in the riverside city of Zaporizhzhia. It said that a child was among those killed, and that the rescue effort was ongoing.

Russian shelling on Saturday also killed two residents of front-line communities in the surrounding Zaporizhzhia region, the local military administration reported in a Telegram post.

A 57-year old woman and 68-year-old man also died in Nikopol, a town further west that neighbors the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as Russian forces stationed there fired artillery shells and rockets at Ukrainian-held territory across the Dnieper river, regional Gov. Serhiy Lysak reported Saturday.

In the southern Kherson region, a Russian grenade slammed into a police van in the village of Antonivka, wounding four officers, the local police force reported on its Facebook page.

Josh Stewart wants Sebring to stay family-friendly

SEBRING — Josh Stewart is among five candidates vying for three seats on the Sebring City Council in the March 14 election.

Stewart is a lifelong Sebring resident, a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Building Construction, and a local business owner.

“I’m heavily involved with Rotary and am the current president of the Rotary Club of Sebring,” Stewart said. “Formerly, I also served three terms as treasurer. I’m a fiscal conservative and a very detail-oriented person with a focus on the future.

“I’m running for Sebring City Council, in short, because I love this wonderful town we call home. I grew up here, met my wife here, and am raising my children here. I want Sebring to continue being an excellent place to raise a family and to improve so that our children and their children after them have a bright future here.

“As parents and citizens of Sebring, I believe the best gift to give future generations is a city with a thriving economy, career opportunities, a safe and family-friendly environment, and a diverse, inclusive multi-cultural community.”

“These are the three foundational goals of my platform to keep Sebring a great place to live and to improve it:

“1. Fiscal conservatism

• Reducing budgetary waste and unnecessary spending.

• Lowering long-term costs and debts in ways that make sense and don’t reduce the quality of services.

• Keeping property taxes low and only increasing the millage rate as an absolute last resort.

• Creating a true budget surplus and growing the ‘rainy day fund’ to prepare for unforeseen expenses or economic downturns.

“2. Business friendly policies

• Supporting the continued revitalization of the Sebring downtown and restoring blighted and vacant buildings within the city to get these properties back on the tax rolls.

• Encouraging new business in the city with accommodative policies and/or incentives with an emphasis on job creation.

• Reviewing city ordinances for significant barriers for new businesses and pledging to not enact new ordinances that would discourage business investment in the city limits.

“3. Young family oriented

• Working to keep Sebring a great place to raise a family.

• As mentioned above, enticing new businesses to the city with a focus on creating career opportunities to support young families.

• Promoting the building of affordable housing.

• Preparing the city infrastructure to handle the continued growth of the city.

• Researching the kinds of amenities, services, and events that would attract young professionals and families to Sebring as opposed to other municipalities.

“I believe that Sebring is on the cusp of great opportunity. Florida is a state growing by leaps and bounds,” Stewart said. “As a result, Sebring will be the natural landing place for a lot of people who want to live in a vibrant and affordable community.”

He said it is important that the city make wise choices to steer the future in a positive direction.

“I love this city and I hope that you, the people of my hometown, will entrust me to represent you well on the City Council,” Stewart said.

Lenard Carlisle hopes to keep breathing life into Sebring

SEBRING — Sebring City Council incumbent Lenard B. Carlisle Jr. was born in 1949 in downtown Sebring.

He explained, “My mother’s family came to Sebring in the late ‘20s; not sure when my dad’s family moved here, but I think in the ‘30s.

“I have lived here all my life other than my time in the Army. I served my country with pride. I now want to keep serving my city because I love Sebring.”

Carlisle is seeking reelection, making him one of five candidates vying for three council seats in the March 14 election.

As a councilman, Carlise said, he has tried to help downtown grow.

“The first time I ran nine years ago, my number one project was to see Harder Hall back on the tax roles and see it become alive again,” he said. “I have other projects I want to see happen, like Lakeview Drive – see it fixed the right way. There are so many projects like this, but when they are done, then the people see we are doing our jobs.”

“I work for the people of Sebring,” Carlisle said. “My desire is to make Sebring a town they will be proud of.”

“I am the only one in my family that ever was anything like a councilman so I’m proud to be the first,” he said. “My mom’s dad was killed out at the airport in 1943 helping build what’s there today. He was pouring concrete. He had a wooden leg. He was a worker.

“I have history in this city and my desire is to see it back to being alive like it was when I was a kid,” Carlisle said, referring to people shopping or getting a nice dinner or just a nice walk window shopping.

Carlisle noted that he also served on the city’s code enforcement board for eight-and-a-half years.

“I do want to see the city take care of the waterfront and make it more enjoyable to go to,” he said. “I spent a lot of days down there as a kid swimming and playing with my friends.

“So, yes I am for Sebring. I am for the people, not to judge them or tell them how to live, but to make a city they are proud to live in. I want to be re-elected so I can carry on the work we have started to make Sebring alive again.”