Phillip Walker says he has 'no political plans' after losing in primary for District 50 seat

Phillip Walker
Phillip Walker

LAKELAND — After 13 years sitting on the city of Lakeland's commission, Phillip Walker's political future is uncertain after losing Florida House District 50's seat to Jennifer Canady in Tuesday's primary.

Walker, 68, said he has no plans at this time other than getting some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Related: Jennifer Canady tops Lakeland Commissioner Phillip Walker in Fla. House District 50 race

Filling the seat: Lakeland accepting applications for interim city commissioner until Aug. 26

"I'm taking it easy and relaxing after a year and a half of going at it full force," he said. "I'm trying to make sure I get some rest and clear my head as we move forward."

Walker submitted his letter of resignation to the city on May 27. Under state law, officials are required to resign from one position before declaring candidacy for another state office. Florida's laws also state the resignation cannot be revoked.

His last city commission meeting will be Oct. 17, with his last day in office Nov. 6.

Walker served on Lakeland City Commission for 13 years

Walker is currently Lakeland's longest-serving official, having been elected to the city commission by a special election in November 2009. He has been re-elected three times — in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

In November 2019, voters approved a referendum to make several changes to Lakeland's City Charter. Among them included tightening term limits on city commissioners from a maximum of four, four-year terms split between the positions of commissioner and mayor, down to three four-years terms in total, or a maximum of 12 years.

"I was quite surprised to see how that referendum got passed, it was a close vote," Walker said. "It's a loss of history and experience."

More election news: State Rep. Josie Tomkow easily defeats Bill Olson to win 3rd term in Florida House

Once he's gone, Commissioner Bill Read who is roughly halfway through his second term will become the city's longest serving elected official.

Charter change allows commissioners to appoint interim commissioner. Here's how to apply

In the past, Lakeland would be gearing up for a special election to elect a replacement for Walker. A city Charter change, approved by voters last year, allows commissioners to appoint an interim commissioner until the next municipal election in November 2023.

Those interested can go to the city's website at to fill out the Interim Candidate Contact form. The completed form must be submitted to City Clerk Kelly Koos via email at

To qualify, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • Lives in District A, the Northwest District, dating back to at least Nov. 7, 2021

  • Never been convicted of a felony

  • Be a registered Polk County voter

Interested parties who are confirmed to qualify must submit a completed Interim Candidate packet to the city clerk's office no later than Friday at noon. Each person must submit a resume, cover letter, voter ID card and proof of residency. Late applications will not be accepted.

Other results: Florida primary election 2022: See results from Polk County voting

Walked said he's talked to three or four individuals who have expressed interest in serving the remainder of his term and had some advice.

"You have to get know who the different community neighborhood groups, those citizens involved with different neighborhoods," he said. "Get them to share with you information and concerns relative to their perspective neighborhoods."

Walker said when he first took office some of the Northwest community groups were disjointed and not meeting on a regular basis. He said made a concerted effort to get these local groups working together, collaboratively, to improve quality-of-life issues.

In addition to meeting community leaders, Walker said those applying will have to quickly learn "the matrix of city government" and how it functions. He recommended the appointee consider taking the City Government 101 course offered for newly elected officials by Florida League of Cities.

Meanwhile: Rick Nolte ousts Sarah Fortney in Polk School Board race. Kay Fields retains seat

Walker is the former President of Florida League of Cities. He also recommended the interim commissioner become familiar with the city's state-level representatives and develop a relationship with them. Walker said the individual should remind them local decisions should be made at a local level, championing home rule.

Walker to Lakeland: Continue to work on inclusivity, accepting diversity

On an issue close to home, Walker encouraged the city to continue its work on inclusivity and accepting diversity.

"I think we’ve done a very good job in some respect with inclusivity, I think there’s still work to be done," he said.

The commissioner said inclusivity includes all tenants of a person's identity: race, culture, gender and background. Walker said he feels promoting a sense of inclusion will be critical to Lakeland's future growth and development.

"We have to make sure we have a community that’s welcoming to everyone," he said. "Not the select few." 

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl. 

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Phillip Walker walks away from politics for now after District 50 loss