For now, mayor-elect in Lakeland lacks the support to get rid of city manager, chief of police

Howard Wiggs wants both leaders fired

LAKELAND, Fla. - Mayor-elect Howard Wiggs may have some work to do in convincing his colleagues to fire the city manager and police chief -- the issue that took center stage in the election.

Tuesday night, Wiggs received 52 percent of the vote, compared to 47 percent for the incumbent, Mayor Gow Fields.

One day after his big win, Wiggs stood by his position to get rid of Chief Lisa Womack and City Manager Doug Thomas.

"If our commission is not willing to make a decision on this, I will be extremely disappointed," he said.

In order to get rid of both leaders, Mayor-elect Wiggs needs the support of his colleagues.

The city manager works directly for the commission, not just the mayor. Wiggs will only represent one of seven votes.

"Unless there's a change of heart, I don't see the votes on the city commission right now to remove the chief of police or the city manager," said Commissioner Don Selvage.

So far, Selvage is the only commissioner who also wants the chief gone.

ABC Action News contacted all the commissioners today and found two -- Justin Troller and Keith Merritt -- who have not yet made up their minds on the chief.

The rest of the commission supports her in the wake of countless scandals that have rocked the department.

"I'm still trying to figure out if what we're seeing are the failures of the police chief," Merritt said.

Technically, the commission can not fire Chief Womack because she only works for the city manager, but since he's job is on the line he will likely listen to the commission's opinion.

"When you have half of your force, department, saying they can't work under the management style of this leader, than for the sake of the department we have no choice as a commission," Wiggs said.

The soon-to-be new mayor understands the support is lacking to remove Doug Thomas.

Wiggs said if he's going to stay on the job, than he would like to send him to a prestigious business school to improve his leadership skills.

In a statement, Thomas said, "I will continue to do everything I can to help them find a consensus for leading our city forward."

Since the beginning, he's never wavered with his belief in the chief.

"Thus far, he has been, as you know, unequivocal," Selvage said.

"I've asked him directly, and he has said this is the right chief."

That support could now change with a new mayor who is taking a firm stance against the chief.

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