Alex Zimmer

A special election was held on Jan. 15 to fill the vacant City Commissioner seat left by Michael Dunn’s resignation in October of 2018. After a 45 day race, beginning on Dec. 1, 2018, Sara Roberts McCarley was elected to the position of Southwest District commissioner.

McCarley is a Florida Southern College alumna who, during her college career, was involved in Greek Life, Student Government and was a Residential Advisor. When she graduated with a degree in Mass Communications with a focus in Advertising and Public Relations, there were very few employment opportunities in that field. 

Her sorority advisor recommended she pursue nonprofit management and fundraising. She began working for Best Buddies International, an organization dedicated to creating social and employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Though originally a program for college students, McCarley helped establish a high school program within Best Buddies and was later promoted to State Director of Florida. She also founded the Randy Roberts Foundation in memory of her late husband. The foundation’s mission is to provide future leaders in Florida with service initiatives, civic engagement on the local, state, and federal levels and scholarships.

Through her nonprofit work, McCarley found herself increasingly involved in politics. 

“I would go back and forth to Tallahassee and learned about the governmental process and how it worked,” McCarley said when discussing the travels that came along with her position with Best Buddies International.

 “I was always interested in how the integration of pushing policy— writing policy— how it all integrated and benefited the greater good,” McCarley said.

When Michael Dunn’s seat on the City Commission was vacated, McCarley decided to run. She won by a landslide, receiving 74.20 percent of votes, according to the Polk County Supervisor of Elections. She was sworn in Jan. 22, 2019 and looks forward to working with her fellow commissioners to achieve long range comprehensive planning through proactive city management. 

Her biggest concern is ensuring the commission is making decisions that will be fruitful well into the future. 

“I want to have a hand in what the future looks like… What do we want Lakeland to look like in 2030,” McCarley said. 

Students and Lakelanders with comments, questions or concerns for the new City Commissioner can reach her at


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