OKEECHOBEE — After the recent election of Mayor Dowling Watford, several citizens asked why the constituents do not have the opportunity to vote for the mayor. Prior to 1976, the citizens of Okeechobee City did elect the mayor, but in 1976, the city was canvassed to determine whether the charter should be amended allowing the city council to elect one of their own members to be president of the council and mayor. The council found that it was “necessary, desirable and in the best interest of the City of Okeechobee, Florida, and its inhabitants that the charter of the city of Okeechobee be amended to abolish the public election of the mayor, when the office is vacated because of death, removal, resignation or impeachment of the mayor.”
Following this, an election was held on Dec. 7, 1976, and the majority of voters approved a change from electing a mayor to appointing a mayor from among the council. The total number of votes cast was 489. This change took effect on Jan. 1, 1979.
Watford has just begun his second term as mayor but has served as city council member since 1987.
Prior to Watford, these men served Okeechobee City as mayor:
• James Kirk from Jan. 1991 - Jan. 2017
• Oakland Chapman from Jan. 1985 - Jan. 1991
• Edward Douglas from Jan. 1979 - Jan. 1985
• Audley Dunham from Nov. 1965 - Jan. 1979
• Donald Mack from Jan. 1961 - Oct. 1965
• Audley Dunham from Jan. 1957 - Jan. 1961
• H.H. Raulerson from Jan. 1941 - Jan. 1957
• William Hendry from Jan. 1937 - Jan. 1941
• H.H. Hancock from Nov. 1933 - Jan. 1937
• J.D. Bird from Jan. 1927 - Sept. 1933