The City of Wauchula is known as a vibrant, sustainable, safe economic driver in the region with high engagement with the community, citizens and City team. This vision statement has helped guide the community’s growth over the past decade.

When Terry Atchley was hired as City Manager in October 2011, he wanted to bring respect and appreciation back to city government and set a positive tone from the top down. Atchley restructured the administration to ensure there was a leadership team that could guide the City and its employees to a better future.

Atchley has worked alongside city leaders to strengthen interdepartmental relations, raise employee morale and encourage City leadership to engage the community. Today, the City’s leadership team is Atchley, Deputy City Manager Olivia Minshew, Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Sandee Braxton and Assistant City Manager/Police Chief John Eason.

City leaders have invested in human capital by adopting an official step plan, employee wellness and appreciation program and educational advancement opportunities. Since then, seven employees have graduated with postsecondary degrees, and 12 have received 72 advanced certifications in a specialized area.

To enable the employees to take ownership of the City’s development, City leadership developed a strategic plan based on five key result areas (KRAs) identified through a collective analysis. Representatives from the departments gathered to provide input on their vision. These teams meet quarterly to review their goals and objectives.

The City has seen a 100% increase in investment and improvements while decreasing debt service by 65% –without increasing the millage rate. Including supervisors and department heads in creating their department’s balanced budget ensures they understand the process.

The City has also implemented periodic rate studies to ensure the customer’s financial well-being is put first. Having third-party studies conducted on rates has made it possible to confirm how the City’s rates compare to surrounding areas. Wauchula’s finances have had significant changes. Operating revenues have increased 4%, capital has increased 131%, property values are up 42%, grants and appropriations have increased from $654,413 to $9.2 million, and the fund balance has gone from $17,823 to $1.4 million. At the same time, debt has decreased 65%, millage rates have decreased 2%, and transferring funds have decreased 12%.

Being in a better financial position has allowed the City to work on capital improvements. One improvement is a fleet replacement program ensuring all vehicles/equipment are appropriate for the job and efficient. The City has purchased 56 vehicles and 172 pieces of equipment.

The City has also improved the community’s parks. Crews Park has been the biggest park project, which included adding a playground, improving the parking lot and adding a sidewalk to encourage health and wellness. The City was also able to reconstruct the “A” side of the substation, replace the more than 50-year-old three-phase power transformer and a three-phase circuit switcher, and install a new supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system. These projects and others would not have been possible without the dedication of everyone involved.

By Katie Wheeler

Katie Wheeler is the Communications Coordinator for the City of Wauchula. The City of Wauchula, population 4,872, is located in Hardee County.