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Bartow citrus grower tapped for Hall of Fame

Bartow citrus grower tapped for Hall of Fame

BARTOW, FL -- Bill Becker of Bartow is one of four people tapped to be inducted into The Florida Citrus Hall of Fame this year.

According to the Hall of Fame, Becker is the President/Owner of Peace River Citrus Products, Inc. and was a member of the Florida Citrus Commission under  Democratic Governor Bob Graham, 1985-1988 and Republican Governor Bob Martinez, 1988-1991.

 He served as Chairman of the FCC for five terms, 1986-1991, during the worst set of freezes the industry had ever experienced. 

Becker is a Past President of both the Florida Citrus Processors' Assn. and the National Juice Products Assn., and is a past member of the Florida Citrus Production Managers Assn. 

Facebook campaign to rename school after fallen Marine

Facebook campaign to rename school after fallen Marine

Mulberry, Florida - Single dad Rob Clark is on a mission.

While driving down Bailey Road in Mulberry, the 29-year-old noticed a sign along a strawberry field marking the site of a new elementary school named after Dr. Gail F. McKinzie, Polk County's former school superintendent.

"I just felt it would be better for it to be named after a fallen soldier, a local hero in the Lakeland-Mulberry area who gave his life up for us. It would be better to see his name up there versus anybody else," says Clark.

Highway dedicated to woman killed in 2008 accident

Highway dedicated to woman killed in 2008 accident

BARTOW, Florida -- A section of U.S. Highway 27 was officially designated the Heather Hurd Memorial Highway during a special ceremony this morning.

The dedication was done as a cooperative effort between the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, the Polk County Transportation Planning Organization and the state Department of Transportation.

The formal dedication will consist of guest speakers from the county, a representative from state Sen. Paula Dockery's office, Heather's father, Russell Hurd, and others. Mr. Hurd was presented with a commemorative replica sign.

Polk County teachers awarded grants

Polk County teachers awarded grants

POLK COUNTY, Florida -- Twenty-one Polk County teachers and four private school teachers were among the 206 educators across the District's 16-county region awarded Splash! school grants on Dec. 20 through the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Mary Margaret Hull, lead communications coordinator, attributed the effectiveness of the grant program in Polk County to the strong partnership with Polk County Schools, which helped get the word out to teachers. Milton Huling, senior coordinator of secondary science for Polk County Schools, serves as the District’s liaison to teachers.

“These teachers are receiving a small amount of money but are able to accomplish so much,” Hull said in a statement. “Grant recipients also use the District’s collection of curriculum materials and other free educational resources.”

FBI: No foul play in Winter Haven woman's cruise ship death

FBI: No foul play in Winter Haven woman's cruise ship death

MIAMI (AP) -- The FBI says there was no foul play in the disappearance of a woman who fell from a cruise ship two years ago.

The agency recently wrapped up its investigation into what happened on Christmas night 2008 when 36-year-old Jennifer Ellis-Seitz of Winter Haven fell from a balcony of the Miami-based Norwegian Pearl.

Ellis-Seitz and her husband, Raymond Seitz, took the cruise to celebrate their first anniversary. Four days after Ellis-Seitz disappeared, her family issued a statement saying she had emotional troubles and likely chose to end her life.

Despite a search by the U.S. Coast Guard, the woman's body was never recovered.

 

Lakeland welcomes first female police chief

Lakeland welcomes first female police chief

Lakeland, FL -- City Manager Doug Thomas announced Thursday the appointment of Texas native, Lisa G. Womack, as the next Police Chief for the City of Lakeland following the recent retirement of Chief Roger Boatner.   

Thomas credited Womack’s impressive range of experience in various departments, including posts as Chief of Police in Sugarland, Texas, and Elgin, Ill., and her tenure and responsibilities with the Arlington, Texas, Police Department as the reason the Police Chief Selection Committee chose Womack. 

“Chief Womack has received outstanding references from both current and former employers, department personnel, and law enforcement colleagues," Thomas said in a statement.

Womack is currently serving as Assistant Chief of Police with the Arlington Police Department overseeing their Field Operations/Patrol Bureau.

Police: "Human remains" found in orange groves

Police: "Human remains" found in orange groves

Winter Haven, Florida -- Within hours of digging near the foot of several orange trees, Winter Haven police say they found a shallow grave containing two sets of human bones, one of an adult and one appearing to be of a child.

"It's going to take a forensic pathologist to examine the remains to give us some insight into gender, age, race," said Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester.

Still, given the remoteness of the location and the preciseness of the search area, it suggests a major break in the October 2009 disappearance of 29-year-old Ronkeya Holmes and her 3-year-old daughter Masaraha.

Police contacted family members earlier in the day to let them know what they had found.

"You know our heart goes out to them and at this point we can't confirm that it's their loved ones, but we highly suspect that," said Hester.