SEBRING — When asked to give her feelings about Sebring, Peggy Stephenson said on Facebook that during the 50 years she’s lived here, the city changed a lot, “but (it) still has that small town feeling.”
That small town feeling is one reason why Cities Journal ranked Sebring as No. 3 of the top 16 small cities in Florida. Key West was ranked No. 1 and Bonita Springs was No. 2.
“While many would see it as a drawback, the long-time residents boast of the absence of any interstates or major highways,” the article states. “They like the fact this serves as something of a buffer against the tourists and development that have changed so much of the traditional Florida environment.”
Other factors resulting in Sebring having a high ranking included access to health care, a “quaint” downtown, festivals and the close proximity of Highlands Hammock State Park.
But, while some residents saw the slow growth of the city as a plus, at least one felt otherwise.
Kristi Innabnett commented on that article, saying: “Hmm... I live in Sebring. Crap shopping. Crap economy. Crap education. Crap employment. Crap culture (once you’ve been to the state park, there’s not much left to do.) Perfect for retirees. I suppose they don’t call Sebring “Heaven’s Waiting Room” for nothing.”
But Tracey L. Tait-Brown, who also commented on the article, called Sebring the “quintessential small town.” She added that “I love it, but its not for everyone.”
Casey Wohl, who promotes the city’s downtown area for the Community Redevelopment Agency, said anyone can focus on the negative.
“You can sit there and have a negative attitude about anything or you can think in a positive direction — and we have a lot of positives,” she said.
Wohl said she wasn’t familiar with Cities Journal and only learned of the ranking when she got a link from a friend.
“I was very excited,” she said.
Wohl said she believes the ranking will prompt people to visit Sebring and to possibly move to the city.
Sebring Mayor John Shoop had similar feelings.
“I think it’s pretty fantastic,” he said. “Actually, I think we should be number 1, but we’ll take number 3. It’s a great testament to our small town and all the great people in it.”
He said the quality of the lifestyle, the involvement of residents, friendliness, and cleanliness of the city contribute to why residents love Sebring.
City Administrator Scott Noethlich said the city’s positives include a historic downtown, a well-maintained downtown circle and the small-town atmosphere.
Another positive is the city is built around Lake Jackson, he said.
After Sebring on the list the cities, listed in order, are: Key Largo, Destin, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Marathon, Naples, Daytona Beach, The Villages, Safety Harbor, Vero Beach, Fort Myers and Dunedin.