Local News

MLK name change for DeLaney, Main out; suggestions for other roads sought

AVON PARK - After a packed council chambers watched, listened and commented, and city council members attentively addressed concerns, the street names of a former mayor and Main Street remained intact.

In front of an audience of about 115 Monday, the Avon Park City Council ruled out the options of renaming South Lake Avenue and Hal McCrae Boulevard or South Delaney Avenue and Main Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

After spirited-but-cordial discussion on five options for renaming a street after the slain civil rights leader and a vote to rename from the intersection of south Lake Avenue and Hal McRae Boulevard to Tulane Drive, south Verona Avenue, up to Main Street, onto Tulane up to Lake Avenue was voted down 3-2. Council members Brenda Giles - who amended the option and made the motion - and Terry Heston voted in favor and Parke Sutherland, Garret Anderson and Mayor Sharon Schuler voted against, citing the desire to have more input from Highlands County before making a final decision.

Option Two, renaming south Delaney Avenue and Main Street south to Ernest E. Sims Street, was dropped from consideration after hearing testimony from DeLaney's descendants and after hearing Option Two would be the only acceptable option to the majority of the vocal contingency attending the meeting.

Eddie DeLaney, Mayor DeLaney's grandson, reminded council that streets are originally named for someone who was noteworthy for the good he or she did in life. He told the council his grandfather Mayor Edgar A. DeLaney Jr., who served as Avon Park mayor from 1943 to 1947 and again during the years of civil unrest, from 1953 to 1967 - served for 28 years, which showed the respect he had for everyone, regardless of racial or economic background.

"If you want to honor somebody, don't dishonor somebody to do that. I don't think it would be a good thing to change the name. They put it there ... so it would go on forever," he said.

"DeLaney will not be changed at any time and Main Street will remain Main Street," said Maria Sutherland, Avon Park director of administrative services. She told residents to bring other suggestions to the city manager's office.

Southside resident Marie Davis stood up and told the council to remember the time DeLaney served when racial segregation was the norm.

"MLK would be great in our community because it runs through the black business district. If you don't know where you came from, you don't have any clue where you're going. I have nothing against Mr. DeLaney, but who was he mayor for? Not for everyone," she said.

A motion for a vote on Option Two never materialized, leaving Option Three, changing the name of Memorial Boulevard from Main Street to Corneell in honor of King; Option Four, from south Lake Boulevard to Hal McRae and eventually ending at Memorial Avenue; and a new, fifth option conceived by City Manager Julian DeLeon that renames Tulane Drive up to the intersection of DeLaney Avenue and Hal McRae Boulevard, up for future discussion.

DeLeon said the city would continue to seek input from residents and business owners regarding other street possibilities and the issue wasn't over based on future suggestions and recommendations,

"The objective remains to find a street or street segment which can be named after King," he said.

In addition to the street renaming issue, the city council also continued to vote on city growth. Council unanimously approved another 90 homes to the city limits, including a professional plaza and adult care facility. In just under two months, the city's population has grown by about 1,000 residents and 600 homes.


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