Local News

Sebring mayor attends last council meeting; honored by colleagues

SEBRING - During the nearly 33 years that Sebring Mayor George Hensley has served as city councilman and mayor, he has sometimes found that people have misconceptions of the city and its government.

Years ago, he recalled, he read a letter to the editor from a man accusing city council members of "sitting on their duffs," and not doing anything for city residents, while collecting "fat paychecks."

When he called the man, he asked him how much he thought city council members earned.

The man replied,"Oh, about $65,000," Hensley recalled.

He told the man that city council members are paid a total of $301 a year.

"Then there was a pause on the phone."

The man then asked Hensley how he could live on that, Hensley added.

As of April 1, Hensley, who won his first city election in 1979, will become a resident who plans to continue his interest in city government, he said.

On Tuesday evening, Hensley, who has for more than a decade presented proclamations to people, was on the receiving end.

"I can't begin to tell you how what a huge asset this man is to the city," said Council President Andrew Fells, who also was attending his last council meeting, as was council member John Clark.

During his decades serving the city, Hensley said, one major issue involved the city providing electrical services to residents.

But when plans to sell excess energy from the city's electricity plans failed and rates went up, the city ended up selling its plants to Tampa Electric Co. As the selling price didn't pay the debt, for many years residents had what was called the "Sebring rider," on their bills, he said.

Despite that problem, he said, "overall the city has done well."

Another major event was the annexation push of a few years ago, Hensley said. That expanded the city beyond the downtown area and increased the tax base by adding businesses to the city tax rolls.

Working with the county on Sebring Parkway and providing services to the airport have also been important events, he said.

Sebring also has taken over utilities at some developments in the county, he said.

Hensley said he also takes pride in promoting civility at city meetings. Officials can disagree, but they have avoided the personal attacks that mar government in some other areas of the county, he said.

Improvements in the downtown area have been another area of accomplishment, he said.

Hensley said that accomplishments depend on hard work from many people in the city.

As mayor, Hensley doesn't have a vote, but he is often the city official that people ask to speak at meetings, attend ground-breakings and ribbon cuttings and to meet visitors.

"I like to say that the mayor is sort of the face of the city," he said.

And just because he's no longer mayor, Hensley said, he's not going to fade into oblivion.

"I ain't going anywhere," he said.


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