POINCIANA – With just a few weeks left until election day on Nov. 6, it’s probably safe to assume that a lot of Central Floridians are starting to feel burned out by the constant barrage of television and mail advertising from all the candidates and special interest groups – the price to be paid for living in a swing state heavily targeted by both major parties.
Wendy Farrell understands that sentiment, and knows that a lot of people are ready for the election season to be over – and maybe even feel a bit fed up with politicians overall.
At the same time, she’s asking the residents of Poinciana and neighboring communities to come by the Poinciana Community Center tonight for a quasi-political event – not one about campaign speeches, or negative attacks, or partisan divides.
Instead, she said, this will be a very upbeat event that aims to do something entirely different: honor a local politician who has, in the minds of so many community activists, done so much to benefit Poinciana in recent years.
“We felt Paula Dockery has been a champion of not only Florida, but of Poinciana as well, and has done so many things to benefit the community,” Farrell said. “We wanted to say thank you for all she’s done for us.”
Tonight at 6 p.m. at the Poinciana Community Center, area residents will have an opportunity to meet and greet state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who has represented Poinciana in the Florida Senate for the past decade. But it won’t be a partisan or campaign event, since Dockery is not running for re-election this year and is retiring from politics.
Farrell, a member of the board of directors of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance – a non-profit organization that promotes business and job growth in the community of 84,000 residents – said they wanted to show their appreciation for the critical role that Dockery has played in helping to steer major projects from the concept stage to a green light of approval.
“That’s all you ever want out of a politician, is for them to listen to you,” Farrell said.
It’s a way to show that one political leader can truly make a difference, said Keith Laytham, president of the civic group Poinciana Residents for Smart Change.
“Senator Paula Dockery, who has served the interests of Poinciana for many years, will be moving on after her current Senate term expires,” Laytham said. “Poinciana will be hosting a farewell event for her. This will be a ‘no charge’ event.”
As Farrell noted, Poinciana spent years lobbying for state approval of a hospital in the community. Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee had proposed building one here, but the application to the state got challenged by two other area hospitals, which claimed that constructing a new one in Poinciana would exacerbate an existing nursing shortage in the region. Twice, the state rejected the certificate of need that Osceola Regional had been requesting.
It was Dockery who aggressively – and successfully — lobbied the state to reverse that decision, Farrell said, and as a result, last February the community broke ground on the Poinciana Medical Center. It’s expected to be operating by next summer.
Dockery was also instrumental in backing the Poinciana Parkway, a new toll road that will be built by Osceola and Polk counties, designed to make it easier for residents to get in and out of Poinciana, Farrell noted. That project is likely to have its groundbreaking ceremony next month.
“She’s done a lot for us, and we just wanted to thank her,” Farrell said. “The hospital probably would have never taken place without Paula. There were times when people wanted to throw in the towel and she said ‘No, we need to fight on this, we need to keep fighting.’ “
In an age when Congress – and often political leaders in general – get low marks from the public, Farrell said Dockery’s record for the 10 villages in Poinciana that cut across Osceola and Polk counties demonstrate that one committed legislator can make a world of difference.
“When you get one that is good and will champion you, you should thank them for what they’ve done,” Farrell said.
The Farewell Event tonight will feature community residents talking about the impact Dockery made on the medical center, the toll road and other local projects.
“Each of those things is going to be covered by a speaker, and then we’re going to be presenting her with a plaque,” Farrell said. “It’s going to be awesome.”
Refreshments will also be served at the event.
Dockery first got involved in Republican politics in the late 1980s, when she married C.C. (Doc) Dockery, a Lakeland businessman and GOP fund-raiser, in November 1989. She was elected to three terms in the Florida House of Representatives starting in 1996, and won a seat in the Senate in 2002.
Dockery considered running for governor in 2012, but eventually dropped out of the race.
Term limits prevented Dockery from running for re-election this year.
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