As we gear up for our 2019 legislative session, I want to welcome our new state legislators and welcome back those who are returning.

This is a critical time in Florida. Cities face many challenges and opportunities, including water supply and quality, short-term rentals, medical marijuana, affordable housing, sober homes and funding for school resource officers and transportation. There are many tough decisions to be made.

These issues are best addressed at the local level, where those who make the decisions have to live with the consequences. No one knows the needs of our communities better than those of us who are elected locally. We live in the neighborhoods. We drive on the roads. We send our children to local schools. We drink local water. We talk to our neighbors in our houses of worship, local stores, at sporting events and at organization meetings. We live locally, so we should make decisions that affect us locally.

We pledge to our state legislators that we will partner with you, be a resource for you and share what our neighbors need from you. It is our confident hope that our legislators will act in the best interest of our cities by not preempting the voices of our residents. We look forward to a productive session marked by building relationships, solving problems, and serving our constituents well.

Leo E. Longworth, mayor of Bartow and president of the Florida League of Cities