Leesburg selects 30-year veteran as new police chief

LEESBURG—Joe Iozzi, a 30-year veteran of Leesburg Police Department has been named as the city’s new top cop.

Iozzi replaces Rob Hicks, who was promoted earlier this month to deputy city manager. Iozzi began his career at LPD in 1994 and has served as bureau commander for Uniformed Services and Special Services and Investigations. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College and has completed the FBI National Academy, the Southern Police Institute Administrative Officers Course at the University of Louisville and Florida Police Chiefs Association’s “Future Chiefs” seminar.

Iozzi has been a command officer for a decade, supervising and managing personnel matters, department planning, training, policy creation, budgeting, and general department-related functions. Iozzi also served as LPD’s public information officer, working directly with the media.

“His belief in community-oriented policing has successfully developed cohesive relationships with citizens, business owners, elected officials, and community stakeholders throughout his career. He has a diverse understanding of policing concepts critical to all community-driven objectives. Chief Iozzi welcomes the opportunity to lead the men and women of the Leesburg Police Department as Chief of Police, and his nearly three decades of living and working in Leesburg make him a uniquely qualified leader for the position,” the City of Leesburg stated in a social media post.

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National Safe Boating Week kicks off Saturday

LITTLE LAKE HARRIS, Fla.—The unofficial start to summer is upon us and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding boaters to stay safe during National Safe Boating Week that begins Saturday.

Inside Lake had the opportunity to speak with FWC’s Kristen Turner and Chad Weber, along with Hunter Bland of the National Safe Boating Council Friday about staying safe on the waterways. Florida is the “Boating Capital of the World,” with more than 1 million vessels registered in the state, according to FWC.

Florida does have some requirements for boating but common sense and taking simple precautions can prevent a tragedy. A boating safety course is required for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1988; classes are available in classroom setting and also online, FWC-approved courses can be found here.

All vessels are required to have personal flotation device (PFD) for each person onboard and FWC encourages everyone to wear it at all times. In an emergency situation, people often won’t have time to put on a PFD. This reporter and Inside Lake Photographer Bonnie Whicher were required to wear a PFD during a ride-along Friday. The weather cut the ride-along short, but Weber used that opportunity to educate the Inside Lake staff on how to handle changing weather conditions.

FWC Officer Chad Weber PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

“You need to know where you are at. (Bad weather) is one of the hidden dangers (people) overlook,” Weber said. “The best thing to do is get out of the water.”

Bland said often homeowners will let a vessel stay at their dock to ride out a storm and he’s even known people to invite boaters in their home to ride it out.

“There are good people out there,” Bland said.

Filing a “float plan can also save your life, Turner told Inside Lake. Though not required, a float plan is letting someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. The United States Coast Guard provides a fillable PDF float plan and suggests you provide it to a reliable person, along with a photo of the vessel. While the information would be extremely helpful in an emergency, Bland stressed that something as simple as a text message letting someone know your plans, would suffice.

FWC Northeast Region Public Information Director Kristen Turner PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Weber also suggested other things to have onboard, such as rain jackets, a cooler with water and a first aid kit; tools and extra fuses can also come in handy, Bland added.

For more boating information from FWC, visit https://myfwc.com/boating/

National Safe Boating Council Program Director Hunter Bland PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

National Safe Boating Week kicks off Saturday Read More »

Applications for Leesburg’s Summer Youth Employment Program due Friday

LEESBURG—The City of Leesburg’s human resources department will be accepting applications until Friday for its Summer Youth Employment program. At City Hall, Third Floor, 501 West Meadow Street, Leesburg.

Lake County residents ages 15 to 18, who are currently enrolled in high school or a GED program or are a 2024 high school graduate are eligible to apply. The program runs June 10 to July 26 and the jobs pay $13 per hour. For information, call 352-787-9786 ext. 1200 or email [email protected]

Applications for Leesburg’s Summer Youth Employment Program due Friday Read More »

Lake County Schools high school graduations scheduled for this week and next week

LAKE COUNTY, Fla.—Caps will be flying through the air this week and next as Lake County Schools seniors say goodbye to high school and hello to adulthood. Graduations are scheduled to begin Tuesday with Tavares High School and will end with Lake County Virtual School next week. Schools are listed below in alphabetical order.

East Ridge High School—9 a.m. Wednesday at UCF/Addition Arena

Eustis High School—9 a.m. Saturday, at Eustis High School Panther Stadium

Lake County Virtual School—6 p.m. May 23, at Mount Dora High School Auditorium

Lake Hills School—occurred May 1 at Lake Hills Gymnasium

Lake Minneola High School—7 p.m. Friday at UCF/Addition Arena

Lake Success Academy—3:30 p.m. Friday at Lake Success Academy

Leesburg High School—8 a.m. Saturday at Leesburg High School Stadium

Mount Dora High School—8 p.m. Thursday at Mount Dora High School Stadium

South Lake High School—7:30 p.m. Wednesday at UCF/Addition Arena

Tavares High School—7:30 p.m., Tuesday UCF/Addition Arena

Umatilla High School—7 p.m. Friday Grafton Center Elks Club


Lake County Schools high school graduations scheduled for this week and next week Read More »

Pedestrian killed in Sumter crash Friday morning

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla.—A pedestrian was killed Friday morning after being struck by an SUV and a cement truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The pedestrian, who has not been identified, was attempting to walk across State Road 44, near County Road 229, shortly before 6 a.m. when he was struck by a Land Rover Range Rover being driven westbound by a 42-year-old Leesburg man. He was then struck a second time by a cement truck being driven by a 29-year-old man, also of Leesburg, FHP said. The pedestrian was pronounced deceased on the scene.

Pedestrian killed in Sumter crash Friday morning Read More »

5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue and Red Walk

Photos from the 5th Annual Back the Blue and Red Walk. Organizer Shannon Cook has been supporting law enforcement since 2019 with this walk. This year, firefighters were added to the event, and the name was changed. PHOTOS: Bonnie Whicher/Special to Inside Lake

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5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue (and Red) Walk scheduled for Saturday; Firefighters added this year

TAVARES, Florida—For the fifth year in a row, law enforcement and supporters will join forces for the annual Lake County Back the Blue Walk at Wooton Park Saturday morning, and this year firefighters will join the fun. 

Scheduled for 9 a.m., this is one of many law enforcement events around Lake County held in May during Law Enforcement Appreciation Month and this year, Organizer Shannon Cook wanted to add firefighters to the appreciation walk to coincide with the Lake County Board of County Commissioners proclaiming May 4 “International Firefighters’ Day” in Lake County, she told Inside Lake.

“I figured what better day to honor our heroes in red,” Cook said.

The walk began in 2019 to show support for law enforcement during a time when the “defund the police” movement was making its way across the country, Cook said, representatives from several law enforcement agencies and numerous public officials are expected to be in attendance.

“The good ones needed to know they were appreciated,” Cook said.

Ryan Koester, son of fallen Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester, left, and Deputy Koester’s brother Vic, right, at the 2023 Back the Blue Walk PHOTO: Shannon Cook

Cook’s close friend, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Wayne Koester, was killed in the line of duty Feb. 9, 2005. Koester, who was 33 at the time, and two other deputies were ambushed while responding to a domestic violence call. All three deputies were shot, and Koester succumbed to his injuries; the other two deputies recovered. Jason Wheeler was shot and paralyzed during his capture and convicted in Koester’s death. Cook was also close to Chris Daniels, who was serving as Lake County Sheriff when he was tragically killed in a charity bus race in 2006, on his birthday.

Participants will meet at 9 a.m. at Wooton Park, 100 East Ruby Street, Tavares. The first stop will be the Lake County Administration Building, then a stop at the Tavares Public Safety Complex and the walk will end at Kalua Beach Bar with lunch, provided by owner Randy Connor; come a little early to enjoy donuts and coffee donated by Greg Wilmore of New Life Baptist Church Leesburg. 


5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue (and Red) Walk scheduled for Saturday; Firefighters added this year Read More »

Leesburg police chief promoted to deputy city manager

LEESBURG—After more than three decades in law enforcement, Leesburg Police Chief Robert Hicks is putting away the badge and will begin serving as Leesburg’s deputy city manager next week.

Hicks has been with the City of Leesburg for 28 years and served as police chief for the last ten years. He is an Army combat veteran, has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from Warner University and Master of Business Administration from Columbia Southern University.

Leesburg Police Department Major Steve Rockefeller will serve as interim police chief while the city searches nationwide for a new chief. Multiple internal candidates are also being considered, the city said in a social media post.

Leesburg police chief promoted to deputy city manager Read More »

Tavares motorcyclist killed in Leesburg crash Saturday

LEESBURG, Fla.—A Tavares motorcyclist was killed Saturday afternoon after a car pulled out of a Leesburg gas station and collided with him on U.S. Highway 441, according to Leesburg Police Department Capt. Joe Iozzi.

William Clough, 65, was riding a 2015 Harley-Davidson southbound on U.S. Highway 441 near Tomato Hill Road when Bettyrose Knittle, 88, of Fruitland Park, pulled out of RaceTrac and struck Clough around 5 p.m., Iozzi said.

Clough was seriously injured and transported by ground to UF Health Leesburg Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries. Traffic was diverted around crash for approximately three hours, according to Iozzi.

LPD traffic homicide investigators are investigating the crash and are asking witnesses to contact them at 352-787-2121.

LPD also worked a crash earlier in the day that involved two motorcycles that crashed into each other while trying to avoid a vehicle on U.S. Highway 27 near the Hawthorne at Leesburg neighborhood.  Both riders were transported by air to local hospitals. The crash closed both the northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 27 for approximately 45 minutes, Iozzi said.

Tavares motorcyclist killed in Leesburg crash Saturday Read More »

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