ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — County commissioners will have the final say whether to rename Midway Road the Gary Morales Memorial Highway.
However, they won't be getting an official request for at least several weeks, said Jon Folbrecht, the Martin County sheriff's deputy who started the online petition that has garnered thousands of signatures to rename the county road in honor of slain sheriff's Sgt. Gary Morales.
"The family really needs their time to finish mourning, and so does (we) as a community," said Folbecht on Tuesday. "It's hard for us, especially in the law enforcement community."
A couple of county commissioners who attended Morales' funeral Monday, including Chairman Tod Mowery, agreed it's too soon to decide whether to support the renaming. Commissioner Frannie Hutchinson wants to see the request details before making a decision. Commissioner Paula Lewis couldn't be reached Tuesday.
Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky, who also attended the funeral, said naming a road after Morales is a good idea, but whether he supports it depends on how it would affect the businesses along Midway Road that would have to change their addresses.
"I wish it was easy, but it's a much bigger picture here than we're all aware," Dzadovsky said.
Commissioner Kim Johnson, who too went to the funeral, said he could support renaming Midway Road if it's the consensus of the community because Morales' two young daughters would remember him every time someone mentions the road.
"Their dad won't be forgotten," said Johnson, who noted Midway Road is the dividing line between Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie. "What a great place to drive and every time you ride by to think about his service, commitment and love for the county on both sides."
Usually when the county gets a request to rename a road, it notifies nearby property owners about the potential change to get their input before commissioners vote whether to approve it, said County Attorney Dan McIntyre. No petition signatures are required, he said.
Still, commissioners have the ability to rename roads without asking for input, McIntyre said.
When Folbrecht created the petition Saturday, he wanted to rename Oleander Avenue because it's a highly traveled road near the area where Morales was shot fatally last Thursday. Shayna Morales, a sister-in-law of the slain Morales, asked via the petition's Facebook page Sunday if the road could be changed to Midway Road because it's where the Sheriff's Office is located.
The petition had more than 10,000 signatures from across the world as of Tuesday evening — and the number continues to grow.
"It's something that the community obviously wants and the family is supportive of," Folbrecht said.
Folbrecht, who also is a former St. Lucie County sheriff's Explorer, didn't change his plans for the petition after Sheriff Ken Mascara announced during his eulogy the Sheriff's Office Training Complex would be named after Morales.
"That kind of gives them their own thing," Folbrecht said. "Renaming Midway Road gives the rest of the community their thing as well."
Commissioners had a moment of silence at their Tuesday night meeting after sheriff's Chief Deputy Garry Wilson thanked the county and the community for the "tremendous outpouring of support."
"Gary was a tremendous deputy," Wilson said, "and he'll be sorely missed."