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Sal Ramos

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Candidate, Oakland Mayor

Public Service

Oakland Town Commissioner 2015-2024

Charter Review Committee 2013-2014


Vice President, Empire Finish Systems, Empire Development LLC


A.P. Leto High School 

Commissioner Sal Ramos, who’s held Oakland’s Seat 3 for nearly 10 years, is running for mayor against Shane Taylor, the Planning and Zoning Board chair. The election is March 19.

Mail-in ballots have begun arriving in some mailboxes. You can still request a vote-by-mail ballot until 5 p.m. March 7. Early voting begins March 4 and continues daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through March 17.

Ramos was appointed to the commission in 2015 after the death of Commissioner Willie Welch, and ran unopposed in 2016 to retain his seat. This is the commissioner’s first election in which he’s faced a challenger. If elected, Ramos will be Oakland’s first Hispanic mayor.

The mayor serves part-time for a four-year term and receives a monthly $50 stipend along with health insurance and the ability to opt into dental ($34.99) and vision ($6.55) coverage at the town employee rates.

Married with four children, Ramos is a deacon in his church, a member of MetroPlan Orlando’s Municipal Advisory Committee, an honorary member of the BoyScouts of America Central Florida Council, and a supporter of the Oakland Avenue Charter School. During the “mask wars” of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramos voted during a contentious commission meeting to require masks at the school to safeguard teacher and student health. He told VoxPopuli that he personally spent $1,700 to provide the school with masks and face shields.

In a Feb.15 Facebook story, Ramos described Florida as the “wild, wild west,” positioning himself as the right guy to become the New Sheriff In Town. 

“I feel like I’m the right fit as a mayor to sit there and finalize the last leg of our town when it comes to that development,” he said in the video, explaining that he knows the developers, the general contractors and the architects.

“They know me, which is more important … I know the good, the bad and the ugly. When they see me, they know not to come over here and mess with our town and try to pull the wool over our eyes. I will call ‘em out. I promise you.”

Ramos is a developer himself, and he's frequently sided with developers over citizen protests, which we'll get into lower down. Together with his siblings, Frank and Iliana R. Jones, who is running for District 2 Commissioner in Winter Garden, he owns Empire Developers, along with Empire Finish Systems, Empire Foam, Empire Management Properties, 3R Hold Co. and Instant Fuel in Tampa. Ramos’ LinkedIn lists him as the vice president of Empire Finish Systems.

Ramos' campaign slogan is Keep Oakland Quaint. “We need to push Mayberry for anyone who walks into town no matter what the category is,” he said during a 2022 commission meeting, referencing the fictional town from The Andy Griffith Show, which ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968.

According to his campaign website, Ramos prioritizes responsible budgeting, keeping taxes low and growing local businesses. In fact, his site describes Ramos as a “Businessman Who Leads and a Neighbor Who Cares" — language that strongly echoes his sister’s campaign site, which describes her as a “leader, business owner, caring neighbor.” Both sites were designed by Austin Arthur, who supports and is campaigning with them as he runs for District 1 County Commissioner. For a while, a rumor circulated that Arthur had married into the Ramos family. A meme even popped up in the We Are Oakland Facebook group poking fun at the idea.

Arthur told VoxPopuli that any relationship to Ramos is purely philosophical, though he added that he “probably aligns with both candidates on many issues.”

“[Ramos] knows how to navigate the waters between the residents, between potential developers, and between the staff,” he said in a phone interview. “We need somebody in that seat that is able to navigate those different stakeholders and really be able to talk to all of them and understand their desires, their aims and what would be in the best interest.”

Ramos made two commitments to meet with a VoxPopuli reporter to discuss his platform and ideas for the future of Oakland. He canceled both interviews — including when the reporter was scheduled to walk with him during the Oakland Heritage Day 5K. Instead, Ramos left a voicemail that said, “I just don’t want to do it.”

VoxPopuli attempted to find other ways to learn about Ramos’ platform — his website does not contain many details — but reporters have been turned away from “friend-raisers” that were promoted as “public” in We Are Oakland. Instead, reporter Andrea Charur combed through five years of town commission meeting minutes and Planning and Zoning Board meeting minutes to get a sense of where Ramos stands on key issues that face Oakland. Here’s what she found.

Johns Lake Outfall Canal

The commission initially voted to reroute the Johns Lake Outfall Canal because sand had piled up on the banks of two Oakland homes that fronted Lake Apopka. But not long after the $120,000 project was completed, the sand began accumulating again. Initially Ramos was in favor of getting “the engineering backing” before spending another $120,000 to dredge the canal again. Then he voted with the majority to spend $120,000 to clear the canal without hiring an engineer. The town eventually spent $20,000 to hire an engineer.


Oakland’s millage rate is 6.3 percent, and Ramos favors keeping taxes low. But he acknowledged in a 2022 commission meeting that the town currently does not have the balance of commercial and residential development to maintain the level of service the town's police and fire department provide — something Shane Taylor would agree with. Ramos cautioned that without more businesses to shoulder some of the tax burden, the tax rate could potentially rise to 10-, 12-, 15 percent, "Miami Beach level of taxes because we don't have a balance." 

Commercial development

Ramos favors development along Oakland Avenue to take advantage of the traffic coming into Oakland from both Winter Garden and Lake County. He wants new commercial and office buildings to adhere to a Mayberry-style aesthetic to "keep Oakland quaint." He said that he wants to see restaurants but that the town cannot wait to approve new business that will drive developers to invest in restaurants. In a January meeting, he said that limits on noise after 9 p.m. could be problematic for restaurants that open in new commercial buildings. 

Multifamily Developments

Ramos always comes back to the word "Mayberry" to describe his vision for Oakland — in one meeting he used "Mayberry" more than 20 times. He said the town commission has to "force Mayberry" on developers. Apartment complexes are no exception. He has said he favors horizontal development over multi-story apartment buildings, with two-story "townhome-looking“ apartments. "If someone comes to our town and asks for an apartment, it’s got to be a Mayberry apartment… everything has to have a Mayberry equals this no matter what you bring,” he said in 2022

And yet, in the tug-of-war between developers who seek to build high-density apartment buildings versus Oaklanders who want to keep them out of Oakland, Ramos has sided with developers. He was the only commissioner to vote in favor of apartment development in Deer Island after the move received backlash from residents, which included a petition with 300 signatures. The developers eventually backed out because of citizen opposition.

Correction: An earlier verison of this profile stated that Commissioner Ramos was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. That was incorrect. VoxPopuli regrets the error. 

— Andrea Charur
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