March 9 Municipal Elections: Voters turn out big to send incumbents back to office
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Political signs line the right-of-way near the Winter Garden Fire Station on Cypress St. where District 3 residents voted to re-elect Commission Mark Maciel to a third term today.
Voters decided to keep the officials they knew, easily reelecting incumbents in Tuesday's municipal elections held in Ocoee, Windermere and Winter Garden. The only newcomers elected were ones to open seats in two of the municipalities.
However, one thing did change: voter turnout increased dramatically over previous elections. There was a nearly 15 percent turnout across Ocoee’s two districts; 19.5 percent in Windermere; and just over 13 percent across the three districts voting in Winter Garden.
“We are definitely double [the turnout of] my last election, for sure, Commissioner Colin Sharman told us Tuesday. He won re-election in a landslide, garnering 72 percent of the vote in District 4. “I don’t know if it’s because more people have mail-in ballots or more people are engaged. I would say it’s probably a little bit of both. I want more participation, period. If you’ve been here one year or 100 years, I’m going to listen to your issue. I don’t care what party you’re with. We don’t have parties. We have people in Winter Garden.”
Here’s a rundown of how the races turned out in Ocoee, Windermere and Winter Garden:
Longtime Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen comfortably won a fifth term with 73.5 percent of the vote against longshot challenger Knox Anderson, a former state trooper now law student with aspirations of becoming a prosecutor. He received 26.48 percent of the vote.
Commissioner George Oliver III handily beat back three challengers with 56 percent of the vote in this eagerly watched race. Former Commissioner Joel Keller came in second with 25.6 percent of the vote, followed by Lori Hart with 15. 28 percent and Keith Richardson, who was a bit shy of 3 percent.
“I’m so proud of the citizens of Ocoee, District 4,” said Commissioner Oliver when reached by text after the election.
All told, 2,359 Ocoee residents participated in the election, many using mail-in ballots to vote — 1,282 mail-in ballots were cast between the two districts. Voters seemed to prefer Election Day voting more in District 4, with 668 people casting ballots today compared to 395 casting ballots today in District 2.
Four candidates were running for three open seats on Windermere’s Town Council. Incumbent Bill Martini took the lion’s share with nearly 32 percent of the vote, followed closely by Anthony Davit with 30.7 percent and Mandy David with 27.5 percent. Mike Hargreaves, who misrepresented himself as a former law enforcement officer (read VoxPopuli’s story), was defeated in his second run for town council. He came in last, pulling in just under 10 percent of the ballots.
Reached by text after the election, Councilman-elect Davit said, “Thank you to the residents of the Town of Windermere for the vote of confidence. I appreciate your support.”
"I'm excited and honored to be able to serve the Town of Windermere and work with a great group of colleagues," said Mandy David by email.
A total of 517 voters took part in the election, with 253 voting by mail, 2 voting early and 261 casting their ballots today.
In a battle for the open seat left by outgoing Commission Bob Buchanan, Ron Mueller won with more than 52 percent of the vote against Iliana Ramos Jones, who received 47 percent. Mueller brings a lot of experience to the position, having served on several city commission boards and committees, including the committee to rewrite Winter Garden’s constitution last year.
Reached by email for comment on his win, he sent this statement:
"I am humbled by tonight’s victory. To have more than 1,000 Winter Garden residents open their doors and share their stories regarding what makes Winter Garden great as well as what we can do to improve the lives of others is truly an experience that touches my heart. I went into the race knowing the many issues that face Winter Garden: over-development, crowding, traffic, but above all, losing the charm of Winter Garden.
"You ask me why all the communities around us want to be Winter Garden, but why is it that Winter Garden wants to be Winter Park? To that end, my answer it that we don’t, and we need to accept our place in the world, graciously appreciating all that we have and respecting the natural beauty that makes Winter Garden so very special.
"Beyond that, you shared many issues from different perspectives: social, economic, and race and the opportunities missed because of perspectives. To that I say, our boards and committees cannot exist without representation of all people. As the commissioner-elect to District 2, I pledge that I will nominate and support new people to our city committees that represent all interests, from every community, and will work with civic and spiritual leaders to continue to build a better Winter Garden that is represented by all the people. Our committees will look like the population of Winter Garden, representing every race, age, and demographic. We will not sell Winter Garden to the highest bidder because we will preserve what makes us special as a community."
No race was more eagerly anticipated in Winter Garden than this matchup between incumbent Commissioner Mark Maciel and former Commissioner Bobby “O” Olszewski. Olszewski had left his city commission seat to run for Orange County Commission, and lost. He then won a special election to the Florida Legislature to fill out a term for a retiring representative but lost in the general election.
Voters overwhelmingly went with Maciel who’d been working for District 3 for the last four years, giving him 61 percent of the vote to Olszewski’s 39 percent.
Commissioner Colin Sharman easily won his sixth election, receiving 72 percent of the vote against challenger Dawn Antonis who earned 27 percent.
In Winter Garden, a total of 3,265 voters turned out for the three district elections, with mail-in voting dwarfing early voting and Election Day voting in all three districts. In District 4, of the 1,238 ballots cast 880 were mail-in ballots. It was the same in District 2 where 790 of the 1,244 ballots were mailed in.