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Ocoee goes to the polls

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Candidates and campaigns shared last minute thoughts before the votes got counted.

Marach 14 Ocoee Municipal Election
Campaign signs at the Plantation Grove Shopping Center, adjacent to Ocoee Fire Station 39, where District 3 residents voted during the city's March 14, 2023 municipal election. Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

“Steady” was the word Tuesday to describe the voting traffic in Ocoee as residents headed to the polls to elect a mayor and commissioners for Districts 1 and 3.

Ocoee City Clerk Melanie Sibbett said all three polling sites — Lakeshore Center, Jim Beech Recreation Center and Fire Station 39 — were “staying busy,” while the League of Women Voters’ Sue Gilman, who was overseeing the site at Fire Station 39 in District 3, described it as “steady traffic.”

Marilyn Johnson, Rusty Johnson's wife
"I'm not taking anything for granted," says Marilyn Johnson, manager for the mayor's re-election campaign. Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

At the Lakeshore Center, Marilyn Johnson, who is Mayor Rusty Johnson’s wife and manager for his re-election campaign, said she wasn’t "taking anything for granted.” The campaign had tents at every polling place with family and other volunteers waving signs and handing out coffee and snacks to voters.

Marilyn Johnson, who was managing the campaign tent at the Lakeshore Center where Districts 2 and 4 residents were just voting for mayor, said it’s especially important to vote in local elections because local leaders are the ones who help fix the roads and sidewalks, get the traffic lights installed, trim the trees and have the garbage picked up.

Chris Adkins
First time mayoral candidate, Chris Adkins: “I’ve always felt from the beginning that if I ran a clean race and just stayed focused on the ideas and policies that I’ll be happy with what the outcome is." Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

“I’m feeling great about today,” said Adkins, who rolled into downtown Ocoee in his golf cart, bedecked with a campaign sign and an American flag.

“I’ve always felt from the beginning that if I ran a clean race and just stayed focused on the ideas and policies that I’ll be happy with what the outcome is. I’ve done the best that I could do and I’m okay with all that. Along the way I’ve learned a lot and I’ve even reinforced the reason why I ran and I think there’s a lot of people out there that would like to see some change and something new.”

Over at the Jim Beech Recreation Center where District 1 residents were voting for commissioner and mayor, candidate Shuantae “Hope” Bellamy said he was feeling “hopeful.”

Wearing one of his “There is Hope in Ocoee” hoodies, Bellamy had just helped diffuse an intense situation between a belligerent motorist and volunteers from the Scott Kennedy and Johnson campaigns who had been holding signs by the road, according to video obtained by VoxPopuli. Kennedy, whose wife Mellita had been holding a sign for his campaign, told VoxPopuli the motorist had been yelling, calling the volunteers “whores” and “racists” for supporting Johnson’s campaign. One woman, who we're not identifying for safety reasons, told VoxPopuli the man had threatened to "F--- her up."

Hope Bellamy
District 1 Commissioner candidate Hope Bellamy says he may get more done for the community outside of government office. Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Kennedy was feeling equally “hopeful” about winning the commissioner’s seat once the polls closed at 7 p.m. “The feedback that we’re getting is tremendous,” he said. “People are referencing the platform that I ran on and they’re telling me that my number one issues are their number one issues so we’re really excited. We think we’re doing well.”

Scott Kennedy with wife Mellita
District 1 Commissioner candidate Scott Kennedy with his wife Mellita said that he's heard from voters that their "number one issues" are his "number one issues." Photo: Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Across town, District 3 Commissioner Richard Firstner was sitting with his wife Doris at the tip of the center median at the entrance to the Plantation Grove Shopping Center on Maguire Road. A few hundred yards away, Ocoee Fire Station 39 was turned into a polling location for the day.

“Turnout’s been good,” he said. “Light but steady all morning long. I’m pleased with the turnout.”

He said for state and federal elections the polling location is at The Pines in Windermere. “I think that’s an imposition for a lot of these people to go down there. It’s a lot easier to come right over here to the fire station. I’m glad they opened this up this time.”

“It feels like all our neighbors are coming through,” Doris said. “Oh hi! I walk with you! Oh hi! You’re the dog walker. I don’t know your name but I know you walk your dog. It’s been fun because it’s all been neighborhood people.”

Election Protection
Ellie and Cristal of the nonpartisan Election Protection 866-OUR-VOTE poll monitors were on hand at the Jim Beech Recreation Center to answer voters' questions during Ocoee's elections on March 14, 2023.



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