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West Orange voters hit the polls

Seats for mayor, three commissioners and (in Ocoee) 13 charter amendments were on the ballot.  


DJ Culberson
Winter Garden District 2 candidate DJ Culberson said he didn't think he'd win but he wouldn't be "humiliated" either. His message of "inclusivity" lands with voters, particularly those with kids.


While the Republican Primary was already a foregone conclusion, West Orange voters headed to the polls on an unseasonably cold Tuesday to choose two new Winter Garden city commissioners, a commissioner to fill out the last year of the District 4 term in Ocoee and the first new mayor the town of Oakland has had in close to 30 years. 


Residents in Ocoee were also voting on 13 city charter amendments that are meant to fix some language for greater clarity and shore up the city’s election rules after last year's mayoral race revealed some vulnerabilities. While only District 4 voters were voting for commissioner, the ballot amendments were voted on city-wide. 


Early in the morning, former Ocoee Commissioner George Oliver III, who was staked out at the Jim Beech Recreation Center, told VoxPopuli he felt good about the way the election was going. If things go his way today, he may reclaim the seat that he vacated to run for mayor last year. Early voting was strong, he said, and that is indicative of the kind of turnout there will be on Election Day.


Ocoee

Adam Lovejoy, a member of the Charter Review Commission, which drafted the 13 charter amendments, stood just to the right of the main drive into the Jim Beech Recreation Center with a hand-written sign, Ask me about charter amendments.


He said that some voters believed there was an agenda behind Ocoee’s proposed charter amendments. He told VoxPopuli it can seem a little biased because you’re trying to bring about change, but there was no agenda behind the amendments. 




“I’m not gonna lose any sleep if these don’t pass,” Lovejoy said. He’s seen charters “go off the rails” when too many power-hungry people are involved. In the case of Ocoee, he said it was a matter of “balancing everything against neighboring communities.”


Alfred Peoples told VoxPopuli he supports a few of the charter amendments, specifically Ballot Question 6, which “proposes a more efficient approach for filling vacancies in the offices of Mayor or City Commissioner,” according to the charter amendment explainer Lovejoy handed out to voters. Considering that change was a main factor pushing Peoples to the polls, expediting change in unfilled offices was a no-brainer. 


Peoples said Christian candidates who act in concert with those values was important to him and that he liked Oliver as a candidate. “George Oliver III seems down to Earth,” Peoples said. He also believes the former commissioner possesses what it takes to do the job.


Nate Robertson (right): "People are ready for something different."

Waving signs at the entrance to the Jim Beech Recreation Center, District 4 candidate Nate Robertson was feeling confident. “I think that we've done everything we probably could have done to prepare for this election and to make sure that people had the information they needed to make a decision.” 


He told VoxPopuli that he has broad support across party (and non-party) lines. “Democrats, NPAs, Republicans have all indicated that they were supporting me and that they were giving me their vote. I think what we’re seeing is a lot of people have felt like they’ve had a lot of the same for a while and they’re ready for something different.” 



Oakland 


Kelly Taylor, who's married to candidate Shane Taylor, started the day feeling positive that the campaign's messages were resonating with voters.

Around 7:30 a.m. at Oakland Presbyterian Church where Oaklanders have long voted, Shane Taylor’s wife Kelly said she thought their campaign messaging had landed with voters, she told VoxPopuli. She thought perhaps they might pull it off.


VoxPopuli spoke with a few voters Tuesday morning who said they voted for Taylor because they liked his “fresh” ideas.


That’s what prompted Eddie, who said he “works in logistics software,” and did not want to share his last name, to bubble-in his ballot for Taylor. 


“His messaging seemed fresh and different than the typical messages that are out there,” he said. 

 

Across the grass where Commissioner Sal Ramos and supporters were holding Sal for Mayor signs and waving at cars that turned into the church driveway, Ramos declined to offer a comment about how he thought the day might go. 


“I’m really busy,” he said, holding up his sign. 


Winter Garden 

In Winter Garden’s District 3, campaign volunteers and candidates alike took to the sidewalks outside of Calvary Baptist Church on Dillard Street to keep their messages top of mind as residents headed in to the building to vote. 


Cindy Hoback and Terri Falbo, supporters of candidate Karen Mcneil, said they look for candidates who truly want to work for all of the people in the community. Hoback, who is involved with Circles Ministry, a national organization working to support families in poverty, said Mcneil’s genuine nature, advocacy and work with Circles in East Winter Garden makes her the best candidate for the city commission. Mcneil “cares about the people who need the most,” Falbo said.


“A lot of people say they won’t vote,” Falbo said when describing the door-to-door canvassing process she went through with Mcneil. “But Karen is personable,” she added with a wink, saying Mcneil can move the needle and encourage residents to be more civically engaged. 



Chloe Johnson
"Its time for her to move up," said outgoing District 3 Commissioner Mark Maciel of Chloe Johnson, campaigning outside of Calvary Baptist Church on Dillard Street in Winter Garden.

Outgoing District 3 Commissioner Mark Maciel, stationed at Faith Family Community Church on Beulah Road, across from West Orange High School, backed Johnson, saying she has done a lot for the community. He pointed to her time on the Winter Garden Planning and Zoning Board and Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board. “It’s time for Chloe to move up,” Maciel said.


Chris Marzak, a passionate District 3 voter, told VoxPopuli he has voted in every election since he turned 18. “Voting is what we're supposed to do,” he said. For Marzak, voting means making his voice heard — something he’d like to see more people doing. 


District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller says hi to Missy, outside Tanner Hall in Winter Garden.

Over at Tanner Hall, Danny “DJ” Culberson, candidate for the District 2 seat on the commission, was out with his husband Bradley Loomis and their three children. “I don’t expect to win, but I don’t expect to get humiliated, so we’ll see how this goes,” he said laughing. 


Stacy, a nurse who did not want to give her last name, told VoxPopuli she voted for Culberson because she found his message of inclusivity appealing.   


“That’s important. If you start trying to put too many rules on what other people believe and how they go about their lives, I think you're  limiting yourself and you're closing yourself off to some wonderful possibilities,” she said. “I think that everybody should be treated lovely, and I don't think that that's necessarily been the past history.”


George Spigener cast his vote for Iliana R. Jones because he liked her story. “I liked her plainspokenness, I liked her humility,” he said. He was so taken with her, he even put a sign in his yard, something he said he has never done for another candidate. 


“I had a sense she would do a good job representing our small town.”






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