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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Mar. 10, 2017 2 weeks ago

Meet the candidates for Winter Garden's district 1 commission seat

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Three female candidates are running against incumbent Kent Makin in the March 14 election for the District 1 commission seat. If any of them are elected, it will be first time the city has had a woman in the W.G. City Commission since 2005.
by: Gabby Baquero Staff Writer

Lisa Bennett

Age:  53
Occupation:  Real Estate Broker, Co-Broker/Owner  Windsor Realty Group, Inc.
Relevant Experience:  Architectural Review Historic Preservation Board City of Winter Garden, p ast president of Rotary Club of Winter Garden, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Hope Charter School, past experience on several non-profit and charitable boards

1. Please explain your reasons for running for commissioner. 
I felt we needed better communication between our City and our residents and business owners.

Lisa Bennett

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest needs for District 1, specifically? Why? 
In my opinion, I believe the current biggest need for District 1 is to have a commissioner who is available and present.  Someone who is willing to communicate with all parties.  Someone who will listen to the constituents and present their concerns to the City and in turn share with constituents the reasoning behind any City matter to hopefully facilitate meaningful dialogue and respectful resolution to any issues.

3.  What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the city of Winter Garden, and how do you plan to address them? 
I believe the biggest challenge facing our city is smart, economical growth. Winter Garden has seen an amazing amount of growth in the last 5+ years. My hope would be to bring to the table communication between the community and the city so that we can continue on the path of inevitable growth while still protecting our charm and preserving our unique History.

4. What are your thoughts about Winter Garden’s track record regarding land use, and how can the city more effectively balance quality of life, environmental considerations, and development?
I believe balance is key for our continued prosperity. I think the City and Staff have done some things well, Winter Garden is a very desirable place to live, work and play. I'd like to see protection of our Historic District and the remaining contributing properties, for the residents to feel educated  and involved in proposals for our District.  I'd like to see an independent citizen/resident advisory panel/Board to evaluate issues that are in the public interest. It is my desire to see Winter Garden continue to grow into the house hold name it is becoming while still maintaining the charm we have due to our city's rich history. 

5. What city projects do you think should be prioritized? Why?
I believe any project that betters the quality of life for the residents should be prioritized. Whether that be access to top quality health care, new recreational facilities, upgraded infrastructure or updates for our emergency services departments, I believe that should be where our priorities, as a community, be placed. After that, any projects brought to the city that are well thought out and that support conscientious development and preservation of our Historic Downtown should be looked at.  

Lillie V. Brandon


Age: 80

Occupation: Retired educator from Orange County Public Schools Relevant Experience: Currently the Founder/Principal of Saint Lillie V. High School and Pastor of God’s Miracle House of Prayer Church located in Winter Garden, FL. I am proud to be the first African American to open a private accredited high school in Orange County, graduating thousands since 1987. 


Lillie V. Brandon

1. Please explain your reasons for running for commissioner.
Throughout my life, it has been important for me to make a difference in the world and one way that I have done that is as an educator – one student at a time.  Now I want to extend myself as a change agent for the community. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that everyone can’t be famous, but everyone can be great because to be great is to serve. I have served in the community as a pastor, a public school teacher and founder and principal of a private high school.  Service is what I do and who I am. I would like to continue to serve the community as the Commissioner of District 1. The City of Winter Garden is a community of all nationalities and religions. I believe that the city’s officers should reflect that diversity as well. 


2. In your opinion, what are the biggest needs for District 1, specifically? Why?
We would like to have proper lighting for our streets. Although the city is growing and expanding, it has rural areas that are adjacent to our communities and proper lighting will make our streets safe from possible criminals and animals. 
We need to make downtown comfortable for all residents of Winter Garden, therefore organizing more cultural events. This will help bring our community together.


3.  What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the city of Winter Garden, and how do you plan to address them?
I believe one of the challenges that we face is the lack of mutual respect of our police officers and our young citizens of Winter Garden. I think we need to have more community activities that involve the police and the community to show that they are here to protect us and are concerned for the safety of all in the community. 


5. What city projects do you think should be prioritized? Why?
Keeping our water clean and safe to drink is definitely appreciated but I would like to see the city concentrate on lowering the cost of water.  Having lower water bills will help homeowners with the cost of watering their lawn, thus keeping our community beautiful.  
Taxes are always a concern for citizens, so keeping taxes low, and lowering them when and where appropriate is also very important.


Kent Wesley Makin

Age: 44
Occupation: Construction Manager and Realtor

Relevant Experience: Served two terms as Winter Garden commissioner

Kent Wesley Makin

1. Please explain your reasons for running for commissioner.
The Community and families of Winter Garden and West Orange County have always been important to me. When first elected six years ago, I wanted to make a difference in the future smart growth of the city while keeping a continuity and balance with in the community. The multiple projects the Commission has approved have been that of smart planning and growth – as well as the projects that are now in the pipeline. (The projects) will be an asset for the community and families for the future of Winter Garden. Continuing to follow through with service to Winter Garden is the reason why I am running for re-election. 

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest needs for District 1, specifically? Why?
First, ensure infrastructure keeps pace with development. For instance, we are adding a traffic light at Plant and Hennis Road, a right turn lane on Plant Street for the right turn onto E. Crown Point Road, and a traffic light at Fullers Cross Road and East Plant Street. We also have to review all our existing road systems to ensure that traffic signs and signals are deployed correctly to balance the need for pedestrian safety with getting cars safely to their destination. Finally, we need to design and build the permanent fire station on Hennis Road.


3.  What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the city of Winter Garden, and how do you plan to address them?
We need to improve our road systems. However, public safety is the number one concern.  It is imperative we build the fire station on Marsh Road.  The growth in the Southwest has placed a strain on our existing stations.  We also have to find creative ways to hire and retain police officers.  Agencies across the region are all struggling to fill positions making it difficult to keep officers on the streets and provide traffic enforcement details.  Finally, we need to improve and increase our parks and recreation programs.  We currently have a shortage of soccer and baseball fields.

4. What are your thoughts about Winter Garden’s track record regarding land use, and how can the city more effectively balance quality of life, environmental considerations, and development?
Overall, we have been successful.  This is evident by the fact that year-after-year Winter Garden consistently has the largest increase in property values. A prime example is the corner of Dillard and State Road 50 where Wawa and new businesses replaced an old gas station and dilapidated motel. We have to continue to minimize negative impacts to the environment and continually improve the quality of life, especially adding green space such as the 200-acre Tucker Ranch nature park set to open next year.  We need to continually review our planning and zoning regulations to ensure we are getting the highest and best from our development.

5. What city projects do you think should be prioritized? Why?
The first priority is public safety. This includes building and staffing the fire station on Marsh Road, adding more police officers and increasing office space for the police department.  Second, is upgrading transportation systems, such as the improvements discussed in District 1, repaving Stoneybrook Parkway, intersection improvements at Avalon and Plant Street, and improvements to County Road 535 under the 429 adjacent to Fowlers mall. Third, increasing and improving our parks, especially working with the state on the $5 million cleanup of Lake Apopka adjacent to Newton Park. Finally, this all needs to be done responsibly so we maintain our position as one of the most financially stable communities in the State.

Wendy Byrd Jung

Age: 60
Occupation: Accountant
Relevant Experience: Businesswoman, community leader and citizens advocate

Wendy Byrd Jung

1. Please explain your reasons for running for commissioner.
Time for a new perspective on the board.

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest needs for District 1, specifically? Why?

  • Monitoring quality and responsible growth, dealing with traffic solutions as the City continues to grow. 
  • Providing better signage for the area.
  • Continue to support the Lake Apopka restoration.
  • Keeping our Fire Department and Police Department funded and aided to handle the growth.
  • Most importantly, keeping my community safe and informed.

3. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the City of Winter Garden, and how do you plan to address them?

  • Maintaining the strength of our city as it continues to grow is most important. I think we should keep that ‘small town’ appeal. Being diligent and an active voice as new programs are brought to Winter Garden.
  • Traffic, roads and signage. Work with the longterm effect of the growth of the area to be sure that the roads can support the traffic patterns as they change.

4. What are your thoughts about Winter Garden’s track record regarding land use, and how can the city more effectively balance quality of life, environmental considerations and development?

  • The Lake Apopka Restoration program is a must.
  • The West Orange Trail is a great part of our district. As the community expands, creating safe links from the trail to our community parks (that are) available for all citizens.
  • The development of East Plant Street and partnering with the City of Ocoee is vital to our community. Making sure the overlay compliments the growth while maintaining character and charm of our city.

5. What city projects do you think should be prioritized? Why?

  • Safety! Funding our Police Department and Fire Department as the need continues to grow.
  • Downtown parking. Even with the addition of the garage, there is still a need for additional parking. As the city continues to sponsor community events, they draw more visitors and the need for additional parking. 
  • Roads and traffic patterns to support the growth today and in the future.
  • –––––

Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]

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