WEST ORANGE — Four municipalities of West Orange County held votes Tuesday, March 10, with only one newly elected candidate among six seats for commissions and councils, according to Orange County Elections’ official results.
That candidate is Bob McKinley, who received 26.18% of votes among ballots cast for Windermere Town Council, finishing third to replace two-term incumbent Mike Pirozzolo, who amassed 15.07% of votes.
“I believe the voters were looking for limited growth, preservation of our unique natural setting and improvement in maintenance of our roads and walkways,” McKinley said.
Incumbents Jim O’Brien and Molly Rose retained their council seats, receiving 29.89% and 28.86% of votes, respectively. Rose will begin her fourth council term, whereas O’Brien will begin his third. The four candidates were up for three spots on the council. Orange County Elections listed vote totals as 234 for O’Brien, 226 for Rose, 205 for McKinley and 118 for Pirozzolo. Results showed 120 under votes, as well.
“I always try to analyze our elections, what were the issues, what drove people to the polls,” Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn said. “There was no burning issue. The one statistic that stands out to me were the under votes. … People decided to vote for one or two out of three. Think about that. You vote for the candidate you want and leave a vote empty for a candidate. That has a double effect. Not only does your candidate get the vote, but you don’t vote for an opposing candidate, and that is almost like two votes for your candidate. It can have a dramatic effect. And that may be what we saw in this election.”
Among 2,380 registered Windermere voters, 301 cast ballots, a turnout of 12.65%.
“I am always disappointed when everyone is not registered, and then, when everyone who is registered does not vote,” Bruhn said. “We have early voting, absentee voting and my favorite option, going to the polls. There is no excuse for not voting.”
Two Ocoee commissioners sought re-election and won new three-year terms: District 2 re-elected Rosemary Wilsen with 61.82% of votes, and District 4 re-elected Joel Keller with 52.2% of votes.
“I have found that an engaged community starts with an informed community,” Wilsen said. “I will continue to be the voice for the people, be financially responsible, display common sense, get favorable results and stay within our city budget.”
Wilsen received 497 votes to challenger Mike Hopper’s 307, a total of 804 votes among 5,951 registered voters in District 2, equaling 13.51% turnout.
“The percentage should be higher, (because) voting in free elections is an important right that should be exercised by all concerned citizens,” Wilsen said. “City elections are very important, because who are you going to call when you want a pothole fixed or the person who oversees where tax dollars go?”
Keller received 237 votes versus 217 for George Oliver III, a sum of 454 ballots among 8,076 registered voters for a 5.62% District 4 turnout, which Keller said was about average.
“To me, this is because the election is held in March instead of November,” Keller said.
Although Oliver received 161 votes to Keller’s 153, 83 absentee votes made the difference for Keller, because just 52 absentee votes were for Oliver.
For this commission, advancing economic development with commercial business and progress around downtown Ocoee and State Road 429 will be key, Keller said.
Colin Sharman retained Winter Garden City Commission Seat 4, obtaining 70% of votes against David Kassander. Kassander received just 107 votes to Sharman’s 253.
“The following are what we’re going to accomplish: adjust the current exit from State Road 429 onto Stoneybrook Parkway to better improve the flow of traffic flow; create another fire station to meet the needs of our growing city; expand downtown to include parking for residents and guests; partner with the Solar Bears corporate headquarters to enhance our community including practice rinks; keep taxes low and continually look for ways to improve city services,” Sharman said.
With 360 ballots cast among 6,931 registered voters, the turnout for this election was 5.19%.
Citizens of Oakland received ballots by mail to decide whether to alter the town’s 13-page charter, including aspects on law conformity, elections, town debt limits and defining the roles of the town’s police department. Among 1,701 registered voters, 196 Oakland residents cast ballots, 11.52%. The amendment passed with 174 (88.78%) votes in favor.
The Oakland Revision Committee met monthly for three years to review the charter and presented necessary changes at the Sept. 23 Oakland Town Commission meeting, where commissioners approved changes before citizens’ votes made revisions official. Five Oakland residents comprised the committee: Mike Braden, Warren Griffin, Frank Merritt, Sal Ramos and Fred Shepherd. The charter will become effective at the commission’s March 24 meeting.
Amy Quesinberry Rhode also contributed to this report.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].