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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Mar. 1, 2018 1 year ago

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary gives State of the City Address

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Residents heard about everything happening in Winter Park at the annual luncheon.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

There’s plenty happening in Winter Park — and residents got to hear all about it.

Local leaders, businessmen and women, elected officials, city staff and residents of Winter Park gathered Friday, Feb. 23 at The Alfond Inn for the State of the City luncheon — a comprehensive update on what’s happening in the city.

Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary gave his annual address, touching on everything from the recent addition of park land off Howell Branch Road to the approval of a fiberoptic network to help implement an intelligent traffic light system.

“2017 was another great year in Winter Park,” Leary said. 

“This past year, we added 55 acres of park land to Winter Park with the acquisition of the Howell Branch Preserve. To give you a bit of a picture of how big that is, that’s bigger than the golf course and Central Park combined. I don’t know when the last time that has happened in the city.”

Leary also brought up the ongoing effort to underground the city’s power lines. Areas where the lines are above ground lost power due to the hurricane last year.

“After Hurricane Irma, your City Commission approved an additional $1 million to address issues that arose during the storm,” Leary said. “This year, we’ll have at least $4.5 million going toward electric undergrounding. … We have nine years left on our original 20-year program. We continue to review ways to responsibly expedite that time.”

The mayor also noted the groundbreaking for Project Wellness, the city’s successful community paramedicine program and a well-received Weekend of the Arts just the week before.

“This room is filled with individuals and organizations that make this community a very special place,” Leary said. “We as elected officials can not do this alone.”

And the award goes to …

The luncheon was also an opportunity to honor the city’s Employee of the Year, Firefighter of the Year and Officer of the Year. 

Winter Park gave the distinction of Employee of the Year to Field Supervisor George Richardson, of the Water and Wastewater Utilities Department. Richardson planned and directed the completion of water main replacement in conjunction with the I-4 Ultimate project, resulting in a savings of nearly $1.7 million by keeping major portions of the project in-house. His division completed the installation of the new wet well for the lift station on Lee Road as well, completing the project ahead of schedule and with an estimated $85,000 in cost savings. 

Richardson wasn’t present to accept the award, but Water and Wastewater Utilities Director David Zusi spoke of the employee’s hard work over the past year.

“I’m very, very proud that George was selected as employee of the year,” Zusi said. “Every manager of people has a handful of go-to people. George Richardson, who is a field supervisor for our water and wastewater construction services division, is one of my top go-to people.”

Engineer Eric Wheaton took home the Firefighter of the Year award for his leadership and the example he sets for others.

“Eric is what we refer to in the fire service as a ‘legacy’ — his father Wally Wheaton who is also with us here today, had worked for the department for over 30 years,” Deputy Fire Chief Pat McCabe said. “Since coming on with the city in July 2007, Eric has excelled in every aspect of his job. His care for the job is unmatched. He routinely leads training programs not only within our own agency, but serves as a well-respected instructor on the national stage.”

Police officer Ryan Wing of the patrol division was named as Officer of the Year at the luncheon.

“Officer Wing was nominated by his peers and his supervisor because he continually goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Police Chief Michael Deal said. “Whether he’s looking for criminal suspects, interacting with the public or coming up with new training ideas, Officer Wing’s level of service and commitment are exemplary.”

There was another noteworthy award presentation at the luncheon: The Mayor’s Founders Award, given to an individual, family or organization whose commitment, dedication and actions builds upon the founders’ vision for Winter Park. After being introduced at last year’s luncheon, the award was presented this year to former Winter Park Mayor Allen Trovillion, who oversaw the construction of city hall and many improvements to the west side of Winter Park.

“This years honoree moved a lot of earth and a lot of pipes,” Leary said. “They built a lot of roads and built a lot of buildings. Give it up for the 43rd mayor of Winter Park, Mr. Allen Trovillion.”

Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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