Winter Park residents can expect a heated election next March as at least two candidates hope to become the city’s new mayor.
Retired Florida Circuit Court Judge Cindy Mackinnon and Winter Park City Commissioner Steven Leary will go head-to-head for the seat held by Mayor Ken Bradley, who announced last month that he would not be seeking a third term.
Both would-be candidates have already designated treasurers for their campaigns, though official mayoral qualifying doesn’t start until Dec. 29, leaving plenty of time for other hopefuls to through their names into the race.
Mackinnon, a Winter Park resident for 46 years, hopes to bring stability and security to a city she believes is being eaten away at by encroaching development.
“I don’t want to let developers exploit the paradise that we have here,” Mackinnon said. “I want development that’s in keeping with the character of our town.”
“I’m running because I feel like we’ve reached a tipping point in our city. We’re in danger of becoming just like any other city in any state in America. We have something unique here, which we have to preserve.”
She added that development along Fairbanks Avenue and Lee Road should continue, but without encroaching on residential neighborhoods.
The city needs to take charge with its tree canopy as well, Mackinnon said.
“We need to have a very aggressive plan with good funding in our budget to preserve and replace our tree canopy when necessary,” she said.
Mackinnon said her time as both an attorney and a circuit court judge has given her a keen ability to listen and hear all sides of an issue.
She said it’ll be crucial to hear from residents and get behind their perspective, especially during the city’s visioning process that will help determine the future of Winter Park.
“My entire professional life as a judge has been directed toward listening respectfully and intently to all points of view and then making a decision that’s in the best interest of everybody,” Mackinnon said. “That’s my training to do that and that’s my temperament too – I want to hear from everybody.”
It all ties in to what Mackinnon believes is the most pressing issue facing the city: a lack of public trust in the local government.
“[Residents’] opinions matter,” Mackinnon said. “It’s important for them to come to meetings, express an opinion, be heard and be respected.”
“Confidence and participation is very important to me.”
Leary declined to comment on any policy issues within the city until closer to the March election.
The current city commissioner will be required to leave his seat prior to the election. Announced so far to be running for Leary’s soon-to-be-vacant seat on the City Commission is former Winter Park Mayor and Commissioner Gary Brewer, who has also already designated a treasurer to garner fundraising.
Brewer served in the same seat Leary holds today from 1982 up until 1993, when he was elected mayor and served for a single four-year term. He became the longest serving public official in the city’s history.
“I have no issue that’s motivating me to run, I just love the city of Winter Park and have always enjoyed community service,” Brewer said.
“I’ve always said that I wanted to go back to a political position at some point in time.”
The longtime Winter Park official said he offers a balanced point of views in regards to development controversy in the city, seeing things from both the developers’ and residents’ perspectives.
“I recognize the balance – you can’t overdevelop due to issues of traffic, and environment issues have to be considered,” he said. “It’s a delicate balance. I think I appeal to both sides of that issue.”
No one else has publicly announced their running for Leary’s Commission seat.