Maitland’s mayoral race is boiling down to a battle of different backgrounds and philosophies between a former elected official and a long-time city volunteer.
Former mayor Doug Kinson wants his seat back at the dais, campaigning that his leadership experience heading the city from 2006 to 2011 gives him the skill needed to steer Maitland into a successful future. Twenty-year city volunteer Dale McDonald is looking to put his expertise learned from decades of serving the city on planning boards to use in the city’s top elected seat.
The two candidates faced off on Feb. 26 in Maitland City Hall for the first candidate debate of the election cycle, which comes to a close as citizens head to the polls next Tuesday, March 10. From differing ideas about downtown development and city management, Kinson and McDonald see the city’s future through slightly different lenses.
A development transforming Maitland’s dilapidated old Winn-Dixie property into a large mixed-used residential and retail development is already set to become a reality, having recently been given the green light by the current City Council. But McDonald said if he were at the helm, he would’ve voted the project down.
“I don’t believe that the plan was in line with the idea of a pedestrian-friendly downtown,” McDonald said. “… We want a downtown, but do we want it to be a place where people come to bring their kids after a soccer game for ice cream, or do we want multi-family buildings on top of multi-family buildings on top of each other?”
Kinson, on the other hand, said he supported the project, and is ready to take a look at the next area of focus for the city’s downtown. “I just want to see the city move forward,” he said.
The next step, Kinson said, is securing a structured parking garage downtown to fulfill the parking needs of the upwards-growing area. He said he supports the idea of building a parking garage on the city’s currently abandoned surface parking lot on the northeast corner of Horatio and Maitland avenues, providing that the necessary infrastructure comes along with it.
McDonald said he’s not opposed to parking garages in the downtown Maitland area, but hopes the city can explore as many options as possible to help the city best utilize its limited downtown land. McDonald said he supports the idea of adding an increased number of on-street parking spots to Independence Lane to help quell potential parking troubles, and possibly a reconfigured surface parking lot on the city’s now empty lot on Horatio Avenue.
Both candidates said they support the idea of maintaining Maitland’s Central Park as an important resource to build the downtown area around, only disagreeing on what to build up around it.
On the other side of the city, both candidates touched on their hopes for Maitland’s often overlooked west side.
“Those are people that are part of our community, just like the people on the east,” McDonald said. “…We need to pay a lot more attention over there. Downtown Maitland is only about 5 percent of the issues that we have.”
McDonald said the city needs to put increased focus on investing resources into Maitland Center, which he referred to as the city’s “golden goose.”
In order to keep corporate businesses in the city, the area needs to be a priority, he said. This, he mentioned, also includes reenergizing the campaign to get a park built on the west side.
Kinson, who said he helped complete a new master plan for Maitland Center when he was mayor, said the city needs to continue to plan ahead for the west side’s future. That includes, he said, improving communications with west side residents and business owners so they know what to expect as the Ultimate I-4 construction gets underway revamping the Maitland Boulevard interchange.
Communication with the public, along with fiscal responsibility, Kinson said, are two of the key touchstones of his campaign, adding that his prior experience as mayor would eliminate any learning curve and allow him to get straight to work moving the city forward.
McDonald said as mayor he’d use common sense, resident input, and careful planning to make Maitland a city that generations from now can be proud of. After nine years on the city’s Planning & Zoning Board, as well as another decade serving on various other city boards, McDonald said there’s little that goes on in the city that he doesn't already know about, making it easy for him to make the leap from volunteer to city official.
“We can do better than we’re doing … and leave Maitland better than we found it,” McDonald said.
The final candidate debate between Kinson and McDonald will be Thursday, March 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Maitland Civic Center.
Residents can cast their ballots early at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, located at 119 W. Kaley St. in Orlando, through March 6. On election day, Tuesday, March 10, polls will be open at Maitland City Hall and First Baptist Church of Maitland from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.