Observer Media Group partners to host Ocoee debate

Observer Media Group and the GFWC Woman’s Club of Ocoee will present candidates for mayor and District 3 commissioner Feb. 24.

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OCOEE The West Orange Times & Observer has partnered with the GFWC Woman’s Club of Ocoee to present candidates for Ocoee’s mayor and District 3 commission seat.

The Ocoee Political Forum will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Ocoee City Hall, 150 N. Lakeshore Drive. The forum is free and open to the public. It also will be broadcast on OGTV channel 493, the public-service channel of Bright House Networks.

Candidates for mayor include Rusty Johnson, was elected mayor in November 2015, and Jim Sills. Candidates for District 3 commissioner include Richard Firstner, Ronney Oliveira and Marc A. Price.

Following introductions, the candidates will answer questions crafted by the West Orange Times & Observer’s editorial staff, as well as those from Ocoee residents and readers of the West Orange Times & Observer. 

The goal is to give Ocoee residents an unbiased, honest introduction to each candidate, their backgrounds and platforms, said West Orange Times & Observer Publisher Dawn Willis. 

“We are excited to partner with the Woman’s Club to present this forum,” she said. “It will be a great way for all Ocoee residents to meet their candidates, learn about the issues and give them the knowledge they need to make an informed decision at the polls.”

University of Central Florida and Valencia College political science professor Mark Logas will serve as moderator. Logas earned an associate’s degree in 1983 from Lake-Sumter State College, a bachelor’s degree in 1985 from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in 1990 from UCF. 

Only 17 votes separated Johnson and Sills in the November special election held to replace longtime Mayor S. Scott Vandergrift, who retired in July 2015. 

Johnson, a longtime city commissioner, has been an Ocoee resident since 1955. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service and currently works at Gosselin Realty. 

Sills has lived in Ocoee since 1976. He is a current member of Planning & Zoning Commission and chairman of the Community Grant Review Board.

Firstner, a resident of Wesmere, served as Ocoee’s fire chief for 14 years before retiring in 2009. Price, an author, speaker and entrepreneur, has been an Ocoee resident for more than 13 years.

Oliveira, who also ran for the mayoral seat in November, will not be attending the forum, citing a pre-planned vacation. He works in the construction field and also serves as an assistant pastor at Fountain of Life Church.

Both seats will be decided at the election Tuesday, March 16.

Contact Michael Eng at [email protected].




Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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