- March 15, 2023
OCOEE The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Although Ocoee is beginning a period of many changes to its economic corridors, 5,119 of about 8,570 voters (59.73%) decided on March 15 to keep Mayor Rusty Johnson as the longest active occupant of an Ocoee City Commission seat, per unofficial Orange County Elections results.
“I'm going to strive to do what's right for the city like I always do,” Johnson said. “It's a partnership with us and the citizens, what I want it to be. It was a lot of hard work of people that was backing me, and it paid off.”
Johnson won the vote for mayor over Jim Sills, proprietor of DJ’s Auto Sales, for the second time in four months. Johnson received 1,270 votes to Sills’ 1,253 votes on Nov. 24 in a special run-off to replace longstanding mayor S. Scott Vandergrift, who had retired in July.
Johnson, 70, will begin his first three-year term as mayor. His first term as a commissioner began in 1986 in District 1; he relinquished that role in 1997 before becoming District 3 commissioner in 1999.
Members of the Ocoee City Commission were hoping the March 15 election would produce Ocoee’s first fully elected commission since Vandergrift’s retirement.
But just as with the three-way race Oct. 27, a distant third-place finisher took enough votes to force a run-off costing the city thousands of dollars — and it was the same man.
That man is Total Brick Pavers CEO Ronney Oliveira, who received 470 votes (21.62%) in this District 3 commissioner election.
Former Ocoee Fire Chief Richard Firstner amassed 827 votes (38.04%); entrepreneur Marc A. Price got 567 votes (26.08%). Because no candidate received a majority of votes, Price and Firstner will face off in a run-off April 12.
The turnout rate in precincts comprising District 3 was 41.35% in Ocoee, an improvement from its last commissioner election in 2010, when the turnout was 10.8% and then-District 3 Commissioner Johnson won reelection.
After Johnson had vacated the District 3 seat to run for mayor, the City Commission appointed Interim Commissioner Angel de la Portilla. De la Portilla occupied his commission seat for the last time March 15, in the commission’s special meeting to decide the fate of a Charter Schools USA proposal for District 1, where Commissioner John Grogan ran unopposed.
The winner was scheduled to formally swear in at the April 5 Ocoee City Commission meeting but instead will swear in at the April 19 meeting.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]