A longtime Winter Park City Commissioner is looking to continue preserving the character and feel of the city for one final term.
City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper announced recently her campaign for re-election to Seat 3. She hopes to continue her leadership in Winter Park until she terms out in March 2022.
Cooper believes she is the best person for the job, and that’s a major part of what made her consider running once more, she said.
“I make a difference — that really is why,” Cooper said. “I have the skill set, and I’m really blessed to have that skill set. People trust me, and I’m really, really good at recognizing future risk.”
The commissioner first was elected in March 2010 and said she has prided herself on protecting what makes Winter Park special ever since. That often comes down to managing policy decisions to prevent future entitlements to developers, which helps to keep the scale of future development under control, she said. When a development or policy issues draws controversy, Cooper said she does her research and sees it through to the end — always keeping the best interests of residents in mind.
“I don’t consider that an insult when someone says, ‘Get out of the weeds,’” Cooper said. “Here’s the deal: Snakes are in the weeds, and if you don’t figure that out and draw a fence around that risk....”
Cooper said the strong attention to detail she brings to the commission comes from her years working for Lockheed Martin as the director of contracts, for which she negotiated half-billion-dollar deals and worked as one of only two women in the corporation who weren’t secretaries.
Under Cooper’s watch, Winter Park has made great improvements to city corridors such as Fairbanks Avenue, which has received new connections for sewer lines, street lighting and currently is undergoing the undergrounding process with its power lines to open up the skyline. The city has built a strong reserve fund and also held the line on the millage rate during Cooper’s almost nine years on the commission.
Last year, Winter Park acquired 55 acres of wetlands off Howell Branch Road, which will give residents a place to kayak and connect with nature.
Cooper said she has a lot to be proud of regarding her accomplishments for the city, but added she takes the most satisfaction in the trust she has built with residents. The passion for doing right by the city may stem from her family’s military background.
“My father was a soldier, and he taught me and instilled in me this fearless commitment to home and family,” Cooper said. “That probably is what drives me a lot to protect the quality of life here.”
If elected, Cooper will be entering her fourth term, reaching the limit of service one can have as a commissioner. There still is work that needs to be done, such as acquiring the post office property that sits near Central Park, she said.
“I really want us to keep city land (as city land) in the core of the city and expand and enhance that green space,” Cooper said. “For me, that’s critical.”
There also is the issue of Winter Park’s new library and event center, but when Cooper hears about the anticipated project, her mind goes back to the city-owned property where the current library stands — and what will become of it, she said.
“I want the city to continue to own and use the existing library property,” Cooper said. “For me, that’s the big picture.”
When all is said and done, Cooper wants to leave a legacy as a protector of Winter Park and the quality of life its residents enjoy, she said.
“If on my tombstone it says, ‘Champion of the city’s character,’ I will have done what I came to do,” Cooper said.