Todd Weaver has had plenty of interesting jobs over the years. He designed the tornado for the old Twister attraction at Universal Studios. He was a rocket engineer. He helped design the V-22 Osprey — a military aircraft used by the U.S. Marines. He was the aerodynamicist for a NASCAR team.
But Weaver hopes his knack for solving problems and creative thinking earns him a new task: leading Winter Park as a City Commissioner.
The Winter Park engineer and inventor has thrown his hat in the ring for Winter Park City Commission Seat 4. The seat currently is occupied by City Commissioner Pete Weldon, whose term ends March 2019. Weldon has not announced whether he is running for re-election.
“I’ve watched the city government change over the last 10 years,” Weaver said. “We’ve allowed out-of-scale development, and we’re not dealing with infrastructure or traffic issues as we should ahead of those developments.
“Citizens are complaining and want to see better planning by the Commission,” he said. “They direct our city staff, so it’s ultimately their responsibly. I don’t believe some on the Commission currently are forward-looking. We have electric cars that are gong to be the dominant mode of transportation soon. Bicycling is difficult on a lot of our major roads — we need to plan for the connectivity of bike paths and pedestrian walkways that we have. They’re incomplete.”
One of the biggest issues the new candidate wants to address is the influx of incompatible development.
“We want to leave a legacy — there are things that are unique and wonderful about Winter Park, and we don’t want to lose those,” Weaver said.“I understand that development or re-development will happen. We just have to prepare for it smartly.”
The new library and event center set for the northwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Park immediately comes to mind as a project that should have been planned more carefully, he said.
“I’m a little distraught that we’re looking to put another building in one of our major parks,” Weaver said. “I don’t know if people would have voted for that had they known that ahead of time. I did vote for it, and that would have been a deal-breaker for me. We have to cut down so many trees and the soil conditions aren’t optimal.”
That ties into another one of Weaver’s main passions: the environment and nature.
“Our open space and green space are getting fewer and thinner,” he said. “What makes Winter Park special is our green space. No one comes to look here at the concrete.
“I’ve learned that environmentalism is good for business,” Weaver said. “You can see on Park Avenue that if we didn’t have all the trees and green space, it wouldn’t be attractive.”
Weaver served as chair on a lakes advisory board for Orange County from 2002 to 2004 and on the Winter Park Lakes and Waterways Board from 2010 to 2016.
Weaver said he showed his commitment to the area’s natural landscape in 1999, when a combination of cold winters, a drought and an abundance of grass-eating carp ravaged Lake Bell.
“The shoreline receded, and all the aquatic plants were along the shoreline so they all died, and they had overstocked the grass-eating carp,” Weaver said. “They ended up wiping out the whole lake, and all the fertilizers from the streets were going into the lake still. The only thing left to use those nutrients was algae, so we had this nasty floating algae.”
From 1999 to 2001, Weaver enlisted about a dozen neighbors to help plant about 30,000 plants. Today that same lake is back to normal and now attracts wildlife of all kinds.
“I probably spent 1,500 hours over a period of a couple years out there at the lake, but the neighbors were really instrumental in getting the whole project done,” Weaver said.
Today, Weaver is president and CTO of TruGrit Traction, which produces polymer and carbide grit hybrid wheels for small robots that navigate through sewer lines and pipes to inspect for damages.
His background as an engineer allows him to look at projects differently, Weaver said.
“What I’m seeing from on the Commission — and I won’t mention any names — is they’re just not thinking about the whole big picture and the future,” he said. “They’re allowing development piecemeal without looking at the big picture. One project at a time is not the way to do it.”
Weaver plans to have a campaign kickoff party in early January at Mead Botanical Gardens.