There are a lot of facets that go into making a city, a city.
It requires constant evolution and upkeep, as well as short- and long-term planning.
In Winter Park, those tasks now are the responsibility of Bronce Stephenson, the city’s new director of planning and community development.
And although the Oklahoma native is new to the area, Winter Park already is beginning to feel like home.
“The adjustment has been really easy for our family,” Stephenson said. “We knew this place was a fit for us, and the last two weeks have really shown us that — we’ve just hit the ground running.”
Stephenson arrived to Winter Park Oct. 4 after a two-day long journey from Owasso, Oklahoma — which sits just outside of Tulsa.
Now some will ask, “How do you go from Oklahoma to Florida?” Well, the answer is pretty simple. Before having kids, the Stephensons took trips to the Keys whenever they could. They fell in love with the state.
But before he made his move official this month to take the Winter Park position, Stephenson worked his way through city government in both California and his native Oklahoma.
After graduating from San Diego State University in 2007, Stephenson started as an intern for the city of Del Mar in California before eventually taking over as the assistant planner.
“It’s just right on the coast, and it’s a beautiful place — got the opportunity to grow there and do a couple of different positions and really haven’t looked back ever since,” Stephenson said. “It’s funny, because in college, I didn’t know I wanted to be a city planner. But once I got the internship and started in the planning department, it’s really felt like the perfect mix of design, engineering and critical thinking and public involvement that I love.”
“It’s funny, because in college, I didn’t know I wanted to be a city planner. But once I got the internship and started in the planning department, it’s really felt like the perfect mix of design, engineering and critical thinking and public involvement that I love.”
— Bronce Stephenson
After two years in Del Mar, a planner job in Stillwater, Oklahoma, opened in 2009 — offering Stephenson his first chance at leading the way for a city.
There, he coordinated and oversaw all the city’s planning, which included zoning/subdivision administration and the development review process. Two years later, Stephenson made his way over to Owasso to serve as a city planner before moving into the role of director of community development — where he stayed for seven years before arriving to Winter Park.
“We were a fast-growing city where a lot of what I oversaw was the building department, code enforcement and planning,” Stephenson said. “But my passion has always been downtown, main street development and redevelopment.”
That love for helping to bolster downtown areas was one of several reasons why the opening in Winter Park was so appealing.
“I got to come out first for the interview, and I just sent pictures that didn’t do this place justice, and said, ‘I can’t even believe I’m being considered for a place like this,’” Stephenson said. “Then she (my wife) came out with me about a month ago and met with the city manager and some of the staff here, and took a tour around Winter Park for a couple of days. It wasn’t even a question — we both knew it’s where we wanted to be.”
Now that he is settled in up in his office on the second floor of City Hall, Stephenson is well underway with his job helping to keep Winter Park progressing.
“I really just enjoy here that the planning process is really a big part of all the big projects going on,” Stephenson said. “I really love being a part of that — working with all the stakeholders, developers and elected officials to just keep the success of Winter Park going into the future.”