The six candidates for Windermere Town Council discussed several hot-button issues pertaining to the town’s challenges during the Candidates Night Forum hosted Monday, Feb. 11, at town hall.
The forum, moderated by West Orange Chamber of Commerce President Stina D’Uva, featured candidates Liz Andert, Mike Hargreaves, Bill Martini, Dina Pryor and incumbents Bob McKinley and Richard Montgomery, who shared their plans for the future of the town.
Andert, a six-year resident from Minnesota with a background in communications and marketing, said she decided to run because she wants to give back to the community and she understands how development and traffic can affect an area after having owned a business in downtown Winter Park. Andert emphasized her top priority would be natural resources and to improve the town’s external communications using both traditional means and new technology.
“I also would like to take a very active role to make sure we communicate with neighboring communities,” Andert said. “We need to institute trust with them.”
Hargreaves, a three-year resident who owns a security company, shared he decided to run because he is familiar with the cut-through traffic and speeding issues plaguing the town and he hopes to delve into the issue and help find a feasible solution if he gets elected. He also added he would endeavor to take care of the budget and “see where they could skim” to redistribute funding for needed town projects.
Martini, a 22-year resident employed as a finance specialist for the state of Florida and a Realtor, felt inspired to run because he is impressed by the level of volunteerism in the town. Resident safety and ensuring the town invests in better town facilities are his top priorities, he said.
Incumbent candidate McKinley, a 10-year resident with 45 years of management experience and four years on the town council, emphasized his passion for the community and his value to the council as someone who asks the hard questions and pursues a common-sense approach. McKinley said he has worked hard on improving communication between the council and residents and hopes to prioritize the maintenance of the town’s sidewalks, roadways and town facilities.
“I’m not looking for a Taj Mahal, but I’d like to see something that fits Windermere,” he said, referring to the town’s plan to upgrade the buildings housing the administration and police departments.
Eight-year resident Montgomery, an incumbent candidate and newcomer to the town’s council, said his biggest contribution is his recent experience on the council. If re-elected, he aims to have the five-year Capital Improvement Plan re-evaluated.
Pryor, a four-year resident with 30 years of experience in retail management, said she decided to run because she has many ideas to help the town and firmly promised to work hard to get things done.
All of the candidates cited the issue of cut-through traffic and acknowledged the town’s limitations regarding a solution as the town’s top challenge.
“There’s nothing we can do about the traffic,” Martini said. “We are a geographic anomaly, but we’ve got to do what we can to keep our residents safe.”
Montgomery mentioned the costly challenge of bringing sewer water services to the town. And McKinley shared his thoughts on the town’s fiscal challenges and how it relates to other town challenges.
Regarding solutions, Andert emphasized a need for communication with neighboring communities and affected residents. Pryor agreed, emphasizing that if the town chooses to use road barricades to dead-end residential streets, it should be decided by the residents themselves.
“Anything barricade-wise needs to be decided by the residents who actually live there,” Pryor said. “That should be in the hands of the local people who are affected.”