Ocoee residents learned more about candidates for District 1 city commission during the Woman’s Club of Ocoee’s political forum Wednesday, Feb. 13, at City Hall.
Incumbent John Grogan will be running against challenger Larry B. Brinson Sr. Each candidate answered a series of questions at the forum that gave voters an insight into their platforms. The election will be Tuesday, March 12, and voting will take place at the Jim Beech Recreation Center, 1820 A.D. Mims Road, Ocoee. Polling is typically open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Grogan moved to Ocoee in 1998 after landing a job at Walt Disney World, where he still works. He has been a commissioner since 2013 and is running for his third term. Prior to serving on the commission, Grogan served on a number of volunteer organizations in the city, such as the Citizen Advisory Council for the Ocoee Police Department, Ocoee Parks and Recreation Committee and Ocoee Education Committee, among others. Although he no longer serves on those organizations, his work as commissioner keeps him active in the community.
“We do everything (such as) being the ambassador (for Ocoee),” he said. “We take every single role that the city has, whether it’s introducing new people into the city, trying to get more people here, talking at functions, representing the city — like I said — as an ambassador.”
Grogan added his top concern is for the commission to stay diligent with the progress being made in recent years. He said the city needs to keep “the direction we’re going in and maintaining it.”
“Things are just falling in place,” Grogan said. “If you don’t like the results, if you don’t like what we’re doing, by all means, put somebody else in there (commission seat). If you like what’s going on and you see the progress — and I can tell you there’s much, much more and much more benefits to come — then keep me in there. I want to see the completion of what I started.”
Brinson has lived in Ocoee since 2006. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Marines with more than 20 years of service and was assigned to the Pentagon during 9/11. After retiring as a gunnery sergeant, he went on to work in the private sector for a number of years. He currently works for the Orlando Police Department handling mail services and inventory control and serves on the city of Ocoee’s Human Relations & Diversity Board. He has worked with various volunteer organizations like The Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA, Urban League, the Boy Scouts and more. Brinson said he’s running for commissioner so he could make more of impact in the city, particularly in District 1.
“I live in a community that is — right now — the premier community of Ocoee, so I know what I pay in taxes,” Brinson said. “When I go outside of my community and I’m driving around potholes, that’s problematic for me. It didn’t seem — and it still doesn’t seem — that anybody is addressing that issue. … There’s things in our district that we want to see happening, and I don’t see them happening.”
Brinson added that a top concern for the city is growth management “in a smart way.”
“We have to manage the infrastructure; we got to manage the school; we got to manage the people coming in and out of the city with our traffic patterns,” Brinson said. “We got to manage the business. Can we get them in so they can create jobs? The city should not have to create jobs. I don’t think the government needs to be in the job-creation business. However … the government can assist in making sure the city is business-friendly.”
Candidates both were asked about plans to ensure a robust downtown Ocoee. Grogan discussed efforts the city has been making over the years to bring new life to the downtown.
“We are revitalizing and rebuilding the downtown,” Grogan said. “We’re moving City Hall — which is, if you look around it, literally falling apart. Building a new city hall is the anchor for the downtown up at the corner of McKey Street and Bluford (Avenue) … We’ve already done the streetscaping, as you could see.”
Brinson agreed Ocoee deserves a vibrant downtown but added developers could do more to contribute to infrastructure.
“There’s always a public-private partnership that’s an option (to fund infrastructure projects),” Brinson said. “(It’s important) having developers come in and ensure they’re part of our growth, they are part of the infrastructure improvements, they are part of capital improvements, they are part of the things that we want to see happen in the city of Ocoee. … When you bring these companies in, we need to let them know that we expect infrastructure improvements.”
In response to Brinson’s comments regarding how infrastructure should be built in the city, Grogan said his plan won’t work.
“It’s not practical, it’s not feasible, and it’s not economical,” Grogan said, adding that businesses typically run traffic studies and pay impact fees before coming to the city. “The city is not an open piggy bank. … We collect impact fees (for roads). When a business comes in, they also have to give us an impact fee, which is for the road.”