City of Winter Garden considers term changes for elected officials

A proposed charter amendment would add another year to the terms of the mayor and city commissioners starting in 2023.

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  • | 10:26 p.m. October 30, 2019
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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A proposed charter amendment in Winter Garden would extend the terms of elected officials on the City Commission.

Winter Garden city commissioners conducted a first reading at their Thursday, Oct. 24, meeting on an ordinance submitting a series of proposed city charter changes to the voters — with one of the changes amending the terms of the mayor and city commissioners to four years instead of three.

That change would apply to any mayor or commissioner elected in 2023 and subsequent elections.

City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said the change was proposed by the Charter Review Committee for a number of reasons.

“Pretty much everyone in the state has gone to four years — one, it saves money, and two, you think about a new commissioner — it takes one year before they even figure out really what they’re doing,” Bollhoefer said. “The idea is to give them more longevity.”

Winter Garden would be saving money by spreading out its elections.

“By going to four years, we also move elections now to simply every other year rather than the three out of four years,” Charter Review Committee member Derek Blakeslee said. “Since we have to do our own elections, we have to pay for them to be off cycle. We’re moving elections to save the city money. It cleans it up.”

Winter Garden Mayor John Rees, who was first elected as a city commissioner in 1986, said that Winter Garden city commissioners used to only have two-year terms.

“That was crazy, because once you get in here, it takes you a year or so to start getting up to speed and doing it,” Rees said. “Going to three years was probably a good jump. To be honest, I don’t have an opinion whether it’s three years or four years. That’s up to the citizens of Winter Garden.”

City commissioners approved the majority of the charter amendment changes unanimously, including the change to elected official terms. The City Commission will conduct a second reading of the charter amendments at its next meeting. If approved then, the proposed changes would go on the ballot for a vote in March 2020.



Winter Garden city commissioners also approved the purchase of a 1,632-square-foot modular building to replace a 17-year-old trailer used as crew quarters for firefighters at Fire Station 23.

The current single-wide trailer — which sits underneath a warehouse building — is in need of substantial repairs after weather has deteriorated one of the exterior sides exposed to the elements. The new modular building is 24 feet wide and 65 feet long and will cost the city $144,159 — plus a 10% contingency for a total amount of $158,574.90.

It’s a nice upgrade for the fire crew at the temporary station off of East Fullers Cross Road, said Fire Chief Matt McGrew, adding that it would have cost upwards of $90,000 to repair the old trailer. The city already had about $200,000 available to purchase the modular building after a new tower truck came in under budget, McGrew said.

“Instead of sleeping in one open room, they’ll all have dividers — privacy in the fire service is important,” McGrew said, adding that the new building will be double the size of the old space. “We’ll be able to create more of an up-to-date fire station for them, and it will be much more comfortable.

“This will have one room that’s dedicated for the computers where they do training where they can take online classes,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot more comfortable for them, even though it’s going to be a temporary facility.”

McGrew said the modular building will be constructed right beside the warehouse containing the trailer, meaning service won’t be interrupted and the transition will happen smoothly. The old single-wide trailer will eventually be removed to make room for a new emergency vehicle under the warehouse building, McGrew said.