FORECAST: Going to the polls in West Orange County — who are the candidates?

Find out what elections are coming up and whose names are on the ballots for local municipalities and the county.

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In municipal elections, it appears that most residents are happy with their representatives on the commissions and council. Of the four local municipalities, only one will have residents voting for elected officials Tuesday, March 17 — the Presidential Preference Primary.

In Oakland, three seats on the Town Commission were scheduled for inclusion on the ballot: those of Mayor Kathy Stark and commissioners Mike Satterfield and Sal Ramos. None of the three had opposition, so they will be returned to their seats on the commission for another four years.

In Windermere, there also was no opposition for the three seats to be placed on the ballot, and all three incumbents — Mayor Jim O’Brien and Town Council members Chris Sapp and Loren “Andy” Williams — will serve another two-year term.

In Winter Garden, incumbent commissioner Lisa Bennett is being opposed by Joseph Richardson. Mayor John Rees was unopposed and will return to another three-year term. Winter Garden voters also will have a chance to answer nine charter amendment questions.

Ocoee will not have an election in 2020.




Bennett, a third-generation Winter Garden resident, is co-broker/owner of Windsor Realty Group Inc. She has served one term on the commission, learning how municipal budgets, ordinances and the city charter operate — and she’s hoping for another term now that she has some experience in the seat.

Bennett has several priorities: maintaining safe streets, schools and neighborhoods; being fiscally responsible with budgeting and taxes; listening and prioritizing citizen input; and protecting Winter Garden’s charm and quality of life and preserving city traditions.

“Winter Garden is a special place,” she said. “We've won all kinds of awards, from our farmer's market to our restaurants to being one of the ‘best places to live in 2019,’ according to Money Magazine. We need to protect what makes us special.”

Bennett currently is on the board of Hope Charter School and is affiliated with the local Board of Realtors. She has served on the Architectural Review and Historic Preservation Board of the city of Winter Garden; is a past president of the Winter Garden Rotary Club, where she received the Paul Harris Fellow Award and the Ted Van Deventer Meritorious Service Award and was named District Rotarian of the Year in 2009.



Richardson, a native Floridian and 14-year resident of Winter Garden, has been a software engineer for 30 years. He and his wife of 28 years have three grown sons.

He has served on the board of Central Florida Freethought Community for about six years.

Richardson believes the next steps in Winter Garden are crucial. His priorities are ensuring the continued good management of Winter Garden, making sure the city is responsive and transparent; maintaining the city’s “traditional feel” and guiding the city into a future that benefits everyone.

“Whether someone has lived here for 50 years or whether they moved in last week, they are part of this community,” he said. “They should be treated as such, and they should be a part of Winter Garden’s future planning.”



Nine charter amendment changes will be included on the ballot:

• Amendment 1 would change the three-year terms of city commissioners and the mayor to four-year terms.

• Amendment 2 would provide more detailed provisions related to the hearing process for forfeiture of office against an elected official and removal of a city manager.

• Amendment 3 deals with commission vacancies: extending the time for filling terms, the number of days for making an appointment and the number of days for conducting an election.

• Amendment 4 is in regard to vote-by-mail ballots.

• Amendment 5 relates to a commissioner being able to vote on emergency measures by telephonic or other audio/visual methods.

• Amendment 6 deletes unnecessary language and simplifies existing language in the charter.

• Amendment 7 would extend the time allowed for a city manager to establish residency within the city and allow the commission to waive the residency requirement for good reason.

• Amendment 8 would allow the election canvassing board to be established by July 1, wound amend the time for filing citizen referendum petitions and would clarify that five or fewer days in various processes means business days.

• Amendment 9 would specify that the city manager must report any appropriation transfers to the commission within 30 days.



Orange County has a number of Dec. 17 election races — and a few that include West Orange County: the race for County Commissioner District 1, sheriff and District 4 School Board member.

In the District 1 County Commission race, incumbent Betsy VanderLey had one challenger after presstime: Nicole Wilson.




Orange County Sheriff John Mina, of Ocoee, is hoping voters will return him to his position to continue his work with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. He has three challengers vying for the sheriff’s position: Andrew John Darling, of Winter Garden; and Joe Lopez and Eric L. McIntyre, both of Orlando.



Darling was born in Titusville and raised in Orange County; he is a graduate of Oak Ridge High School. He served in the U.S. Army for seven-and-a-half years, including two deployments to Iraq. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children.

Darling, an assistant public defender in Orange County, said the county needs a different vision of law enforcement.

“I want to drastically reform the criminal justice system from its very foundation by focusing on equal justice and safer communities,” he said. “I believe we can accomplish this through an improved relationship between the sheriff’s office and Orange County’s diverse communities.

His priorities are equal justice, improved safety, connected community and better training. He wants to expand training programs, create new civilian oversight programs, focus on health issues of addicts with additional social workers and improve accountability at the sheriff’s office, he said.



Lopez has served his community in many ways as a U.S. Marine and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, commander and chief.

“I served my nation, I served my state, and now I want to serve my local community to make Orange County a safer place to raise families,” Lopez said.

He said he is running his campaign on integrity, which stems from his decades of work with the highway patrol; loyalty, based on his five years of service as a Marine, 32 years as a state trooper and 28 years of marriage; and effective leadership, based on his ability to build teams and mentor future leaders.



McIntyre is a native of Central Florida. He has more than 25 years of legal and law enforcement experience and has lived, worked, attended local schools and raised his children in the community.

“I want to bring back community policing because officers must be engaged with the community in order to rebuild the broken relationships,” McIntyre said. “Having officers patrolling the community lets the citizens know that we are in place to prevent and respond to emergent and non-emergent situations. It lets our children and residents know that we are human, we are approachable, and we understand their concerns for safety and relationships that include trust.”

McIntyre’s said his priorities are protecting the elderly and children; addressing domestic violence combating drug concerns, including opioid and prescription medication abuse; and providing counseling and compensation to victims of criminal acts and rehabilitation for addictions and treatment for mental health.


Mina has spent three decades in law enforcement — he was a military police officer in the U.S. Army before being recruited by the Orlando Police Department. He was a patrol officer and SWAT team commander, conducted criminal and sex-crime investigations and worked with OPD’s drug-enforcement unit prior to his appointment as police chief of Orlando in 2014.

Mina’s priorities include crime reduction, school safety, officer recruitment, drug enforcement and community engagement.

“I think Orange County is a pretty safe place to live and work already, but obviously my priority will be to reduce crime even further, specifically violent crime,” he said. “Another priority of mine is school safety, which I think is on everyone’s mind.”



Two candidates have qualified for the District 4 seat on the Orange County School Board held by Pam Gould: Prince Brown, of Winter Garden, and Dayna Lynn Gaut, of Orlando.

Gould had not qualified to run for re-election as of this week but has said she intends to seek another term.



Brown is a third-generation Orange County resident and former educator with experience in the classroom, the military and federal agencies.

He lists his priorities as ensuring fiscal responsibility; rewarding, attracting and attaining high-performing teachers; providing a safe educational environment with more mental health/behavioral health counselors; and sustaining community engagement with, among other things, local business ties and apprenticeship positions.

Brown is an Orlando native with a family history of public service and commitment to education. He lives in Summerlake Groves with his wife of 23 years, who is an OCPS teacher, and their three children.

“Absolutely everything the Orange County School Board does should be an investment that is ‘laser focused’ on giving the students of Orange County the very best opportunities for success,” Brown said.


Gaut, a resident of Mabel Bridge, has 10 years of experience as an Orange County Public Schools teacher at Citrus and West Oaks elementary schools.

Prior to that, she served as a paramedic for 15 years, including work in public affairs management, for Rural/Metro Ambulance and was briefly a Maitland firefighter.

Gaut said she isn’t pleased with the direction OCPS is going, and her priorities are changing the district’s testing methods, overcrowding at schools and finding the parts of education that are broken and fixing them.




Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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