The votes are in, and Winter Garden has spoken.
Winter Garden District 1 City Commissioner Lisa Bennett earned a second term Tuesday, March 17, as she defeated challenger Joseph Richardson to retain her seat.
Bennett captured 1,220 votes (79.32%) while Richardson finished with 318 votes (20.68%), according to unofficial results — including election day votes, early voting and vote by mail — from the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.
“I think Winter Garden sent a strong message that our traditions are very important to us,” Bennett said. “It was a very decisive win — more than the percentage that I won the first time. I’m hoping some of that is reflective that people know me now a little bit and they know my work ethic.”
Bennett said she looks forward to tackling the important issues the city faces on the horizon.
“One of the big issues that we have with growth is that it’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “Traffic and congestion — I’m hearing that a lot from citizens, so I’m hoping that, with traffic studies and citizen input, we can make some progress in that area and do that a little better.”
Richardson — who fell short in the municipal election on a campaign seeking “transparency, responsiveness and inclusion in our government” — said the issues he campaigned for aren’t going away.
“I’m not terribly surprised by the result,” Richardson said. “The things that I’m looking for, which have been resisted for the last six years, are going to have to happen eventually. The fact that it didn’t happen tonight is not the end of the story.”
Bennett said she’s excited to serve Winter Garden for another term.
“I’m just very proud of my town, proud that they showed, that we had a good turnout, that issues like voting were so important to them, and I’m just pleased to serve another term,” she said.
Winter Garden residents also had the opportunity to vote on nine charter amendments during Tuesday’s election.
The unofficial results — including election day votes, early voting and vote by mail — are as follows:
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 1 (54.43% of the votes). This amendment extends the terms of city commissioners elected in 2023 and beyond to four years.
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 2 (78.01% of the votes). This amendment changes the processes regarding Winter Garden city commissioners forfeiting office and removal of the city manager.
- Residents voted “no” to charter amendment 3 (55.20% of the votes). This amendment would have changed the current policy regarding a vacancy on the City Commission.
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 4 (83.50% of the votes). This amendment conforms the city’s ordinance adoption process and vote-by-mail election process with those of the state.
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 5 (76.49% of the votes). This amendment allows city commissioners to participate in and vote at City Commission meetings by phone or another audio-visual means on any emergency matters.
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 6 (82.09% of the votes). This amendment removes redundant language regarding the City Commission’s authority to revise, compile and codify city ordinances.
- Residents voted “no” to charter amendment 7 (59.59% of the votes). This amendment would have allowed a newly appointed city manager 180 days to establish residency and allowed the City Commission to waive the residency requirement for good cause.
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 8 (70.15% of the votes). This amendment gives the city until July 1 to establish the canvassing board.
- Residents voted “yes” to charter amendment 9 (92.48% of the votes). This amendment requires the city manager to report transfers of funds among programs to the commission within 30 days.