Wage raise proposal fails at Ocoee commission

Ocoee commissioners also approved the site plan for a new apartment complex called Lake Lilly Apartments.

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  • | 5:31 p.m. August 12, 2021
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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The Ocoee City Commission denied a motion to give the commissioners and mayor a 3% pay raise as the vote ended in a tie. 

Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen was absent from the meeting Tuesday, Aug. 3, due to illness. 

During the debate, Commissioner George Oliver discussed why the commissioners should get a raise. He noted the raise would not take effect until 2023. 

“This is for the future of our city,” Oliver said. “This is for our future mayors and our future commissioners. This is how we get out of that notion of, ‘We’ve being doing things like this for 25 years; we’re going to continue doing things like this for the next 25 years.’ We’ve got to get out of this.” 

Oliver noted commissioners are paid only $4,000 a year, which equates to $1.92 an hour. He said this kind of pay for a city commission was “appalling.” 

The mayor’s salary sits at $4,500 annually. Additionally, the mayor and commissioners receive stipends to offset local travel expenditures. 

Commissioner Larry Brinson noted the salaries had not been raised since 1996. Because of the low pay, it is hard to attract people to want to run for the City Commission, he said.

“This commission, we do a lot of work that affects people’s lives immediately,” Brinson said. “Not something in Washington, D.C., where in three or four months you hear about it. We make decisions tonight, and tomorrow it goes into effect. For that reason, this commission is very important in people’s lives.” 

He believed there was no reason to discuss the measure any further due to the amount of time they had spent on it before.

However, Mayor Rusty Johnson opposed the pay raise, because he believed if someone really wanted to do the job, compensation would not matter. 

“You don’t have to make $100,000 or $150,000 or $200,000,” Johnson said. “If they wanted to do this job — if they really, really wanted to be the person that did this job — it would not matter what they make.”

He added that public service matters more to him than getting a pay raise. 

“I love doing stuff for people,” he said. “I’ve done it for 35 years.” 

Commissioner Richard Firstner also said serving the community was more important to him than the money he would get from that job. 

“I was elected by my peers in my district, and I am here to serve them,” Firstner said. “I have been a public servant all my life, and I will continue to do so. Salary has no bearing on that whatsoever to me.” 

Oliver and Brinson voted in favor of raising commissioners’ salaries, while Johnson and Firstner voted against it. With Wilsen absent, the vote ended in a 2-2 tie, thereby dropping the topic from discussion.


The commission voted 3-1 to approve the site plan for a new apartment complex called Lake Lilly Apartments off Old Winter Garden Road in Ocoee, with Oliver dissenting.

During discussion, Oliver asked the applicant whether it was possible for the complex to provide affordable housing for college students looking to settle into the Ocoee area due to rising costs in downtown Orlando.

However, the applicant said rent for a standard one-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot unit likely would start at $1,800 per month.

The developer is proposing 410 luxury multi-family units on about 16.56 acres. The development will consist of six phases. The first five buildings will be four stories, and the townhome-style buildings and carriage buildings would be three stories.