Ocoee Commission Candidate Q&A: George Oliver III, District 4

George Oliver III, the current incumbent, is one of four candidates running for Ocoee Commission District 4.

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  • | 12:15 p.m. February 18, 2021
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Age: 53

Family: Wife, Deborah; children, Kerrick, Karte, George, Kameron, Isaac and Christian

Occupation: Former pharmaceutical compliance manager; currently an OCPS teacher

Education: MBA, The University of Phoenix; bachelor’s degreee in business management, The University of Phoenix; associate’s degree in paralegal studies (litigation and transactional), Valencia College 

Related experience: Incumbent

Why do you want to serve as District 4 commissioner?

I have a vision for the city that will propel us into a “great” city. A vision that will address issues such as sit-down restaurants, retail economic development, infrastructure and a better quality of life for all citizens.

If elected, what do you hope to accomplish as a commissioner?

Upon re-election I plan to continue the work I have started. I plan to continue to push for the city to fund the operational audit in an effort to promote transparency. Once we have achieved that goal, I will work to revise our Master Development Plan so that it lines up with responsible spending.

Why should District 4 residents vote for you?

I am the Commissioner (who) will hold the entire leadership team accountable including the Mayor. I am willing to work hard for the citizens of Ocoee and I think we deserve better than what we have previously experienced in past leadership. Ocoee is a good city but I would like to help make it a “Great City”. I believe in fighting for what’s right and holding leadership accountable. I also believe in the idea of #ONEOCOEE.

What are the top challenges the city of Ocoee faces? What are some potential ways to address them?

1. The redevelopment of the West Oaks Mall. The entire City Commission has to come together along with staff to form a united front and visit the (owner’s) headquarters to propose a collaborative plan regarding (redevelopment). So far, all we’ve gotten is the mayor taking an annual trip to Vegas to visit their headquarters and returning empty-handed.

2. More sit-down restaurants. The city could possibly have more sit-down restaurants if we would get out of the box and visit other cities with similar footprints and ask them how they were able to transform a dead or dying area. 

3. Balance between development and infrastructure. Infrastructure improvement plans ... should be on the forefront of all development deals.

4. Financial accountability. In 2016, the City Commission, which included the former Commissioner Joel Keller, approved an operational audit of the city’s finances. However, they never funded the audit. ... I will continue to push for funding that audit.

5. Building a new school. For every home built in the city of Ocoee, we pay a little (more than) $8,000 (per home) to the School Board. ... We have to do what (Apopka) ... did. They came together and went to the School Board and demanded a new school. And they got it.

If you had a magic wand, what three issues for Ocoee would you change immediately?

1. The West Oaks Mall

2. More sit-down restaurants in our downtown area

3. Better use of the State Road 429 corridor (hotels, gas stations, large retailers and luxury homes)

What are some potential solutions for managing traffic conditions in conjunction with the city’s growth?

We should have balance between development and infrastructure, it has to start while we’re negotiating potential development contracts. Infrastructure improvement plans (road improvements; extensions; traffic lights; sidewalks; street lights; 5G; etc…) should be on the forefront of all development deals.

Last November, the city held events in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the 1920 Ocoee Massacre. How does the city continue to foster positive relationships throughout the community?

As of today, the city is still working to foster those positive relationships though our community partners like High Point Church, and some of the developers who have shown interest in helping with those efforts along with private citizens. In December of 2020, I was able to convince the commission to have a workshop on race, diversity, and inclusion. The goal was to have a structured conversation among the commission and city department heads in an effort to understand each other a little more. From there, the plan was to move that structured conversation to the community at large. This is where the mantra of #ONEOCEE can be used to unite all Ocoee communities.

How does Ocoee balance residential and commercial development with preserving the city’s heritage and culture?

We’re doing a great job with our Community Redevelopment Agency along with our light industrial areas as we maintain balance between the two different types of developments.

Some have raised concerns regarding the city’s ability to retain firefighters. What steps should the city take to ensure quality first responders and other civil servants stay in Ocoee?

During the last Commission Meeting, this was a hot topic and I believe we (The Commission) possess the ability to make all first responders whole, when it comes to compensation. I mean compensation, NOT compensation and benefits. We tend to get the two mixed up from time to time. During our annual budgeting workshops, we make decisions on the allocation of funds based on the needs of the city. We currently balance a 100 million dollar budget in a matter of two to three meetings. The Commission has the ability to increase the Fire Department’s Budget in an effort to raise salaries. The problem is that we have just been made aware of this serious issue, not sure why some of the details were kept from us. However, you can rest assured that I will be fighting for salary increases for our firefighters and first responders. We need to do what it takes to retain quality first responders.