RUSTY JOHNSON (INCUMBENT)
Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson moved to Ocoee when he was 11 years old. Johnson graduated from Ocoee High School prior to attending Valencia College and Florida Technological University — which later became the University of Central Florida. Johnson is a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and a retired U.S. Postal Service worker. He and his wife, Marilyn, have been married for 48 years and have five children and 11 grandchildren.
How did you find your way to Ocoee?
Several members of my mother’s family moved to Florida from South Carolina. They encouraged my parents to follow them, and we moved first to Oakland and then to Ocoee in 1956.
Why are you seeking another term as mayor?
I want to continue with our conservative budgeting and continue cutting property taxes. I want to continue prioritizing public safety by properly funding (the) police and fire (departments). I want to continue expanding recreation facilities for our children and families. I want to ensure the city makes improvements to infrastructure, including sidewalks and roads.
What is your vision for the city?
A city that is safe, healthy and vibrant. (I would like to) provide a safe place for people to live, work and visit; provide diverse recreational and cultural amenities that support healthy and joyful lifestyles and give residents a sense of community; develop and maintain city-owned infrastructure, parks and facilities that enhance our quality of life and the charm of our community; (and) deliver an efficient and effective city government that is both fiscally responsible and transparent.
What changes would you like to see in the city?
The city is in excellent financial health, and we are growing and slowly lowering our millage rate. My platform has always been to improve our economy so we could reduce reliance on residential taxation to pay for services. We need to increase our emphasis on quality-of-life issues. If you watched our budget meetings, you see that I am pushing to improve sidewalks and streets around town, and I am proud we are opening three new recreational amenities this year: Unity Park, Wellness Park and a new skate park at Central Park.
I would also like to increase emphasis on community engagement. One of my most memorable experiences was on the downtown master-planning process and the great turnout from citizens in the process. Moving forward, I would like to have quarterly community meetings to discuss upcoming projects and issues with citizens as we enter our next phase of growth.
As we grow, we need to create the types of places that people want, with opportunities to go to restaurants, shop, be entertained, have access to fitness, health and wellness, and not lose our identity.
How do you differ from the other candidates?
While we all probably feel like we want what’s best for the city, I am very different from my opponents. Holding office is a privilege and should be a product of one’s desire to serve their community. This is not a glamorous job, and we should not be in our jobs for the money. A major difference I see between myself and opponents who have made it clear is that they feel officials in a small city should receive big pay.
Probably what makes me stand out is I am a blunt-truth kind of person. Sometimes, I may be a bit too blunt, but I want our citizens to have the accurate information, I won’t tell a citizen something just to make them happy, with me only to put the burden on someone else to let them down. Lastly, the thing I respect about is that facts can be checked. I encourage all citizens to be diligent and fact check what you are hearing from all candidates. Contact the city and do your homework — be sure you are not hearing half-truths.