- March 3, 2023
The city of Ocoee voters made their choice, re-electing Rusty Johnson for another four years as mayor during the 2023 municipal elections Tuesday, March 14.
“I’m feeling super good, I’m telling you,” he said.
In a three-way race — according to the unofficial results on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website — incumbent mayor Johnson collected 2,596 votes for 60.65%, former District 4 Commissioner George Oliver III tallied 1,169 votes for 27.31% and challenger Chris Adkins received 515 votes for 12.03%.
Johnson got 36 early votes, 856 votes by mail and 1,704 votes on election day while Oliver had a total of 45 early votes, 287 votes by mail and 837 votes on election day. The total voter turnout for the municipal elections was 4,280.
“My main thing is getting back to doing what I do, which is serve the citizens,” Johnson said. “My thought process is always working toward helping the city and its citizens.”
In his years as mayor, Johnson has slowly — but continuously — decreased the city’s millage rate in order to reduce the dependence on residential taxation when it comes to paying for public services, he said.
Johnson is looking forward to improving the sidewalks and streets within the city limits and has been working on opening three recreational amenities: Unity Park, Wellness Park and a new skate park at Central Park.
“The things I want to try to keep doing is what we started seven years ago with the process of re-doing the downtown area and expanding out (Bluford Avenue),” he said. “Then, keep up improving, we got to work on our streets, we got to work on the sidewalks, … minor things like that.”
Johnson said he loves his community and wants to emphasize the importance behind community engagement and the importance of the improvement of the downtown area of the city — so it can be a place where people can enjoy local restaurants, shops and activities.
“(I’m going to) work hard and make sure we follow through to do the things that will keep the city in safe shape for the citizens to be in,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do, and we are trying to get the downtown developed, we’ve got some things going on, people are changing things and my part is to make sure our city is a safe place for citizens, that’s what I want to do. … My promises — I’m going to keep doing what I was supposed to do this whole time, which is represent (the citizens) and make this city a better place for us all to live in."
District 1 residents voted Scott Kennedy as their new commissioner. He fills the seat most recently held by former District 1 Commissioner Larry Brinson, decided not to run for another term.
"I feel great," Kennedy said. "We put in a lot of hard work and we spent a lot of time communicating our platform and our issues to the residents and I think the large turnout and the large margin of victory shows we are focused on the issues that residents care about and we are ready to get to work. We are excited."
In a two-man race — according to the unofficial results on the elections website — Kennedy received 617 votes for 63.02% while Hope Bellamy got 362 votes for 36.98%.
A 54-year-old native Floridian, Kennedy has been a resident of Ocoee for 18 years and is looking forward to working on traffic issues and road work, as well as improving public safety.
"The first priority as I've always said is public safety, the speeding, the traffic issues," he said. "We are going to work on more police, more enforcement patrolling, ... solving traffic congestion and balancing our growth with the proper infrastructure. And the fourth priority is preserving the character of Ocoee and making sure that as new development comes and new growth comes."
Voters who reside in District 3 cast their votes, and incumbent Richard Firstner will serve another four years as their commissioner.
“It feels great; I’m finally going to get to finish a lot of the projects that we had already started that are almost complete, but I want to see them to completion,” he said.
After the polls had closed and the votes were tallied, the unofficial results on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website showed Firstner had 540 votes with 76.38%. His opponent, Shante Munns, received 167 votes with 23.62%.
Having been serving the city for the past 28 years, Firstner — a former assistant fire chief — has been leading District 3 since 2016 when he ran for the seat for the first time. In his years as commissioner, Firstner has accomplished many goals that have helped moved the city forward and is excited to continue projects that are already underway.
“I want to work on the traffic out on Maguire Road; that seems to be the biggest concern for most people (who) live in District 3,” he said. “And I don’t know what the answers are, but I’m certainly going to look into it and order some traffic studies.”
Thanks to a huge support from his firefighter community and his wife, Doris Firstner, Commissioner Firstner is ready for another four years on the District 3 seat.
“Thank you so much for your support and standing behind me and coming out to vote today,” he said. “I had a big support from the fire department. They came out and helped me out at the polls and were out on the streets, and biggest thank you to my wife (Doris Firstner) who is my campaign manager. She made this happen for me.”