A special election to select a new District 4 Ocoee city commissioner has been postponed until 2024.
The Ocoee City Commission at its Tuesday, May 2, meeting approved 4-1 a motion to postpone the election. Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen was the lone dissenter.
The election now will take place the same day as the Presidential Primary elections, March 19, 2024. The move to hold the election on the day of the primaries will save the city $10,000.
Attorney Richard Geller, of Fishback Dominick LLP, clarified the commission was under no legal obligation to host the special election given the next general election would take place less than 12 months after the last general city election.
According to the City Charter: “If a general city election will not be held within 12 months, the successor shall be elected at a special election which shall be called by the City Commission within 90 days of the vacancy. The successor shall serve for the unexpired term of the member who created the vacancy.”
Former District 4 Commissioner George Oliver III resigned from the post to run for mayor. His resignation took effect March 21, 2023. The new election date falls within 12 months of that date.
Ocoee resident Ages Hart was sworn in as interim District 4 commissioner Tuesday, April 18.
“I believe in the charter; I would have voted yes, but I felt as though I was very torn after our previous vote,” Wilsen said. “I support the charter, I believe in the charter, but I was torn.”
Ocoee residents criticized the decision.
“We can place amendments with words all we want, but there comes a point where something is right or is wrong,” former mayoral candidate Chris Adkins said. “You voted to have a special election in June. I think that it is not only doing the District 4 constituents a disservice for changing your vote that was just a few weeks ago, but it’s doing our city a disservice, too. … Not only the constituents of District 4 deserve an elected leader … we should stick to the things that we say and the things we tell our taxpayers. It sows a really bad seed; it makes it seem like we can’t trust you.”
“Even though we may be able to legally move this election the question is ‘Why?’” former District 1 Commissioner Larry Brinson said. “We need to fill that seat now. Why should we have to wait almost a year to assign a person to that seat? There is no reason; I don’t understand. … We have mechanisms in place, and it’s not about $10,000. We sneeze and blow $10,000. That’s what we call in finance fiscal dust. That is nothing compared to our budget.”
Oliver, who is running again for the seat, said postponing the election affects everyone in District 4.
“This whole situation is about … every citizen that is registered to vote and has the right to vote,” he said. “We have citizens (who) were expecting to have a special election, and now that has been taken away from them for another 10 months. I think Commissioner Wilsen — she had it right.”
Mayor Rusty Johnson said District 4 residents have strong representation with Hart on the commission.
“The citizens in District 4 are not going to lose out until next year,” he said. “We’ve got a gentleman (who) is going to fill that seat and is going to work on that job as good as anybody else. I think he’s a good person, and I think he will do a great job.”
Candidate Nate Robinson said he will continue campaigning.
“The City Commission weighed the outside legal opinion and public comments, and voted to move the election to March 19, (2024),” Robertson said. “I would have preferred the election stay as they had originally called it, but I am now focused on continuing the campaign to win the election on March 19, (2024).”