Ocoee City Commission bars Oliver from running for former seat in 2024

After relinquishing his seat on the Ocoee City Commission to run for mayor in 2023, George Oliver III had hoped to return to the commission next year.

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The word “successor” dominated discussion at the the Ocoee City Commission’s Tuesday, Nov. 7, meeting.

More specifically: What does the word “successor” mean? And even more deeply: Does the definition of the word “successor” indicate inherently another person?

In late 2022, former District 4 Commissioner George Oliver III announced he would be giving up his position to run for mayor against incumbent Rusty Johnson. 

Johnson won the March election, and the commission appointed Ages Hart as the interim until a special election could be held to replace Oliver for the remainder of his original term, which ends in 2025. 

According to article three section C-17 of the Ocoee City Charter, when a commissioner’s seat becomes vacant outside the normal election cycle and after an interim is named, a new commissioner “shall be elected at the next general city election if such election is to be held within 12 months of the vacancy. … The successor shall serve for the unexpired term of the member who created the vacancy.” 

But just who can be a successor? And in Oliver’s case, specifically, can he be his own successor?

“The definition of successor in Black’s Law Dictionary is a person who succeeds to the office rights, responsibilities or place of another one who replaces or follows another,” City Attorney Richard Geller said. “Looking again at the language (in the charter), the successor shall serve for the unexpired term of the member who created the vacancy. That would lead me to the conclusion that that is referring to two different people, that the successor would not be the one who created the vacancy.”

However, some residents said that interpretation does not allow them to have input. 

“I am really against this whole interpretation by the dictionary of successor,” Ocoee resident Vivian Johnson said. “A successor is who we the citizens vote. Anybody should be able to run for office, and we’ll make that decision if they don’t qualify. We are intelligence citizens.”

Oliver agreed.

“If this was a court of law, you (would have) heard one interpretation from one side, and (you would have) heard another interpretation from another side,” Oliver said. “And it would have been left to a judge to determine which interpretation was correct. In this case … we’re making our commission the judge, the jury and executioner.”

However, Johnson and most of the commission agreed with Geller and ultimately decided to approve amendments to the charter to clarify language and establish that the member who created the vacancy cannot be his or her own successor in the special election to fill his or her former seat.

This means Oliver cannot run for the seat he opened in the 2024 special election, with the caveat of possible legal action. 

“I would also point out that decisions made ... by the City Commission under this section shall be subject to review by the courts,” Geller said. “If someone disagrees with your interpretation, there could be some legal action that comes out of that.”

Regardless, Oliver will be able to run for that seat in 2025.

“The citizens will get the vote in March 2025, when that seat comes up again,” Johnson said. “This charter is what we’re supposed to go by whether it be Commissioner Oliver, or Commissioner Kennedy or anybody. The charter says what it says, and that’s exactly what you’re supposed to go by. And that has nothing to do with who votes and who (doesn’t) vote. It has to do with what the law says, and it is in the charter.”

The City Commission approved unanimously the preliminary site plan for a proposed 52,800-square-foot sports training facility at 606 Ocoee-Apopka Road. 

Although some concerns were raised by citizens regarding the construction process and impact on traffic for the surrounding roads, no concerns were raised at the hearing about the overall project.

The planned one-story building will be utilized as an athletic training facility with an adjacent turf field area that will provide the opportunity for multiple-sport training at one location. The facility also will provide 192 parking spaces and a stormwater retention pond, which will be located on the west side of the lot.

The commission approved an annexation and rezoning that paves the way for a proposed new indoor/outdoor restaurant called The Backyard at 2214 West Road. 

The proposed new restaurant’s location was zoned as a County A-1 location, meaning it was in the jurisdiction of Orange County and that land was zoned as a citrus rural district. This zoning classification doesn’t allow for a restaurant to operate on that lot. 

Meeting item No. 17’s purpose was to first have the city of Ocoee annex the land from the county, then classify it as a City C-2 location, or community commercial district. These two proposals would allow for the proposed restaurant to operate on the West Road lot. 

• The commission approved new appointments to the Human Relations Diversity Board and the Parks and Recreation Board. 

• Commissioners approved to relinquish police department drones to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for cost.

• Mayor Rusty Johnson and commissioners Richard Firstner, Ages Hart, Scott Kennedy and Rosemary Wilsen all pledged to donate money from their discretionary funds to Ocoee High School for its January 2024 Rally in Tally trip to Tallahassee.



Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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