Meet Orange County's supervisor of elections

Ocoee resident Glen Gilzean, appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, is the first black supervisor of elections in Orange County.

Glen Gilzean, 42, is an Ocoee resident. He will not seek a full term as Orange County’s supervisor of elections.
Glen Gilzean, 42, is an Ocoee resident. He will not seek a full term as Orange County’s supervisor of elections.
Photo courtesy of Orange County Supervisor of Election's office
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Orange County Supervisor of Elections Glenton “Glen” Gilzean Jr., 42, said one of his biggest motivations always has been to serve his community, although he never imagined he’d be doing it in his current role.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in March appointed Gilzean as the post to fill the vacancy left by former supervisor Bill Cowles, who retired in January. Cowles served Orange County for more than 34 years. 

Throughout his career, Gilzean, an Ocoee resident, has been recognized as a courageous leader and advocate for his community.

In only a matter of months, Gilzean has created an impressive list of accomplishments and firsts for the office, including being the first black SOE to serve in the county.

And although he has been on the job for just slightly more than 120 days, he already has administered four elections. 

The typical SOE administers two elections every two years.

Gilzean said his appointment to his current position from DeSantis was a humbling experience.

“I think that the governor really saw that I’m battle-tested in a way that he can throw me into a very difficult assignment and be able to serve the people well,” he said. “He could have appointed anyone, but my track record of excellence and finding innovative ways to solve the problem, I think, is why I’ve been tapped to do this assignment at this time.”


Gilzean grew up in South Florida, and he moved in 2015 to Orlando and two years later to Ocoee.

He attended the University of South Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship.

Gilzean’s passion for serving people blossomed during his college years. 

As a student advocate at his college, his job was to be the voice for students to the administration on behalf of the Student Government Association.

From there, he transitioned to working as an intern for former U.S. Sen. Melquíades Rafael Ruiz Martínez.

At 26, Gilzean began his work to lift up disadvantaged youth and families by creating an educational nonprofit organization, Educate Today, which provided youth with a safe and nurturing after-school destination. 

In 2012, Gilzean brought his advocacy skills to Step Up for Students, where, along with his team, he worked in Tallahassee to ensure families had the right to choose the education path that met their needs.

In 2016, Gilzean moved to his next challenge as president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League, where he began his advocacy work on behalf of all Central Florida residents. When he came to the organization, it was saddled with $1.2 million in debt. In fewer than two years, CFUL became debt-free and re-established its place as a community leader. In recognition of his efforts, Gilzean in 2019 was named one of Central Florida’s CEOs of the year by the Orlando Business Journal.

In 2023, DeSantis asked Gilzean to oversee the transition of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Under Gilzean’s leadership, the special jurisdiction was reborn as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. 

He has received eight gubernatorial appointments throughout his career.

Additionally, he is a fellow of the James Madison Institute and a member of the American Enterprise Institute leadership network. 

Gilzean said he does not have a favorite role.

“They were each during different eras and leading different missions,” he said. “To be able to say one was better than the other would simply be a lie. I’ve always been guided by service and how I can best help people and provide value, hope and opportunity for the community at large. That’s the common denominator.” 

In his role as SOE, Gilzean is responsible for safeguarding the sanctity of the electoral process, ensuring elections are conducted fairly, efficiently and transparently within the county.

He completed his oath of office ceremony in May, and Martínez was there, which Gilzean said was an extremely special moment.

“Who would have ever thought that giving a kid named Glen an opportunity to be an intern in his office would have fast forwarded almost two decades later into being the first black supervisor of elections for Orange County?” he asked. “It was a surreal moment. That event wasn’t really so much for me as it was a thank you for all the people that played a pivotal role in my life. What I said in my speech was that I hope I can live up to what he has done for me for others as I’m in this role.”


Under Gilzean’s leadership, the SOE office has celebrated a multitude of accomplishments in only a matter of months. 

After only nine days in office, Gilzean’s team made history by creating the first livestream broadcast of official ballot vote counts in the state and in the nation. He said the technology was always available, and he wanted to add another layer of transparency to the overall process. 

“We are maintaining security while increasing transparency, which, especially in this election season, is vital,” he said. “We are finding ways to enhance the experience for Orange County citizens. So, when they cast their ballot they know that it’s secure and counted, and that’s my No. 1 mission, while simultaneously going out to these different groups and educating them on the importance of how this office is taking this process seriously. Bill (Cowles) left me with the most capable staff with more than 425 years of combined experience. I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be working with this set of election professionals. Orange County residents can have confidence when they cast their ballot.”

In back-to-back elections, the SOE has achieved 100% accuracy in its records.

Staff at the office recently finished the voting history process for the 2024 city of Orlando special runoff election, fully reconciling records with 100% accuracy.

For the first time, the office is adding additional security to its more than two dozen supervised voting sites in the county. 

This year, the SOE will utilize off-duty Orange County deputies and other law-enforcement officers at the facilities. The deputies and officers will escort the completed ballots to the SOE. 

The office also was the first in the state at the end of qualifying, in fewer than five business days, to approve the August primary ballot and send it to print.

On Juneteenth, the office announced two new early voting polling locations in areas known as “voting deserts” — in Eatonville and at the Heart of West Lakes Wellness Center — ahead of the 2024 primary and general election.

To enhance transparency and ensure the office is a steward of taxpayer dollars, the SOE announced new proactive measures to ensure the highest standards of financial and operations accountability.

The office already has undertaken a full accounting of all its policies and procedures but has decided to take the extra voluntary step to bring in outside investigators who will be able to provide an additional layer of examination into operations and financial practices. By leveraging these resources, the office strives to provide both transparency and accountability for the voters and taxpayers who rely on the office.

The SOE also is celebrating the implementation of its new procurement process to open new opportunities to small and veteran-owned businesses while saving the taxpayers of Orange County money.

The new system will focus on opening the procurement process to new local vendors who have not conducted business with the office in previous years, veteran-owned businesses and businesses in opportunity zones. The system also will incorporate “piggybacking,” where the office can work with other municipalities for similar services creating an economy of scale that will drive down the price.

The SOE also now is offering free community tours of the office during business hours. Orange County residents should call the Community Outreach Department for more information. 


Gilzean said he has learned a lot in his role already and every day brings a new lesson.

He said there are many more initiatives in the works that the office plans to roll out.

However, Gilzean has made the decision not to run for a full term in office. 

“There are a couple of reasons why, but the biggest one is that if I am taking the job seriously in ensuring that when an Orange County taxpayer resident is casting their ballot, that they can really understand and know the guy who is in this seat is going to make sure their elections are safe and their vote counts,” he said. “That is a very, very, very serious weight on my shoulders but, more importantly, a serious responsibility that I have. When I sat down and I analyzed the ability to learn the job, do the job and execute it effectively, but then simultaneously have to campaign and raise money, I realized I was going to be split. It was going to be virtually impossible to do this job at the highest level possible and then also do campaigning at the highest level possible. I had to choose.”

There currently are five candidates running for the position: Karen Castor Dentel, Cynthia Harris, Dan Helm, Wes Hodge and Sunshine Linda-Marie Grund.

Gilzean said he has not and does not plan on endorsing any of the candidates.

His last day in the position will fall in January 2025. 

As of this moment, he said he has nothing lined up or planned for the next step in his journey.

Gilzean and his wife, LaTeisha, celebrated one year of marriage in June. The couple plans to take a honeymoon when Gilzean finishes out his term.

When he’s not working, Gilzean can be seen practicing his newfound hobby of gardening.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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