WP Goes Virtual

Dry Run for Special Commission Meeting Monday, March 30

WP Goes Virtual

by Anne Mooney / March 27, 2020

Yesterday, March 26, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, the Winter Park City Commission held its first Virtual Meeting – and probably the first meeting ever attended by all 7 past and present commissioners. And even with 7 Commissioners present, the meeting began and ended right on schedule.

Work Session on City Response to Coronavirus Lockdown

The meeting was a live-streamed Work Session on the City’s response to the coronavirus situation. Participating from home but visible and audible on computer screens across the City were Mayor Steve Leary, Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver, soon-to-be-former-Commissioners Sarah Sprinkel and Greg Seidel, Commissioners-elect Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan and City Manager Randy Knight with key city staff.

Exec Order from Governor

The meeting was made possible by an Executive Order from Governor Ron DeSantis suspending the Florida statute that required a quorum to be present in person at a specific place. The Executive Order allows local governments to utilize media technology to hold meetings.

As with any Commission Work Session, there were no Commission votes or public comment.

Dry Run for Monday’s Commission Meeting

Yesterday’s Work Session was a dry run for a Special Commission Meeting Monday, March 30 at 5:00 pm. At that meeting, the Commission will vote and take public comment. If you missed last night’s meeting, you can tune in Monday at <cityofwinterpark.org/cclive>

Register in Advance to Participate

In order to participate, you must register in advance. Space is limited, so do not delay. Go to <cityofwinterpark.org> and click on Access Virtual Commission Meeting Live Video Broadcast & Instructions. You will find all the information you need to register and participate.

Public Comment Will Be Taken Monday

Public comment will be taken at the 5:00 pm hour, as usual. You can comment in advance of the meeting by emailing mayorandcommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org  Emailed comments will become part of the record, but will not be read aloud. You can also comment by phone, and your comment will be recorded and will be audible on the live stream. The public comment line, which will be activated Monday at 5:00 pm, is 407-599-3410. Live comments will be monitored in accordance with City standards of decorum.

Meanwhile, although City Hall is closed to the public, the City itself is Open for Business.

Police and Fire-Rescue Departments are at full staffing. The Police Department reports a decline in criminal activity and calls for service, due to fewer people being on the streets.

Fire Chief Dan Hagedorn reported that, as of yesterday, there were 2,235 reported COVID19 cases in Florida, with one fatality. Two cases have been reported in Winter Park – one is a resident and one a non-resident. Emergency crews who transported these patients to the hospital are on 14-day quarantine as a precaution, but are showing no symptoms.

Parks & Recreation Director Jason Seeley reported that the March 13 order of a 10-person-group limit marked the drawdown of City recreational programs. Playgrounds are now closed, but open spaces such as Central Park and Mead Botanical Garden are open, with social distancing required. Monday’s Commission meeting will likely see decisions to close the Dinky Dock boat ramp and the Winter Park Golf Course. Citizens may enjoy continued lake access from their private docks.

Infrastructure departments such as the Electric Utility, Water & Waste Water, Code Enforcement and the Building Department are open and active.

City Budget

In his discussion of the budget, City Manager Randy Knight acknowledged that the City anticipates a drop in revenue, but said it is difficult to tell at this early stage how great or small that will be or how long it will last. Knight said he does not anticipate cutting essential services for residents. He plans to present the Commission with a revised budget for this Fiscal Year.

City Assistance to Residents & Businesses

Utility cutoffs for non-payment have been suspended, and staff is working on programs to assist residents and businesses with utility payment plans. City Staff will work with the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce to help local businesses apply for loans and other financial assistance. Restaurants are allowed to offer takeout and delivery services.

City staff is working to develop virtual programs for youth and seniors. The City is considering creating a micro-loan program for businesses in the CRA. And the City Manager is looking into acquiring Federal assistance available to state and local governments.

 

Winter Park – Coronoavirus Update

Winter Park – Coronoavirus Update

by Anne Mooney / March 17, 2020

The City has issued a list of closings and cancellations effective immediately, as it continues to monitor the status of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease.

City Hall and Facilities Closed to the Public

Effective immediately, City Hall and City facilities are closed until further notice. City services and assistance will remain available by phone or email.

The Public Safety Building at 500 N. Virginia Ave., Fire Station #62 on Lakemont and Fire Station #64 on Howell Branch Rd. are closed to visitors, except for emergencies.

The Saturday Winter Park Farmers Market is suspended until further notice.

Recreational facility closures include the Community Center, Cady Way Pool, Showalter Stadium, the Winter Park Golf Course and the Azalea Lane Tennis Center. Public parks and playgrounds and greenspaces will remain open. Please practice social distancing protocol by keeping a space of at least six feet between you and others not in your household.

Events and Gatherings Cancelled

The March 23 City Commission meeting is cancelled. Future Commission meetings will be announced as they are scheduled.

City Advisory Board Meetings are cancelled until further notice.

All events and gatherings of more than ten people are cancelled or postponed until further notice.

Recreational programming and events for youth, adults and seniors are cancelled until further notice.

Public Safety Facilities and Services

Winter Park Fire & Rescue service will continue to provide fire and EMS services. Winter Park Police Department will operate normally with modified non-emergency responses. For more information, call 407-644-1313.

Utility Customers

Although utility statements and due dates remain on schedule, the City understands that some customers may experience unavoidable financial difficulty during this period and has suspended the disconnection for non-payment policy until further notice.

For billing questions, call 407-599-3220; for outage and service issues call 877-811-8700.

Restaurants and Bars

A recent Executive Order by Gov. Ron DeSantis requires all Florida bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, effective today. Restaurants are required to remain below 50 percent occupancy. As this creates considerable hardship for City businesses, the City is working with the Chamber of Commerce to help. Go to the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce website to check out curbside food pickup and home delivery options from our local restaurants.

Building Permits & Services Online

Although City Hall is closed to the public, Building & Permitting Services will be reviewing plans submittals and issuing permits electronically at permits@cityofwinterpark.org  Inspectors will continue on a case-by-case basis. You can schedule inspections online at <Epay> or call 407-599-3350.

Stay Informed

Information regarding the spread of the coronavirus and the COVID19 disease changes daily, please remain informed using the following resources.

cdc.gov/COVID19

cityofwinterpark.org

Facebook.com/WinterParkEmergencyInfo

twitter.com/winterparkfla

OUTREACH – sign up for the City’s emergency notification system

nexdoor.com – sign up for your neighborhood information

winterparkvoice.com for the latest from the City.

 

Stay safe – and stop hoarding the toilet paper.

 

Winter Park Responds to Coronavirus

Winter Park Responds to Coronavirus

March 13, 2020 / by Anne Mooney

The Good News

Tuesday, March 17, elections will take place as scheduled. The March 23 City Commission Meeting will take place as planned.

The Other News

All large city events, including the Sidewalk Arts Festival, have been cancelled. See <cityofwinterpark.org> for latest updates.

In addition, the following cancellations were announced by the City of Winter Park this afternoon.

  • City Advisory Board Meetings
  • Indoor youth and adult athletic leagues managed by the City
  • Childcare programs and Spring Break Camp held at City facilities
  • Senior programming at City facilities
  • Winter Park Famers Market through the end of March

Stay Informed

Here is a list of sites with emerging information as this situation develops.

cdc.gov/COVID19

cityofwinterpark.org

Facebook.com/winterparkfla

Candidate Face-Off – Part One

Candidate Face-Off – Part One

Candidate Face-Off – Part One

Anne Mooney / February 8, 2020

Jeffrey Blydenburgh, Marty Sullivan, Carl Creasman and Sheila DeCiccio met early Friday morning at the Chamber of Commerce for the first of two debates on issues which two of them will face during their terms in office as Winter Park City Commissioners. The second debate will be held at the Winter Park Public Library on Wednesday, February 19, at noon.

Eight questions were posed during the hour-long session, moderated by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee Chairman, attorney Lee Steinhauer. There was a respectful atmosphere of comradery among both audience and candidates that has been missing from Winter Park in recent years. Each question, with a brief description of the candidates’ responses, appears below. Full video is posted at the end of this article.

  1. What is your vision for Orange Avenue between 17-92 and Fairbanks Avenue (i.e., the Orange Avenue Overlay District)?

Candidates approved of the Orange Avenue Overlay process and thought it was an excellent start. They also thought the project still has a way to go. They agreed that Progress Point should be preserved for public use, and they liked the idea of a park and a theater district there. Some expressed concern about excessive entitlements for developers, traffic, stormwater management and open space. They agreed that how it gets implemented is now what’s important.

  1. Pass-through commuters and I-4 runoff traffic are a problem. There are those who are critical of the proposed overlay who fear that multi-use density would make matters worse. Others who are supportive of the overlay would say that the overlay would employ traffic-calming methods. What is your view of corridor traffic that you will bring to this commission, should you be elected?

Candidates acknowledged that Winter Park traffic is a regional issue, and that the City needs to work with FDOT & neighboring communities to figure this out. They spoke about multi[-modal transportation, turn lanes at major intersections, smart signaling and the so-called “last mile” – public transit necessary to move people from their cars to Sunrail or other modes of public transport. They also spoke of the need for dynamic traffic modeling, and agreed that Sunrail should transition from commuter rail to transit rail.

  1. How do you feel about Incentivizinig developers with additional entitlements if they’re willing, in return, to underwrite the cost of storm water treatment & filtration?

Like all infrastructure questions, this is about the pressure Central Floridians are feeling from heavy, rapid population growth. The candidates expressed, each in his or her own way, a desire for developers to give back some of what they get from the City, but cautioned against “giving away the store.” They also agreed that our responsibilities to minimize flooding and keep our water clean exist on regional, local and personal levels.

  1. The Commission is considering the purchase of Winter Park’s downtown Post Office to expand green space near Central Park at a price of $7.5 million. Although the US Postal Service did not initiate the sale of this property, under what conditions should the city purchase this property?

Candidates agreed the City should strive to expand Central Park, but not everyone agreed on the appropriate cost. All were committed to keeping the retail part of the Post Office in the city core and relocating only the distribution center.

  1. Are zoning and ordinance inconsistencies the reason Winter Park is seeing signs of blight along its major gateway corridors?

Candidates agreed that Winter Park’s zoning ordinances need updating. They found the overlay concept useful in this regard, because it offers an opportunity to help small businesses as well as large developers. Sullivan pointed out Winter Park’s bus stops as one unnecessary example of blight. People awaiting buses sit on transformers or curbs with no protection from sun or rain. There is CRA money to fix at least some of this, and he urged that the city proceed immediately to remedy the situation.

  1. How do you view Sunrail’s current and future usefulness and the transition to assume local management costs in 2021?

Blydenburgh began by pointing out that it has taken a while for people to change their habits and begin to use Sunrail. The others agreed we’ve made a good start, but we need to continue to invest to make it a workable system. It should become a transit system, not a commuter system. Our cities need adequate connectors to the airport. Sullivan suggests considering a parking structure behind the Winter Park Sunrail station and expansion of the current rail schedule to include nights and weekends – especially during weekend events like the art festivals.

  1. One Commissioner believes their community-wide advocacy for or against a project prior to Commission review is okay. Others feel it is a violation of Florida’s ethics and sunshine laws. What do you believe is proper and right?

Sullivan acknowledged that if two Commissioners communicated about an issue outside a public meeting, they would be in violation of the Sunshine law. Creasman noted the intent of the law was to “protect” the policy-making process from politics. DeCiccio spoke to the need for increased transparency in the City and thought more communications should flow from the City. Jeffrey Blydenburgh spoke of the need for more collaboration among Commissioners and of the inconvenience and difficulty created by the law’s requirement that all decisions take place in the public eye.

The question, which interrupted the flow of the debate, was a reference to “Cooper’s Perspective,” in which Commissioner Carolyn Cooper emails constituents about issues that are scheduled for an upcoming Commission agenda. It appeared to have come as an afterthought, but no member of the Chamber was available for comment or confirmation at the time of this writing.

Is this a violation of Florida Sunshine Laws? Established in 1995, Florida’s ‘Government in the Sunshine Law’ provides a right of access to governmental proceedings of public boards or commissions. According to <floridabar.org>, “The law is equally applicable to elected and appointed boards and has been applied to any gathering of two or more members of the same board to discuss some matter which will foreseeably come before that board for action. There are three basic requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes: (1) meetings of public boards or commissions must be open to the public; (2) reasonable notice of such meetings must be given; and (3) minutes of the meetings must be taken and promptly recorded.” For more information, go to https://webprod.floridabar.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/18-RW-Opengovernmentoverview.pdf

Reached for comment, Commissioner Cooper had this to say. “This is clearly not a violation for me to communicate with the people who elected me to represent them. Wouldn’t you rather have your elected officials provide you with information and facts upon which to base an informed decision? There is nothing in any law that prevents me from sharing information about important issues in our city that impacts the lives of all of us. I will never stop communicating with my constituents. The people with whom I cannot communicate, outside of a formally noticed meeting, are my colleagues who sit with me on the Commission.”

  1. If elected, will you uphold the Commission’s vote to move forward with the Winter Park Library & Events Center?

After acknowledging the project was “contentious” and “painful,” all four candidates were clearly eager to put aside the differences and to move ahead. Yes, they all support the project. They agreed they missed the Civic Center and looked forward to it “coming back to life,” as one put it.  They all expressed the need to bring the project in “on budget and on time.”

The acknowledged budget was a maximum $41.7 million. “That’s got to be the final price when we’re all done,” said Blydenburgh. Sullivan responded, “It’s now time for us to come together and make sure that this is the best library and events center possible to serve our citizens.”

Closing Remarks

Blydenburgh: “As commissioner, I would represent 29,000 citizens. People matter – everyone of you matters. We all have the good fortune to live in Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. We may not always agree, but we all work together, we live together, and that’s how we should behave together.”

Creasman: “In deciding to run, I thought about the tone we have with each other, both here and on a national level, and that makes me nervous. I know where that possibly can go. It’s important to keep in mind that what should drive us is how much we care for one another. Every person matters, every person has value and every person’s voice should be heard. We are our best together.”

DeCiccio: “I respectfully request your vote on March 17. I have the experience and I have the time to devote to being your City Commissioner. We are the stewards for the next generation, and it is our responsibility to leave this city better than we found it. We have some serious issues to work on, but I truly believe the best is yet to come.”

Sullivan: “Critical projects that need critical thinking and knowledgeable oversight are the Library and Events Center and the Orange Avenue Overlay. We need leadership with a strong engineering background. I seek to achieve a more citizen-focused government. We are a premier urban village, and I will work to preserve what’s best about our community.”

 

Marathon Monday

Coming Tomorrow to the City Hall Nearest You

Marathon Monday

by Anne Mooney / January 12, 2020

Doesn’t matter what your position is on any of the of issues that will be addressed the afternoon and evening of Monday January 13 by the Winter Park City Commission – while we won’t suffer in silence, we will all suffer together.

Five-and-a-half Hours – Minimum

The number of minutes projected on the January 13 Agenda on the City website comes to five hours and 35 minutes. Not included in the time projections are all the preliminary stuff like the Pledge of Allegiance and the Mayor’s report, closing remarks by Commissioners and . . . Public Comment.

City Manager’s Report

Estimated at 5 minutes, this report has no fewer than 23 items on it, 10 of which are slated to happen in January. Randy Knight is good at what he does, but he’ll have to employ some advanced ‘speed-dating’ tactics to get through this one in five minutes.

Consent Agenda – Progress Point

This one – nine minutes – lists five types of items. Under “Approve the Following Contract Items” (one minute) is a contract for $89,765 to demolish the building at Progress Point. Last time this came up, the discussion lasted considerably longer than one minute.

Action Items Requiring Discussion – The Canopy

First on this list is – yep – Final Approval of The Canopy. This is the long-awaited “Guaranteed Maximum Price.” The agenda framers have allotted an hour and a half for this topic. Maybe they could get through it in 90 minutes – but only if there is no public comment. And what are the chances of that?

Public Hearings – Orange Avenue Overlay

In the grand old tradition of saving the best til last, #4 on the list of four items is The Orange Avenue Overlay – for three hours. Two ordinances, one to amend the Comprehensive Plan, and the other to amend the Land Development Code, will go through a first reading. If they are approved, they will go to Tallahassee for review and then return to Winter Park for the second and final reading in late January or early February.

The Orange Avenue Overlay concept has gone through more than 20 public meetings, workshops and walkshops. People who normally go quietly about their business have been spewing out emails and firing word-bullets back and forth for months. The pro and con camps are about evenly split, neither one is quiet, and many of them will be at this meeting.

The second 13.1 miles of the race begins here, on Orange Ave. Everyone will be tired. Perhaps it would help us to remember we are all neighbors, living together in one of the most desirable places on earth, and to treat one another accordingly.

Charter, TDT Grant, City Manager Performance

Doesn’t Sound Lively – But It Was

Charter, TDT Grant, City Manager Performance

The November 25 Commission meeting managed to pack a few surprises into what initially appeared to be a light (if not boring) pre-holiday agenda.

Seidel Will Not Run in 2020

First, Commissioner Greg Seidel announced he will not seek re-election in 2020, citing work and family issues. That leaves Seats 1 and 2 up for grabs. Candidate qualifying begins December 3, 2019.

Commission Votes to Approve Contract for $6 Million TDT Grant

The motion to approve the contract for the Orange County Tourist Development Tax (TDT) grant was problematic in the absence of a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the Canopy project, which will come to the Commission in January 2020.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper voiced her concern that signing the contract before knowing the GMP would tie the City’s hands. According to City Attorney Kurt Ardaman, the grant application specifies the location of both the library and the events center and prevents the City from making “substantial changes,” even though such changes may be necessary to make the project affordable if the GMP comes in higher than expected.

Commissioner Todd Weaver moved to table the motion until after the Commission has discussed the GMP in January. Cooper seconded the motion, but the motion to table failed on a 3-2 vote. And even though there was no deadline requiring the contract be signed before the GMP comes in, the Commission voted 3-2 to approve the contract for the TDT grant, again with Weaver and Cooper dissenting.

City Manager Performance Review

The Commission then engaged in the annual ritual of City Manager Randy Knight’s performance review. The Commission voted 4-1 to award a 2 percent bonus in lieu of a salary increase. The dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner Cooper. She states her reasons in this video: click this link to view.

With regard to the mistaken information in the TDT grant application cited by Cooper, Communications Director Clarissa Howard stated that when the mistake on the application was discovered, the period for online submission of TDT/ARC grant applications had closed. “The only opportunity to correct the mistake was during the verbal presentation before the TDT/ARC Board,” said Howard, “and the Board cut Mayor Leary’s presentation short, so he had no opportunity to correct the mistake.”

Voters Will Decide Charter Amendments

The Commission then took up the matter of the Charter amendments that will be put to the voters on the March 17, 2020, ballot. On 3-2 votes, with Sprinkel and Leary dissenting, three of the more controversial issues will appear on the ballot for the voters to decide.

Annual Salaries for Mayor & Commissioners

Voters will have the opportunity to raise annual salaries for the first time in many years to $12,600 for Commissioners and $15,000 for the Mayor. The hope is that this will provide the opportunity for a more diverse pool of qualified candidates to run for elected office. 

Board Appointments Would No Longer Be Made Only by the Mayor

Appointments to City advisory boards and ad hoc committees will be distributed among the Mayor and Commissioners. The amendment states in part, “. . . each board and ad hoc committee shall have seven members . . . . Three of the seven members of the board or committee shall be appointed by the Mayor and such members shall serve at the Mayor’s pleasure. Each of the four City Commissioners shall appoint one of the seven members of the board or committee and such members shall serve at the pleasure of the City Commissioner holding the Commission seat that appointed the member.”

Video Conferencing Would Be Provided for Absent Commissioners to Vote

This amendment states in part, “Voting on ordinances and resolutions shall be by roll call vote of the Commissioners and the Mayor. . . . The affirmative vote of three members of the City Commission who are physically present at the meeting, either in person or through the use of video-conferencing, shall be necessary to adopt any ordinance or resolution. The use of video-conferencing by an individual member of the City Commission shall be limited to not more than three times per calendar year and shall be subject to approval pursuant to and governed by rules and procedures adopted by the City Commission.”

Commissioners have had difficulty teleconferencing in to meetings. Adoption of this amendment will require the City to acquire video conferencing equipment, which it does not currently have.

Stronger Language for Non-Partisan City Elections

The amendment states in part, “Upon qualifying for office through the election, a candidate for the office of city commissioner or mayor shall not: (1) Campaign and/or publicly represent or advertise herself or himself as a member of any political party; or (2) Accept campaign contributions from any political party.

(b) A candidate for commissioner or mayor who violates a provision of this section shall be liable for a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation. The City Commission shall adopt an ordinance describing the procedure to determine violations, provide due process, and set fines.”

The issue of donations from partisan Political Action Committees (PACs) came up, but no prohibition could be included in the Charter because it would conflict with federal law.

The full text of these and other amendments can be found here: https://winterpark.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=1498&MeetingID=195

Scroll to the bottom of the Cover Sheet and click on the tiny blue line that says “Revised Ordinance.”

These and other amendments to the City Charter will appear on the ballot for voter decision in the March 17, 2020, election.

 

In Memory: Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H

October 28, 2019 – by Rob Humphreys ’16MBA

In Memory: Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H

This article originally appeared on Rollins360, Rollins College’s news site. It is republished here with permission.

Rollins’ 12th president was magical in every  sense of the word.

Photo by Scott CookPhoto by Scott Cook

Waiting in the checkout line at Publix stood a giant man with a giant penchant to charm just about anyone he met, in any capacity, at any time.

Introducing himself to the 7-year-old daughter of a friend, “Taddeo the Great” reached down, flashed a big smile, did a little hocus pocus, and poof—pulled a shiny coin from the girl’s ear.

The child’s eyes, her father recalled, “got about as big as that half-dollar.”

Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, Rollins’ 12th president from 1978 to 1990, possessed a genuine brand of magic that touched countless lives, from students and families to faculty, staff, and the greater Orlando community. A beloved campus icon, accomplished magician, public servant, and academic visionary who returned the College to its liberal arts roots—while famously reinstating Fox Day—Seymour died this past Saturday, October 26, at his Winter Park home. He was 91.

“Thad was a great man and a great president,” says Allan Keen ’70 ’71MBA ’10H, a member of the board of trustees since Seymour appointed him in 1989. It was Keen’s daughter, Kristen ’20 PMBA, who pocketed the 50-cent piece that day at the grocery store. “Thad had a bigger-than-life personality,” continues Keen, “and he elevated Rollins to new heights.”

Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H was president of Rollins College from 1978 to 1990. Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives.
Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H was president of Rollins College from 1978 to 1990. Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives.

Destined for Greatness

Born June 29, 1928, in New York City to Lola Virginia Vickers and Whitney North Seymour, assistant solicitor general in the Hoover administration and later president of the American Bar Association, Seymour attended Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley as an undergraduate.

A lifelong athlete who hit the gym well into his 80s, Seymour—at a muscular 6 feet, 5 inches—competed in the U.S. rowing trials for the 1948 Olympics.

After earning his master’s and PhD in 18th-century English literature from the University of North Carolina, he taught English for five years at Dartmouth, where he coached rowing and became dean of students at age 30. Prior to Rollins, he was president of Wabash College in Indiana for nine years.

“The Seymour presidency proved to be a turning point in Rollins’ history,” writes Jack C. Lane, emeritus professor of American history and college historian, in Rollins College Centennial History. “At a time when the college community was somewhat adrift, or at best standing still, Seymour instilled in the College a revived enthusiasm and provided a sense of continuity and gave it a new sense of direction. … Rollins, he proclaimed, must ‘return to its roots. Our aim is to know ourselves and to be known by others as the finest small liberal arts college in the Southeast, standing among the finest colleges in the country.’”

Thanks in large part to Seymour’s vision, Rollins has been recognized as the No. 1 or 2 regional university in the South for the past 25 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, among numerous other accolades.

Photos courtesy Rollins College Archives
Photos courtesy Rollins College Archives

Firmly Establishing an Identity

In one of his earliest acts on campus, Seymour established a College Planning Committee, chaired by Daniel R. DeNicola, professor of philosophy. After 18 months, the committee produced a 500-page comprehensive plan focusing on institutional mission and structure; divisional objectives; the allocation of funds, physical resources, and personnel; and the 1985 centennial.

Through that lens, Lane writes, “the College began firmly establishing that its identity and future lay with its historical liberal education mission.” Rollins revived its dormant Department of Classics and once again issued diplomas in Latin. To the delight of students, Fox Day returned as well. First celebrated in 1956, the random spring day deemed “too pretty to have class” had been on hiatus since 1970, but Rollins’ new president was more than enthusiastic to revive the tradition in 1979.

During Seymour’s tenure, Rollins considerably raised faculty salaries, rededicated the Walk of Fame, built the Olin Library and Cornell Hall for the Sciences, and renovated Pinehurst Cottage, placing it on the Winter Park Register of Historic Places. Administratively, two of his most important hires were Dean of Admissions David Erdmann and Treasurer Jesse Morgan; together, they helped the College achieve greater financial stability by increasing enrollment, eliminating operating deficits, and overhauling bill collection and investment procedures.

“While the College had historically experienced periods of financial stress, I don’t recall any sleepless nights during his presidency,” says Harold A. Ward III, who served on the board of trustees as a member and chairman while Seymour was in office.

“It was apparent to me from the beginning that working with Thad was going to be both rewarding and a lot of fun. Perhaps it helped that he was part of a family of lawyers, but more likely it was a combination of his remarkable personality and intellect. Another vital part of his presidency was his wife, Polly, who was always involved with the College and the community, and a tremendous support for him and the entire institution.”

Ward described Seymour as a student-centered president adept at winning over constituents from all walks of life: faculty, trustees, alumni, staff, donors, potential donors, and, sometimes, angry members of the community.

“An early challenge,” explains Ward, “was the presentation at the Annie Russell Theatre of the play Equus, which included a scene involving a nude male actor. There were considerable differences of opinion about the appropriate presidential action (or inaction) that should be taken. Thad somehow managed to calm the waters by shifting the focus to the broader issues, such as the desirability of student involvement and freedom of expression. In the end, the play went on, and most of the furor subsided.”

Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives
Photo courtesy Rollins College Archives

Presidential Acclaim

For all his professional and academic talents, Seymour’s most enduring legacy lies squarely in the human domain.

Rollins’ current and 15th president, Grant Cornwell, called him a friend and mentor from the moment they met.

“It was so good to be able to talk about the history of Rollins and current issues with someone who shared a love for the College and profound optimism for its future,” says Cornwell. “I valued Thad as a wise counselor and as one of the kindest, most good-hearted people I have ever known.”

Rita Bornstein, Rollins’ 13th president from 1990 to 2004, always admired how Seymour led by example, whether casually picking up garbage around campus or actively serving the community, most often well outside the media spotlight. When she arrived on campus, Seymour rang chapel bells, posted “Welcome Rita” signs, and threw a party at his home.

“Lion of a man and lion of a president,” says Bornstein. “He thought big, he acted big, and he had big ideas and ambitions. He was ebullient, enthusiastic, kind, generous, fun-loving. He always made me feel optimistic. I think that is true for all who know him. Thad loved ceremony, ritual, history, anniversaries. Often, he engaged the community to participate with the College. He committed himself totally and struggled valiantly to pull and push Rollins to be better and better.”

Former Rollins presidents Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, Rita Bornstein ’04H, and Lewis Duncan at the inauguration of Rollins’ President Grant Cornwell. Photo by Scott Cook.Former Rollins presidents Jack Critchfield, Thaddeus Seymour ’82HAL ’90H, Rita Bornstein ’04H, and Lewis Duncan at the inauguration of Rollins’ President Grant Cornwell. Photo by Scott Cook.

So Much Left to Give

When Seymour stepped down in the spring of 1990, Rollins’ alumni magazine devoted 16 pages to the president they dubbed “A Man for All Reasons.” Taking a cue from Seymour’s self-deprecating wit, the secondary headline deadpanned, “Being Not an Historical Narrative but Rather an Anecdotal Account of Thaddeus Seymour, Some College President!”

Even though his tenure at the top had come to a close, that didn’t stop Seymour from channeling his boundless energy into serving the College and the community in other capacities. From 1992 to 2008, he returned to his academic roots by teaching English part-time.

Not surprisingly, “retirement” also allowed him to develop close ties with the Winter Park Public Library, serving as its chair from 1996 to 1998 and helping Polly with her favorite volunteer project, the library’s New Leaf Bookstore, now named in her honor. In 1997, the chamber of commerce named the couple Winter Park Citizens of the Year.

Seymour’s altruism carried over into several additional passions, including independent transportation for older adults, the Winter Park Health Foundation, and working to save the city’s historic Capen-Showalter House. His longest-serving volunteer work, however, started in the late 1980s when Hal George ’76, founder and master builder for Parkland Homes, approached him about becoming chairman of Habitat for Humanity’s new Winter Park-Maitland chapter. It was a position Seymour would never relinquish.

“Thad was not a figurehead by any means,” says George, who still serves as Habitat’s president. “He was very involved … the best kind of leader you could have. He rolled his sleeves up and come out to the job sites. He’d bring his family out, and Polly would make curtains for our new families at our dedications. Here’s this big guy with a booming voice who never needed a microphone. He really led with enthusiasm and passion, encouraging people all the way. He was the kind of person who made you a better person just being around him.”

George got a kick out of how Seymour, ever the technology buff, maintained the Habitat webpage and taught him how to use an iPhone. “The first thing he did was load a program that made it look like you were pouring a beer.”

Remembering Thad Seymour

Seymour is survived by Polly, his wife of 71 years, and their four children: Liz, Thaddeus Jr., Sam, and Abigail.

The couple’s daughter, Mary Seymour, died in 2015.

A celebration of Seymour’s life will be held at Knowles Chapel on the Rollins College campus at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 3. A reception will follow. For those who are unable to attend, the service will be streamed live on the Office of the President website.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Dr. Seymour’s honor be made to Rollins College (P.O. Box 864168, Orlando, FL 32886-4168) or Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland (P.O. Box 1196, Winter Park, FL 32790-1196).

October Action in Winter Park

City Hall and Elsewhere

October Action in Winter Park

Everyone’s gearing up for the Autumn Art Festival Oct. 12-13, hoping the weather will cooperate. It’s been pretty quiet, and the weekend forecast looks to be fair. Head over to Central Park to enjoy local artists, local music and local family fun. The Autumn Art Festival is the only juried fine art festival exclusively featuring Florida artists. The Festival is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm both days, and admission is free.

It’s Still Hurricane Season

The Orlando Sentinel did remind us this morning that seven of the most destructive hurricanes to hit the U.S. arrived in October, so the season isn’t over. “It’s not time to guzzle your hurricane supplies yet,” wrote Sentinel reporter Joe Pedersen. Neither is it time to put away Winter Park’s Hurricane Preparedness Guide – soon, but not yet. https://issuu.com/cityofwinterpark/docs/hurricane_preparedness_guide?e=7314878/63055860

Musical Chairs at City Hall

October is typically the month when the Campaign Jungle Drums begin to rumble about who will run for office in the spring – or not – and for what. This year is no exception. Mayor Steve Leary announced in a September 17 press release that he had filed paperwork to run for Orange County Commission Seat #5, opposing incumbent Emily Bonilla.

Leary — Mayor until Nov. 30, 2020

According to now-retired City Clerk Cindy Bonham, as a candidate for Orange County Commission, Leary must submit his resignation as Winter Park Mayor on May 29, 2020, to be effective November 30, 2020. Leary can continue to serve as Mayor until November 30, 2020, but must step down December 1, 2020, whether or not he is elected to the Orange County Commission. “If he loses the County election,” wrote Bonham, “he would lose both the County and City seats. Someone would have to be appointed as Mayor until the March 2021 general election. . . .”

Sprinkel Will Run for Mayor

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel has announced her intention not to run for re-election to Commission Seat #2 in 2020, so that she can run for Mayor in 2021. Winter Park Commissioners are limited to four terms – whether they serve as Mayor, Commissioner or a combination of the two. Since Sprinkel is currently serving her third term as Commissioner, she has only one term remaining – a term in which she would like to serve as Winter Park’s Mayor. She will, therefore, relinquish her Commission Seat #2 when her third term concludes.

Who Will Replace Sprinkel?  Who Will Oppose Seidel?

Commission Seats #1 and #2 are both up in 2020. Greg Seidel told the Voice that he will run for re-election to Seat #1.

Attorney and former Planning & Zoning Advisory Board member Sheila DeCiccio also has announced her intention to run for the Commission in Spring 2020. Word On The Street is that others are planning a Commission bid, but to date no one has gone public. Stay tuned.

October Schedule at City Hall

Here’s what’s going on at City Hall as of now. Things change, however, so check for the most current information here: https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

 

Coffee Talks

In addition to commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with City Officials, where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking.

The Mayor’s Coffee Talk was in July. Vice Mayor Greg Seidel’s was August 8, and Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel’s was September 9. The remaining Coffee Talks will be held 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.

Charter Review -- Fast Track to Completion

Commission Will Deliberate, Voters Will Decide

Charter Review — Fast Track to Completion

The Charter Review Advisory Committee (CRC) wrapped up their report Friday, Sept. 20, at Noon. The report will go to the Commission on Monday, Sept. 23, at a 6:00 pm workshop following the regular Commission meeting.

Every 10 years, a committee of Winter Park citizens is assembled to review the City Charter and make updates to bring it into compliance with state and federal law and to eliminate archaic language. The last review was in 2009.

Charter Review Committee

The committee members were Steve Brandon, Marjorie Bridges, Lisa Coney, Mary Daniels, Amanda Day, James Johnston, Bud Kirk, Jr., Nick Pope and Lawrence Lyman. They had 10 two-hour meetings between April 23 and September 20, 2019, in which they reviewed the Charter, line-by-line, and recommended changes. Recommendations required a consensus threshold of 75 percent of the committee. Issues decided could be readdressed with the consent of 75 percent of the committee.

Led by Marilyn Crotty

Not only was there robust discussion among committee members, there was substantial time devoted to public comment both before and following the formal meetings. Facilitator Marilyn Crotty, who led the effort and who has had a long career as a facilitator for cities throughout Florida, stated that she observed more participation from Winter Park citizens than she had for any other city with which she had worked. She commended Winter Parkers for their extraordinary level of civic engagement.

Implementation Procedures

The Commission will have the weekend to review the CRC’s report. Following the regular Commission meeting Monday, the Commissioners and the committee members will have an informal workshop to discuss the committee’s recommendations. Although the Commission could decide otherwise, it is customary that during an informal workshop, such as the one Monday night, no decisions will be made and no public comment will be taken.

It will be an important meeting for concerned citizens to attend, however, to see which issues are discussed and to hear the tenor of the conversation.

First, the Commission

The Commission can decide to accept all, some or none of the CRC’s recommendations. Recommendations the Commission does accept will be placed on the ballot at the Presidential Preference Primary March 17, 2020. The procedure for that is as for anything placed on the ballot. The Commission will pass an ordinance that will include the ballot language through a process of two public hearings and an affirmative vote of a majority of Commissioners. Public notice and public comment will play leading roles in that process.

Then to the Ballot for a Decision by the Voters

At the September 20 committee meeting, Ms. Crotty estimated there could be as many as 19 separate recommendations to go on the ballot in March – a substantial amount of information for anyone to take in, especially in a Presidential Primary year when there are sure to be distractions.

Elaborate Voter Info Program Recommended

The CRC is recommending the City fund a community education program consisting, at a minimum, “. . . of access to copies of the proposed Charter changes, printed informational brochures, public forums, information on social media and the City website, and a speakers’ bureau to inform voters of the proposed changes.”

Hot Topics

During the committee meetings, the items that came up for discussion most frequently – and tended to be the most controversial – were the following four.

  1. Should Commissioners be elected from a geographic district rather than representing the citizens at large? Some believed districts might provide fairer representation for under-served communities, such as the West Side neighborhood. Others believed Winter Park is not large enough to warrant being divided up geographically. No consensus was reached on this issue, so it will not go forward as a recommendation from the committee, but Commissioners are still likely to hear about it.
  2. Should the Mayor have the sole authority to make appointments to Citizen Advisory Boards? Again, no consensus – five voted for, three against, one was absent – but the vote did not reach the required 75 percent consensus threshold. While a recommendation from the committee will not be forthcoming, this discussion too is probably far from over.
  3. How to ensure our local elections remain non-partisan? The difficulty here was crafting rules that are a) unambiguous and b) do not conflict with state and federal statutes and certain U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The committee recommends language prohibiting candidates from publicly advertising affiliation with any political party or accepting campaign contributions from any political party. It also provides for penalties for infractions.
  4. Increased compensation for Mayor and Commissioners. The committee is bringing its recommendation for base annual salaries for Commissioners of $12,600 and for the Mayor, $15,000. According to a table distributed by Marilyn Crotty, each Commissioner now receives $2,400 per year, and the Mayor receives $3,000.

Holding office entails a significant commitment of time and resources, and that can be a barrier for someone who has family obligations and is not self-employed, retired or independently wealthy. While no current Mayor or Commissioner would receive an increase, the increase would bring Winter Park compensation more in line with other cities in Central Florida. More important, the hope is that this increase would encourage a wider pool of potential future candidates to run for elected office.

Civil Service Board Survives

The committee was able to work through one topic — the possible elimination of the Civil Service Advisory Board – to avoid controversy. Suggested Charter language had the potential to eliminate the Civil Service Board, which forms a layer of protection between Police and Fire first responders and the more politically oriented City government. Instead of a Civil Service Advisory Board, the Charter would have mandated a Civil Service Code, (as yet, unwritten) which the Commission would adopt by Ordinance and which would govern first responders.

A Civil Service Code exists, but has not been updated for many years and is largely irrelevant. When asked about this, Police Chief Michael Deal told the Voice, “The Code is outdated and should be modernized, but the Board should remain intact. This keeps politics out of [first responder] work.”

Chief Deal went on to explain that nearly everything first responders do is governed by state law and state accreditation standards. “I am very happy in my job,” said Deal, “and the City Manager and the Commission are very supportive – they all let me do my job.”

“The issue is how the City functions,” he said, “not about the specific personalities involved. Right now, everything’s fine, but there could come a time when politics could enter in – which it doesn’t now – and that would not be appropriate.”

Chief Deal and City Manager Randy Knight have agreed to work together to update the Civil Service Code to meet today’s conditions. In the meantime — except in the highly unlikely event the Commission decides to abolish it — the Civil Service Advisory Board will remain.

 

 

What's Happening at City Hall in September?

As We Roar into Fall

What’s Happening at City Hall in September?

Given the weather forecast, most Winter Parkers are engaged in activities other than meetings. All City meetings through September 8 have been cancelled. First up is the Commission meeting September 9. Check this link for the most current information. https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/

Keeping an Eye on Dorian

The place to hover your mouse this month is here — https://cityofwinterpark.org/media/emergency-incidents/.

During the storm, this part of the City website will be updated several times a day with information to keep you safe. Among the useful information is a Hurricane Preparedness Guide. Don’t wait until the storm hits to click on this link. https://issuu.com/cityofwinterpark/docs/hurricane_preparedness_guide?e=7314878/63055860

The Schedule? It’s a Definite Maybe

The Chapman Room and the Commission Chambers are on the second floor of City Hall.

Coffee Talks

In addition to commissions, boards and task forces, we also have informal gatherings with City Officials, where you can let them know what you’re thinking and find out what they’re thinking.

The Mayor’s Coffee Talk was in July. Vice Mayor Greg Seidel’s was August 8. The remaining Coffee Talks will be held 8:00 to 9:00 am at the Winter Park Golf and Country Club, 761 Old England Ave.

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel – September 9.

Commissioner Carolyn Cooper – October 10.

Commissioner Todd Weaver – November 14.