Winter Parkers Respond to Mayor's "Thank You" Survey

Read Results Here

Winter Parkers Respond to Mayor’s “Thank You” Survey

Leary Mailer-2

Remember about two weeks after the March 10 election? Newly elected Mayor Steven Leary sent a questionnaire out to some Winter Park residents asking for their opinions about the City.

At that time, the Voice published an open letter to Mayor Leary, asking questions that many of you had posed to us. Mayor Leary has, so far, not responded to our questions, but 1,107 of you responded to Mayor Leary’s questions. The Voice obtained your responses to the Mayor’s questionnaire through a public records request.

We know you’ve been wondering . . . so here it is. This is what you told the mayor.

More Than 1,000 Survey Responses

While not all of you responded to every question, many of you gave more than one response to a single question. Note that Question #1 had more than 1,300 responses – although we received only 1,107 survey forms. Some commented that the questions were confusing or called for a response that did not reflect the true feelings of the respondent.

Not All WP Residents Received Survey

When asked, the Leary campaign said that one survey was mailed to each household in Winter Park – either electronically or by U.S. Postal Service. The campaign did not confirm or deny that all survey recipients lived in Winter Park. The Voice heard from a number of readers who live in Winter Park who did not receive surveys. The Voice does not know the total number of surveys mailed or how criteria for the mailing were established. We could not, therefore, determine the sample size or the demographic used.

City Doing a Good Job

Most of you who did respond think the tax structure is about right and that the City is doing a good job – especially the Police and Fire Departments. More than half of you expressed concern about over-development, traffic and congestion.

Comments Not Included

More than half of you responded “other” and added comments on the survey forms. Because of the individual nature of the comments, we were not able to tabulate them and have not included the comments in the results.

“Protect Winter Park”

The type of comment we saw most often is summed in this respondent’s plea to the new mayor: “Please – keep your campaign promises. Protect Winter Park’s uniqueness. Once it is gone – too late!”

But the devil is in the details, and the details are all here in the charts.



DPAC Donation Rankles

It’s Coming Around Again

DPAC Donation Rankles


As Budget Season approaches, the specter of nine more annual $100,000 contributions to Orlando’s Dr. Philips Performing Arts Center (DPAC) remains a bone of contention among Winter Parkers. At the June 9 Utilities Advisory Board (UAB) meeting, a group of citizens voiced their opposition to using the Utilities Fund for any portion of the City’s charitable contributions in the coming 2015-16 fiscal year. In Fiscal 2014-15, two-thirds of the City’s contributions to charitable organizations came from the Utilities Fund, and the Utilities Advisory Board members did not find out about it until April 2015 when they read it in the paper.

UAB member John Reker, who was rotating off the board after the June 9 meeting, spoke as a concerned citizen. He stated that utility rates are determined by the Cost of Service and said he does not believe it is appropriate to charge customers for anything other than the cost of delivering water and electricity.

Reker was replaced by former Commissioner Barbara DeVane, who was on the Commission when the City purchased the utilities company. At this meeting, DeVane said, “When we bought the utility, we promised the utility money would stay in the utility.”

According to the City website, the board’s mandate is to advise “the Mayor and City Commission on matters regarding the capital needs, rate structures and policies related to the operation of the city’s utilities system.” In other words, the UAB determines how much we pay for water and electricity, and they are responsible for all capital improvements to the system, like undergrounding.

How much we pay for our utilities determines how much is in the Utilities Fund to make repairs in the event of equipment failure or power outage, and how long it will take to complete the undergrounding process. The only money the utility company has comes from the rate-payers. Diversion of funds from the Utilities Fund necessarily hinders the performance of their charge.

The Winter Park City Charter states: “Transfer or use of collected sewer fee funds for other than sewer purposes must be approved by a voter referendum.” The City Charter was written in 1983, predating the City’s purchase of the utility company. At the time, the only utility Winter Park had was sewer. Since the Charter has not been updated to reflect the current situation, there is no current proscription on diverting electric or water revenues to the General Fund.

City Manager Randy Knight pointed out that the UAB operates solely as advisors and that only the City can spend money.  He went on to say, just because the City dipped into the Utilities Fund for the FY 2014-15 charitable contributions, that did not mean the City would utilize this fund in future years. Knight acknowledged that he was responsible for using the Utilities Fund for a portion of the charitable donations in last year’s budget, clearly subscribing to the “ask-forgiveness-not-permission” school of thought.

UAB Chair Katherine Johnson had prepared a draft memo titled “Proposed Guidance Regarding the Use of City of Winter Park’s Electric Utility and Water/Wastewater Revenues.” She stated that the board was “agnostic” on the subject of the individual donation recipients, but was concerned about the precedent it set. She told the Observer, “This raiding of the utility funds for other purposes is a problem that is systemic in other jurisdictions that I’m familiar with.”

She told the Voice that she wanted to ensure that the priority for the utility funds remains focused on long-term capital projects that will improve the safety and reliability of utility operations and that will benefit the utility’s customers.

“We already give 6 percent of the utility revenues to the City for the general fund,” said Johnson. “This past year they appropriated another quarter percent,” (amounting to approximately $175,000) “and the funds were redirected without the opportunity for a discussion among UAB members and City staff about the long-term impacts of this decision.”


Open Letter to Steve Leary:

Please Answer a Few Questions About the “2015 Citizens Survey”

Open Letter to Steve Leary:


Dear Mayor Leary:

Nearly two weeks after the March 10 election, your mailer entitled “2015 Citizens Survey” went to selected Winter Park households. Some received the survey electronically, others received theirs in the mail. Some did not receive the survey. Both those who received the survey and many who did not had the same question for you:  What is this?

The mailer states that it was paid for and sent by you, “Steven Leary, non-partisan candidate for Winter Park Mayor.” It expresses your thanks to the voters and carries a message that reads in part, “As your mayor, I would like to set priorities over the next 90 days for the first year and beyond and I would appreciate your support and input. . . . Please take a moment to answer this brief citizens survey.” Your mailer requests the answers be returned either to a private email or by pre-paid post to a Park Avenue address.

According to Winter Park Communications Director Clarissa Howard, this is not a document created by the city and has nothing to do with the upcoming Visioning process.

The timing of the mailer – coming two weeks after the election and on the heels of the formation of the Visioning Task Force – had some of us scratching our heads. According to the “Candidate & Campaign Treasurer Handbook,” issued by the Florida Division of Elections, “Once a candidate is . . . elected to office, he or she may only expend funds from the campaign account to” deal with remaining financial obligations, close the office, prepare the termination report and to “Purchase “thank you” advertising for up to 75 days after he or she is . . . elected to office.”To read the entire text, CLICK HERE and scroll down to page 50, “Chapter 17: Termination Reports.”

While some might argue your mailer went a little beyond “thank you advertising,” the Thank You message is clearly stated.

Apparently, the other members of the Commission had no prior knowledge of the survey. When asked for comment, Commissioner Tom McMacken stated simply, “I am stunned.”

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel wrote in an email, “I believe this was something Steve did on his own– it was not a city initiative so you will have to find out from him.”

Commissioners Carolyn Cooper and Greg Seidel applauded your effort to solicit residents’ input for guidance in your new role as mayor. Cooper added that she hoped you would use the survey results “your own edification and not to formulate city policy.”

The Voice received a number of queries from puzzled readers. Some wondered how your campaign determined which households would be surveyed and what the campaign organization planned to do with the results.

Others found the questions difficult to answer. Long-time Winter Park resident Ann Saurman wrote in a message to Mayor and Commissioners:

Some of the questions had a definite bias.”

“The City maintaining right-of-way trees” required agreeing to an increase in taxes, while neither “Needing more active parks and playing fields” or “Needing ‘lots of improvements’ to Winter Park’s facilities” required any tax increase.

“I hope this is not an indication of how the visioning process will be executed,” wrote Saurman. ”I would like Citizens Surveys to go to all citizens and for the questions to be designed in a fair and honest way so as to produce credible results.” 

The Voice has submitted further questions to you which were based on similar messages from other readers. The questions are below. Although you had not responded as of publication, we welcome the opportunity to publish your reply if you decide to answer the questions in the future.

Congratulations Mayor Leary, Commissioner Seidel

With Gratitude to Cynthia Mackinnon and Gary Brewer for Their Willingness to Serve Their Community

Congratulations Mayor Leary, Commissioner Seidel

L to R: Bill Leary, Beth Hall, Tom Leary, Joan Gfeller, Rich Leary. 

Mayor Leary’s brothers and neighbors support their candidates of choice.

It’s over. The yard signs are nearly all gone, most of the flyers clogging the mailboxes are once again from Publix. Life is returning to normal. 

This long, hard-fought race brought out more than 6,700 voters — a respectable showing for a non-presidential year. Unofficially, 6,722 voted in the mayor race, with Steve Leary pulling down 52.75 percent and Cynthia Mackinnon close behind with 47.75 percent. In the race for Commission Seat #1, vacated by Leary, Greg Seidel received 56.14 percent of the 6,466 votes cast to Gary Brewer’s 43.86 percent. 

These figures are preliminary. Official results will be released Friday, the 13th.

Mackinnon Looks Forward to Civility and Collaboration

In her concession speech March 10, Mackinnon said, “I expect you will see a new civility and more transparency in our city government. I expect you will see more fairness in the say city board members are selected. I expect good progress will be made in restoring our tree canopy. So, let’s focus . . . on what motivated us in the first place — we love this town. I don’t have any doubt that Mr. Leary and his supporters love this town, too.”

Brewer Deplores Campaign Cost

Gary Brewer was somewhat more pointed in his observations about the conduct of the campaign. “I believe this community needs to take a hard look at . . . how we finance and conduct campaigns,” he wrote. “More than a quarter million dollars has been spent in this campaign, mostly for attacking one another. As a charitable fundraiser, I can’t help but think what those resources could have done to support programs like the Library, Mead Garden, Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park and Welbourne Day Nurseries . . . or you name the charity.”

Leary: “Winter Park Deserves Our Best”

In an email message, newly elected Mayor Steve Leary expressed the feelings many of us share. “I appreciate those with whom I disagree, for I know they love Winter Park as much as I do,” he wrote. “We’ve had enough division, rhetoric, demonization. . . .  Let us move forward into the future together as a Community.”

At the end of the day, we’re all neighbors, and we are all looking forward to the energetic leadership of these two capable young men. Our wishes go out to both of them for success in making sure Winter Park remains the best place to live, work and play. 

Library Hosts Two Debates

Candidates for Mayor, Commission Meet Separately

Library Hosts Two Debates

Separate debates between mayoral candidates and candidates for city commission revealed a stark contrast in the tenor and the conduct of the two races.

Mayors Debate First

The first debate, between mayoral candidates Cynthia Mackinnon and Steve Leary on February 19, was moderated by former Channel 6 anchor Lauren Rowe before a standing-room-only crowd. Rowe, herself charismatic and edgy, posed questions that emphasized the differences between the two candidates. Either candidate who failed to answer a question to her satisfaction was given very little leeway. The tone of the debate was contentious, and each candidate’s difference with the other was palpable.

At the request of the Library, both debates were taped by the Winter Park Voice.

Click here to see video of the debate between the mayoral candidates.

Commissioners Meet the Following Week

The second debate, between commission candidates Greg Seidel and Gary Brewer, was downright friendly by comparison. Moderated by Ann Helmuth of the Orange County League of Women Voters, this debate was as much a discussion as it was a debate. While some remarks were in the form of rebuttals, just as often, one candidate simply expanded on the remarks of the previous speaker. Each was quick to acknowledge the strengths of the other. Held before a much smaller audience, the tone of this debate was almost relaxed.

To view the commission candidates’ debate, click here .


Special Election 2015 Section in The Voice

To see full candidate profiles, interviews, filings, positions on various issues and other stories as they are published, click on the “Election 2015” button >  

Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can be found on the City of Winter Park website at

How to Request an Absentee Ballot

Deadline: Wednesday, March 4, 5:00 p.m.

How to Request an Absentee Ballot


Are you one of the many Winter Park voters who is accustomed to voting by absentee ballot, who hasn’t received a ballot this year, and are wondering where it is?

No Permanent Absentee Status

Laws governing the way we vote have changed. The State of Florida no longer has permanent absentee status. If you haven’t received your absentee ballot for the 2015 election, Lucy Melendez of the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office says your status probably has expired and you will need to renew your request.

Anyone registered to vote in Orange County may request an absentee ballot.

To renew your request online, go to

To request a ballot by phone, call 407-836-2070.

If you have access to a computer, you may also download the request form in .pdf format and mail it to the address given on the website. Request forms are available in English and Spanish.

Necessary Information

You will need to include your name, date of birth, residential address, mailing address if it’s different from your residence, and the elections for which you wish to receive a ballot.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Wed., March 4, 5:00 p.m.


Special Election 2015 Section in The Voice

To see full candidate profiles, interviews, filings, positions on various issues and other stories as they are published, click on the “Election 2015” button in the upper right portion of your screen when you are viewing the website. Or click this button >  

Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can be found on the City of Winter Park website at

Winter Park Candidates Square Off

View Complete Video of University Club, Chamber Debates Here

Winter Park Candidates Square Off


WPVoice forum

If turnout at the past two candidate debates is any indication, the current election cycle seems to have sparked unprecedented interest among Winter Park voters. 

Candidates Face Off at University Club of WP

The Winter Park Voice hosted a candidate forum at the University Club of Winter Park at 5:30 p.m. February 10. The moderator was Michele Levy, Co-President of The Orange County League of Women Voters. The crowd was standing-room-only, and many were turned away because of fire code limitations. For those who missed this first debate, click here to see video of the entire debate.

Chamber Hosts Second Debate

Three days later, on the auspicious morning of Friday the 13th, Winter Park’s four candidates faced off once again before another packed house, this time at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center. This 8:00 a.m. debate, hosted by the Chamber, was moderated by Chamber President Patrick Chapin and Chamber Board Member Kyle Taylor. Questions ran the gamut, from downtown parking, traffic and trees to “Say something nice about your opponent.” Again, the crowd was standing-room-only.

At the request of the Chamber, this debate in its entirety was taped by the Winter Park Voice. To view the video, click here.

Library Debates Feb. 19 and Feb. 25

The Winter Park Library will host the final two candidate debates. Mayoral candidates will debate at Noon on Thursday, February 19, and candidates for Commission Seat #1 will debate at Noon on Wednesday, February 25.


Special Election 2015 Section in The Voice

To see full candidate profiles, interviews, filings, positions on various issues and other stories as they are published, click on the “Election 2015” button in the upper right portion of your screen when you are viewing the website. Or click this button >  

Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can be found on the City of Winter Park website at

Lee Road Site Gets a Makeover

Breast Reduction for Winter Park

Lee Road Site Gets a Makeover

At 11:30 on the morning of February 11, a big yellow crane flattened the iconic breast-shaped roofs of the building at 2600 Lee Road formerly known as the Booby Trap. In a unanimous vote December 8, 2014, the Commission voted to purchase the property for $990,000 — a premium above the appraised value of $830,000. The deal closed shortly thereafter on January 28, 2015.

Former Booby Trap Up for Sale

As the double domed-shaped roofs were falling, Mayor Kenneth Bradley erected a For Sale sign and the property went on the market for $1 Million.

Recently known as Club Rio, the former Booby Trap has gone the way of other local watering holes such as Tom & Jerry’s and the Red Fox at the Mt. Vernon Inn.  This is part of a larger effort by the City to “clean up” the Lee Road gateway into Winter Park.

In a Media Alert, the stated rationale for purchasing this property was to “eliminate significant . . . police/criminal activity, eliminate repeated code violations . . . and improve one of the city’s main gateways.”

Source of Drug, Criminal Activity

As the former den of iniquity came down, Mayor Kenneth Bradley noted that while there might be some nostalgia for what he called an “historic landmark,” the City bought the building “because it’s been a source of tremendous crime in our city and drug activity.”

Bradley said the City has already received expressions of interest in the property and that its commercial zoning would make it a good site for an office or restaurant. Bradley said the City was getting rid of an “eyesore” and was making an important investment that will improve the area. The properties immediately east of the Booby Trap, at 2540 Lee Road and 2566 Lee Road, are owned by Bradley’s employer, Florida Hospital.

“Off the Record,” a Few Neighbors Will Miss It

Mike Gottlieb, a neighbor who rode his bike to witness the demolition, remarked that this was a sad day for him. “Now I won’t be able to tell people how to find my house,” he said.

Another bystander, Winter Park resident Hilary Blessler, objected to the cost paid by the city, noting that money might be better used for trees or schools. Another bystander, who requested his name be withheld, said, “This will improve our neighborhood and raise our property values but,” he said, referring to the old club, “off the record, it was a hell of a lot of fun.”





Special Election 2015 Section in The Voice

To see full candidate profiles, interviews, filings, positions on various issues and other stories as they are published, click on the “Election 2015” button in the upper right portion of your screen when you are viewing the website. Or click this button >  

Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can be found on the City of Winter Park website at

WP Voice Hosts Candidate Forum

Mark the Date: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10

WP Voice Hosts Candidate Forum


Winter Park is in the enviable position of having four qualified, capable candidates for Mayor and Commissioner. The Winter Park Voice will host a candidate forum at the University Club of Winter Park on February 10, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The forum will include all four candidates and will be moderated by Michele Levy from The Orange County League of Women Voters. 

WHO:              Mayoral Candidates Steven Leary and Cynthia Mackinnon

                        Commission Candidates Gary Brewer and Greg Seidel

WHAT:           Forum for Winter Park mayor and commission candidates


WHERE:         The University Club of Winter Park

                        841 North Park Ave.

                        Winter Park, FL 32789



WHEN:           Tuesday, February 10, 2015

                        Doors Open at 5:10 p.m.

                        Program begins promptly at 5:30 p.m. until 6:45 p.m.

 What’s the Program?

The program will consist of three questions, each concerning a different issue pertaining specifically to Winter Park, posed by the moderator. Each candidate will have the opportunity to answer the question and then to respond to answers from the other candidates.

How can You Ask Questions?

While no questions will be taken from the audience during the forum, you may submit your questions on line. Either click the “Read and Input Commentsbutton on this page and post your question there, or click on the Facebook button at the upper right of this page, go to the Winter Park Voice Facebook Group, and post your question there.

All questions will be gathered by the editorial staff no later than

5:00 p.m. Sunday, February 8. The moderator will ask as many representative questions from those collected online as time will allow.

Mark Your Calendar

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet your candidates and hear their views on major issues that affect all of us who have the good fortune to live in Winter Park. 

Special Election 2015 Section in The Voice

To see full candidate profiles, interviews, filings, positions on various issues and other stories as they are published, click on the “Election 2015” button in the upper right portion of your screen when you are viewing the website. Or click this button >  

Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can be found on the City of Winter Park website at

Meet the Candidates

Click on Links to See Full Bios and Platforms

Meet the Candidates

Steven Leary for Mayor

Steve Leary, Vice President of Leary Management Group, Inc., joined the firm in 2004 when he moved Winter Park. He was elected to the Winter Park City Commission in 2011 and was appointed Vice-Mayor by Mayor Kenneth Bradley. Leary has resigned his post as Commissioner in order to run for Mayor, but will finish out his current term on the Commission.   

To read more about Leary and his platform, Click Here.

Cynthia Mackinnon for Mayor

Retired Judge Cynthia Mackinnon was educated at Edgewater High School. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Emory University, where she met her husband Alex. She and Alex have lived in Winter Park for more than 40 years. They have two sons and six grandchildren. 

To read more about Mackinnon and her platform, Click Here.

Gary Brewer for Commission

In 1982, Brewer was elected to the Winter Park City Commission, where he served until 1993, when he was elected Mayor of Winter Park. His list of services to the community is a long one and includes being President of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of United Way of Winter Park, Chairman of Trustees and Board of Deacons at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park.

To read more about Brewer and his platform, Click Here.


Gregory Seidel for Commission

Greg Seidel, Vice President and Chief Engineer at The Balmoral Group, has lived in Winter Park since 1998. A Florida native, Greg grew up in Altamonte Springs and attended Lake Mary High School. He earned both his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees in engineering from Lehigh University. Seidel’s engineering focus is on roadway design and stormwater management. He served on the Winter Park Utility Advisory from 2008 to 2014 and was chairman from 2010 to 2014.

To read more about Seidel and his platform,Click Here.


Special Election 2015 Section in The Voice

To see full candidate profiles, interviews, filings, positions on various issues and other stories as they are published, click on the “Election 2015” button in the upper right portion of your screen when you are viewing the website. Or click this button >  

Campaign Treasurer’s Reports can be found on the City of Winter Park website at