Jim Fitch to Run for Mayor

Will Leary Run for Re-Election?

Jim Fitch to Run for Mayor

No matter that the earliest date you can officially declare a run for office is more than a month off, Jim Fitch has announced he’s throwing his hat into the ring. Mr. Fitch will challenge incumbent Steve Leary in the 2018 mayoral election.

The Incumbent

Communications Director Clarissa Howard could neither confirm nor deny that Mayor Steve Leary will seek a second mayoral term, but sources confirm that Leary has picked up the documents he needs from the City to begin forming a campaign organization for a run in 2018.

First elected to the City Commission in 2011, Leary resigned his Commission seat in late 2014 to complete his successful 2015 run for mayor. Leary has been an active and visible mayor, and he has represented Winter Park in various regional organizations such as MetroPlan Orlando and the Florida League of Mayors. Leary has been a leader in the effort to build a library-event center in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

The Challenger

Jim Fitch, a Louisiana native, did his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at LSU and later received an MBA in finance and real estate from Stanford University.

After a career in industry and real estate, Fitch moved to Haines City, FL in 2011, where he began a second career in public service. He served as a member of the Haines City Planning & Zoning Board, held a seat on the Board of Adjustments and chaired the Finance Advisory Board. Fitch and his wife Doriana moved to Winter Park in 2016.

Fitch says that he and his wife were drawn by the ‘city of homes’ character of Winter Park. His plans for the city, if he is elected, include formation of a Finance Advisory Board and an Architectural Review Board. He says he plans to adhere closely to the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the City in 2016.

“The people of this city devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to developing a Comprehensive Plan for how the city will look and how the city will grow,” said Fitch, “and I want to see Winter Park’s commitment to those ideals upheld.”

The Election – March 13, 2018

In Winter Park, the only 2018 election will be for mayor. The four Commissioners have either one or two years remaining in their terms. The candidate qualifying period begins at Noon on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 and ends Noon Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Election day is March 13, 2018. If a run-off election is necessary, it will be held April 10, 2018.

Three Ways to Vote

You can vote by mail, vote early or go to the polls on election day. The Orange County Supervisor of Elections website is http://ocfelections.com/votersguide.aspx#ways

To Request a Vote-by-Mail Ballot

1. Call 407-836-2070.
2. Request online.
3. Request fax or mail. Send your name, residential address, mailing address, date of birth, signature, and election(s) for which you are requesting a ballot to (407) 254-6598 or P.O. Box 562001, Orlando, FL 32856-2001.

For more municipal election information, contact the City Clerk’s office at 407-599-3277 or email cityclerk@cityofwinterpark.org.

  • author's avatar

    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

  • author's avatar

16 replies
    • Greg Tischner says:

      Real classless post, Anonymous. IF, you truly wanted your opinion to be considered, why not post your name and email address so perhaps Mr. Fitch could correspond with you about your concern about him running for Mayor and provide him the opportunity to express the challenges the city is currently facing.

  1. Suspicious says:

    This doesn’t make much sense. Why would someone over 80 years old be running for mayor of a town he’s only lived in for a year?

    You know Commissioners recently changed the rules in Winter Park municipal elections. There are no more primaries.

    So, is this an attempt by Leary to divide the opposition votes between multiple candidates so that he can win re-election? Or an attempt to discourage other people from running?

  2. The Elephant in the Room says:

    According to data available on the internet, the candidate is a Republican. If Orange County Republican Executive Committee maintains its non-endorse policy for local elections with more than one Republican candidate running, Leary would stand to lose the endorsement he has been accustomed to receiving and all the free campaign advertising that goes with it.

    That said, in the past, some Winter Park candidates have been known to pull out. Just because someone tosses their hat into the ring doesn’t mean they will remain a candidate through Election Day.

    So if he were to drop out, and no other Republicans ran, then OCREC would be free again to endorse Leary.

  3. Cigar says:

    I don’t normally make predictions about Winter Park elections this early. But in this case, I’ll make an exception.

    Jim Fitch will not be mayor of Winter Park.

    “Architectural Review Board” is not enough to win in Winter Park. “Finance Advisory Board” is not enough to win in Winter Park. And “Not Leary” is not enough to win in Winter Park.

    Winter Park voters may not all be Republican, but they tend to be conservative in their voting habits. Meaning that they normally re-elect.

    That’s not necessarily because they want to re-elect. It’s just that the challengers are generally weak candidates. So they vote for the “devil that they know” rather than the “devil that they don’t know.”

    To dislodge Leary would take a candidate that Winter Park voters have come to know and trust. Voters like candidates who are 50-ish. Not saying that folks in their 40’s and 60’s couldn’t win too.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone on the Commission. But for example, Seidel would stand a better than even chance of defeating Leary should he choose to run. That’s because Seidel has all the tickets. 1) The voters trust him. 2) He has an established base of support. 3) He’s the kind of 50-ish candidate Winter Park voters tend to prefer when they vote for mayor.

    An outsider who fits the same general profile could win too. Especially if they made their campaign about the unpopular Winter Park Library / Events Center that thousands of residents believe to be unwise, if not an all out scam that the politicians pulled on the residents.

  4. Pitt Warner says:

    Mr. Fitch,
    As you can read above, WP is a welcoming, open-minded city with many citizens exhibiting thoughtful and warm actions.

    • Not Born Yesterday says:

      When Pitt pays great deference to a candidate whom he is not voting for, you know that candidate is a shill.

      This guy will never file the papers required to have his name officially placed on the ballot.

      The reason is that Leary fears that any official candidate, even one over 80 years old, stands to take votes away from himself.

      More smoke and mirrors campaign shenanigans, from what appears to be a very weak and insecure Leary campaign.

      • Pitt Warner says:

        I was being sarcastic.

        I can’t see myself supporting a candidate who is in favor of an ARB or mandatory historic preservation district. Not saying ever, but in this case, no way.

        And my comment referred to the people rejecting Mr. Fitch’s candidacy w/o knowing a bit about him. We should be welcoming any all to run for office-newdie, oldster, tenant, owner.

        • Draft Pitt! says:

          Pitt, if you really think that we should welcome everyone running for mayor, why don’t you run?

          You being ideologically the same as Leary, that would take votes away from Leary.

          Let’s start a “Draft Pitt” movement to encourage Pitt to run for mayor in 2018! We can make some signs and have a rally in Central Park! “DRAFT PITT FOR MAYOR 2018”

          • Pitt Warner says:

            It’s amazing how anonymous posters don’t have the guts to post their name, but make cheap shots at everyone else. New residents have a lot to offer. FYI, WP is not unique. We have a wonderful main street, beautiful neighborhoods, nice lakes and the majority of the people are very nice. But, like every other town in America our size and quality, we have a monority of small-minded, immature cretins who hide behind juvenile names and emotions. Grow up.

          • Pitt Plus Ten says:

            Yes!!! Great idea!!!

            Hey. Not only Pitt. Can we recruit some more real estate people to run for Winter Park mayor in 2018?

            How about the Ravadage developer? He seems like he spends a lot of time at City Hall anyway. Let’s ask him to run for mayor in 2018. And the guy who wants to build the giant building on New England with no parking? Can we convince hm to run in 2018 too?

            And how about the fella who chaired the “Library” task force who works for Rollins now? You know, the one who went in it with no preconceived notions about whether a new library was needed or not (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). He seems like the kind of guy who might be up for it if anyone asked him.

            And how about that lawyer lady who represents every other developer who has some big grand scheme for Winter Park. Put her on the ballot for mayor too.

            And while we’re at it, let’s convince a few more real estate brokers to run for mayor in 2018.

            Thanks Mayor Leary for giving us some great ideas on how to make sure you don’t get 50% of the vote!

          • Relax says:

            Calm down, Pitt.

            It’s not the residents’ responsibility to bail out people who got in over their heads in the Winter Park real estate bubble. Why should we hand Leary another term as mayor just so he can continue to back fill the value gap with endless projects?

            People who thought they’d struck oil by investing in West Side real estate should have bought Bitcoin instead, because Leary looks more and more like a one-termer as mayor.

  5. Running Mates says:

    Looks like Leary has recruited a running mate. These guys are obviously working together to get Leary re-elected. So Winter Park voters will have a choice in 2018. They can vote for the Leary-Fitch ticket, or a to-be-named challenger.

  6. How Leary Wins says:

    Here’s how Leary can win in 2018:

    He has to recruit one candidate to run for mayor from each group of voters he has offended while serving on the commission. That way, the people who wouldn’t be voting for Leary anyway might be fooled into voting for the Leary-recruited-candidate instead of the legitimate one.

    Because Leary has offended so many voters during his time on the commission, this is the only chance Leary has to make it difficult enough for any challenger to get 50% of the votes.

    For Leary to stand any chance of getting 50% of the pie, he has to divide the pie into very thin slices.


    He’s got the over 80 years old voters group covered with Fitch. The over 80 year olds won’t vote for Leary because they don’t like the sound of bulldozers next door from them for the past three years.

    Next, he has to recruit a West Side resident to run for mayor. West side residents won’t vote for Leary because they don’t like their neighborhood turning into a parking garage.

    Then, he has to recruit a woman to run for mayor. Woman are disappointed with Leary as mayor because he is rude and condescending to them.

    Leary will need to recruit a Christian to run for mayor. Christians are not voting for Leary because he voted to make it illegal for people to read their Bible or sing a Christmas carol on the public sidewalk.

    And Leary will have to find someone to run for mayor who lives south or east of the existing Winter Park Library. Leary stole their library and is taxing them to build a new one they will never use due to time it will take to drive across town to the new one.

    Then Leary will need to get someone who commutes during rush hour traffic to run for mayor. Voters who drive a car during the rush hour won’t vote for Leary because his policies make traffic worse.

    Leary will have to get someone who doesn’t like tax increases to run. Because voters are writing bigger checks than ever in taxes since Leary was elected.

    This is only a partial list. There could easily be 10 or more candidates that Leary would have to get to run in order to stand any kind of chance to divide the vote sufficiently to keep any challenger from getting 50% of the vote.

    And they would all also have to be in cahoots with Leary so that they wouldn’t make him look bad during the campaign.

    But not to worry. There’s an old saying, “Cream rises to the top.”

    A good, qualified challenger could defeat Leary PLUS all the cast of accomplice characters he may recruit to run for mayor.

    Winter Park voters are smart enough to see through Leary’s campaign charade. But apparently, Leary hasn’t quite figured this out yet.


Leave a Reply

NOTE: All comments are held for moderation. Comments containing personal attacks or inappropriate language will not be posted. If you don't see your comment, please be patient. It may be posted soon. Do not post your comment a second time. Thank you.

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.