Former Commissioners Phil Anderson and Sarah Sprinkel will vie for the Mayor’s seat being vacated in March 2021 by Steve Leary. Even though the filing deadline is not until January 19, 2021 — which means there could be additional contenders — Anderson and Sprinkel have established campaign organizations and will begin active campaigning following the November 2020 election. The Winter Park general election is March 9, 2021. A runoff, if necessary, will be held April 13, 2021.
On her platform, Sprinkel promises not to raise your taxes, to provide leadership during the pandemic and to exercise fiscal responsibility. In his platform, Anderson promises to protect the charm and character of Winter Park, to put residents’ interests first at City Hall and to make decisions that will keep Winter Park financially strong and prepared for the future.
This pandemic-era election cycle will look very different from previous campaigns. Sprinkel said, “I never want to put someone else at risk. I worry about my husband as much as I worry about myself. I don’t think I’ll be out and about very much – I don’t think we’re quite ready for that. So, this will be a different kind of campaign.”
Anderson was of like mind. “We are holding virtual campaign meetings and small-group outdoor meetings,” he said. His campaign is holding ‘meet & greets’ either outdoors with social distancing or via Zoom. He said they are also relying heavily on social media.
Anderson talked about the difference between this campaign and the campaign when he won the Commission seat he held from 2008 to 2011. “What I enjoyed about the 2008 cycle was the door to door thing, meeting people, hearing their stories,” he said. “But we can’t do that this time. I’m still going to do the Farmer’s Market – but not until after the general election.”
Who is Sarah Sprinkel?
Sprinkel served three terms as Commissioner from 2011 to 2020, when she stepped down in order to run for Mayor in 2021. If she is elected, Sprinkel will be the first woman to serve Winter Park as Mayor. Asked if she thought her gender would influence her leadership style, Sprinkel replied, “Yes, women look at things differently than men. My whole life has been spent lifting up families. I think we could do with some nurturing in leadership, under the circumstances. We should be working on a safety net for families right now. You have to have that open heart and that open mind.”
Sarah Sprinkel is a teacher. According to her website, she taught kindergarten for 10 years, then moved into administration to develop early childhood programs. She retired from the Orange County Public School System after 33 years and went to the Central Florida YMCA to partner with Disney to create two child development centers for cast members’ children. After retiring from Disney, she went to Florida Virtual School to create an Elementary program for FLVS. She now teaches classes as an adjunct at UCF and works with interns there.
Who is Phil Anderson?
Phil Anderson is a business executive with 35 years’ experience in finance and operations. He earned a degree in civil engineering from Georgia Tech and began his career building power plants for Georgia Power Company — valuable experience when it comes to understanding the complexities of the City of Winter Park utilities.
Over the past 35 years, Anderson has helped create several businesses that have invested over $10 billion dollars in more than 300 communities across the country. Most recently, he co-founded Bridge Seniors Housing Fund Manager in Orlando where he serves as Chief Investment Officer. Prior to that he served as Chief Operating Officer of CNL Retirement Properties.
Anderson and his wife Jennifer are patrons of local organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Eatonville, the Albin Polasek Museum and Gardens, and the Winter Park History Museum. Anderson is the founding treasurer of the Winter Park Land Trust and a member of the board of directors of Legacy Pointe at UCF — a non-profit retirement community.
How do they feel about the Orange Avenue Overlay?
Asked about her feelings on the OAO, Sprinkel said, “I have no problem with it. Remember, it didn’t begin with this project. They’ve been looking at this since form-based codes in 2003. It’s past time for the city to solve the problems that are in that area, especially road safety. People working together can solve things. That is the most dangerous road in Winter Park. Safety is paramount. For me, it’s never been about anything but safety. I do hope it eventually comes to fruition.”
To the same question, Anderson responded, “This is a great illustration of differences between me and Sarah. The OAO is very good as a concept. I do not agree, however, that it was ready for a vote when it got pushed through at the last minute. I’m glad the present commission is demanding illustrations of what the increased density would look like before they grant three to four times the increased maximum allowable building size.”
Anderson continued, “I believe we didn’t follow the norms of how we grant substantial increased densities to various landowners. When Rollins moved forward with the Innovation Triangle, we got a flier in our mailboxes with a diagram of the new buildings and a statistical table of their “ask.” The table showed what they were entitled to and what variances they were seeking. Why did that not happen in the largest rezoning in Winter Park history? The situation is now being corrected by the new commission. That’s the substance of the work sessions – illustrations of what these plans might allow. We badly need that to encourage an informed debate about the future of our city’s skyline.”
At their August 26 regular meeting, Commissioners voted 3-2 to draft an ordinance that would add the single member districts question to the March 2021 ballot. If the ordinance is passed by the Commission, the ballot question would ask voters if they want to continue the current “at large” form of representation, in which each Commissioner represents all Winter Park citizens, regardless of where they live, or if the City should be divided into districts, with each district represented by a Commissioner from that district.
This issue was discussed at length during the 2019 Charter Review in preparation for the 2020 vote on updated Charter revisions. Single member districts was not among the 11 Charter questions on the 2020 ballot, as the Charter Review Committee felt Winter Park was geographically too small to be divided up into separate districts.
The question remained, however, in the minds of some citizens who are advocating for single member districts, which they believe will provide members of the historically Black Hannibal Square neighborhood a better chance for a strong voice in city government. There has not been a Black commissioner in Winter Park since the late 19th century, despite the crucial role of the Black community in the incorporation of first the town and then the city of Winter Park.
Advisory Board Appointments a First Step
One of the 11 Charter revisions that passed in 2020 was the change in Advisory Board appointments. Instead of the Mayor making all board appointments, each Commissioner also has authority to make board appointments, resulting in the appointments of several Black citizens to advisory boards this year. Service on a Citizen Advisory Board is generally regarded as one path to election to the City Commission.
Single Member Districts Requires a City Charter Change
In order to create single member districts, the City Charter would have to be revised, and a Charter revision can only be accomplished at the ballot box. There are two ways to put the question to the voters – by petition or by ordinance. In a citizen initiative, at least 10 percent of registered voters must sign a petition requesting the change. That would require gathering just over 2,000 signatures – in the midst of a pandemic.
The Commissioners also have the authority to pass an ordinance placing the question on the ballot, without the need for a petition drive. And that is what they did on August 26th, with Commissioners Todd Weaver, Sheila DeCiccio and Marty Sullivan voting in support and Commissioner Carolyn Cooper and Mayor Steve Leary dissenting.
January 20, 2021 – Deadline for the 2021 Ballot
Between now and January 2021, the Commissioners expect to hold a series of workshops in which they will have to decide how many districts there would be, where district lines would be drawn and, if the measure were to pass, how any change would affect those Commissioners currently holding office. In most cities that have single member districts, for example Orlando, the Mayor serves the city at large and each Commissioner represents a single district.
An ordinance allowing back yard chickens, which has been under discussion since 2014 or earlier, finally passed its first reading at the August 26 Commission meeting. The City plans to issue up to 25 permits for residents in single family homes to keep up to four hens – the recommended number for happy hens.
Did you know, the color of the chicken’s eggs is the same as the color of her ears. Have you ever been close enough to a chicken to look at her ears? You may now have the chance.
The chickens must be cooped in a structure no higher than 7 feet. Chicken coops must be in fenced back or side yards and placed far enough from neighboring homes to cause no disturbance. Only hens are allowed; roosters are prohibited, as they are the ones who are noisy. Residents who keep chickens must complete an educational class on chicken care and will undergo periodic City inspections to ensure coops are clean and well maintained.
The ordinance establishing this two-year pilot program is based on successful programs already in place in Orlando, Maitland and Longwood. Winter Park’s back yard chicken ordinance still has to pass its second reading before it becomes a reality, but Commissioner Todd Weaver believes that will come soon.
While everyone’s attention is focused on the November elections, the August 18 Primary Election will also have an immediate and lasting impact. Mark your calendars and get out and VOTE.
Register to Vote
The deadline to register to vote or to update your party affiliation for the August 18 Primary is July 20. You can do this online at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov, or by phone by calling 407-836-2070. You can go in person to any driver’s license office, the Winter Park Public Library, or the Orange County Elections office at 119 W. Kaley St., Orlando FL, 32806.
Vote by Mail
The deadline to request a Vote by Mail ballot is August 8 at 5:00 pm. You can request a Vote by Mail ballot online at ocfelections.com, by phone at 407-836-8683 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you prefer to cast your ballot in person before Election Day, go to <ocfelections.com/early-voting> to find an early voting location that is convenient for you. Unlike on Election Day, when you must vote at your assigned polling place, you can vote at any early voting center. Early voting dates are August 3 – 16. Note the locations, dates, and hours of operation on the <ocfelections.com> website. Be sure to bring photo and signature identification.
What’s on the Ballot?
In addition to several partisan races, there are five non-partisan races, so what appears on the ballots will depend upon your party affiliation.
Republicans will vote for the Congressional Representative from District 7, a State Committeeman, a State Committeewoman, four judges for the 9th Judicial Circuit and a member of the School Board.
Democrats will vote for State Attorney, Sheriff, Property Appraiser, four judges for the 9th Judicial Circuit and a School Board member.
Those with No Party Affiliation will vote only for the School Board member and the four Circuit Court judges.
You can confirm your voter status and find your polling place on the ocfelections.com website. If you have questions, call 407-836-2070 and someone will be able to assist you.
Well, it’s over for another year, but newly elected Commissioners Marty Sullivan (Seat #1) and Sheila DeCiccio (Seat #2) will not take their seats on the dais March 23, as that Commission meeting has been cancelled because of the current health crisis. Here’s hoping April will see us return to normal.
Thanks to Blydenburgh and Creasman
Our City owes a debt of gratitude to the four candidates and their supporters who worked so hard in this race. To Carl Creasman and Jeffrey Blydenburgh, we appreciate your engagement in our community and your willingness to serve, and we look forward to your ongoing contributions as our City continues to go about its work.
Poll Results – Commission Races
As of February 20, Winter Park has 22,366 registered voters. Of those, 8,610 – or 38.5 percent – cast their votes. Not every voter voted for every ballot item, however. Apparently, there were around 600 voters who voted only in the Presidential Primary and declined to participate in the local races. In the races for the two Commission seats, for instance, fewer than 8,000 cast votes.
For Commission Seat #1, Marty Sullivan received 4,360 votes and Jeffrey Blydenburgh received 3,519, for a total of 7,986 votes cast. Votes not cast, called “under votes,” totaled 624.
For Commission Seat #2, Sheila DeCiccio garnered 5,415 votes to Carl Creasman’s 2,366, for a total of 7,989, with 627 under votes.
Ballot Amendment Results
All Charter Amendments passed except one. Question #9, on whether the City Auditor Contract Term should go from three to five years, failed by a decisive margin – 4,442 to 2,712.
The Charter Amendment questions fared even worse than Commission races in number of votes cast. Although this is only conjecture, it looks like voters may have simply gotten bored with the exercise as they began going down the list of Charter Amendment questions. Question #1, which established the use of gender-neutral language throughout the Charter, drew 7,785 votes. That number declined steadily, so that by Question #11, only 6,977 people cast votes.
Here again are the four candidates, this time on the Library debate stage. The program was moderated by Carol Foglesong of the League of Women Voters. Marty Sullivan and Jeffrey Blydenburgh face off for Seat 1; Sheila DeCiccio and Carl Creasman vie for Seat 2.
In addition to opening and closing statements, candidates received three questions from the moderator and an additional four questions from the audience. Click on images at the end of the article for unedited video of the debate. Questions and summarized answers appear below in the order of rotation.
Name a strength, a weakness, an opportunity and a threat to Winter Park.
Creasman: Winter Park’s strength is people. A weakness is that we are at the center of the fastest growing region in the country. The opportunity is that we are a wealthy city and can control our own resources, like the electric utility. We should create our own mini-mass-transit system and our own broadband network. Our threat is an internal one — the tone of political discourse in our city, which has the potential to lead us into dangerous places.
DeCiccio: Our strength is people and a sense of community. We have the opportunity to expand our greenspace, with the Post Office and Progress Point. Our weaknesses are traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure. Failure to immediately address problems as they arise poses a threat to the city.
Sullivan: Our strength lies in our strong financial well-being. Weakness is the conflict between citizen and developer interests. We need to balance what enhances our quality of life with what gives a developer a reasonable rate of return. Both the opportunity and the threat lie in the Orange Avenue Overlay. Opportunity is in the increased green space and bicycle and pedestrian ways. The threat lies in excessive entitlement giveaways to developers.
Blydenburgh: The strength of our community is its people. Our weakness is that, while we have a vision, we don’t have a master plan for the city. The opportunity is that we are close to being the best community in Florida, and we have the opportunity to be even better by fixing broadband and local transit problems and supporting our young families. The threat is the contentiousness, which needs to end.
Cite an example of change you propose to improve Winter Park. How will your proposed change be measured and evaluated?
DeCiccio: I would look to our Parks, Lakes and Urban Forestry. We lack a 10-year maintenance plan, the last having expired in 2016. Maintenance is the elephant in the living room. Who will take care of all these projects that are coming on line right now? .
Sullivan: We should address traffic in a different way. We need a calibrated, dynamic traffic model that will enable us to look at what kind of road changes we can make that will ease congestion. When we begin paying for Sunrail maintenance and operations next year, Sunrail needs to go from being commuter rail to being mass transit system. Every person on Sunrail represents one less car on the road. Measures would be Sunrail ridership and traffic counts.
Blydenburgh: The community should focus on young families who represent our future. We should employ technology that allows two-way communication at our Commission meetings. The opportunity for increased participation in government issues is important, as are upgrades and maintenance of our playing fields.
Creasman: Our city would be better if we got Lynx buses off our interior roads and had our own mini-mass-transit system, funded with CRA dollars, in the form of either a trolley or an autonomous vehicle. While we cannot expect to fix traffic congestion immediately, this would provide a measurable benefit over time by decreasing traffic on our interior roads and addressing our critical environmental issues.
Are you happy with the level of transparency you see at City Hall in conducting meetings and sharing information honoring public records requests?
Sullivan: Not really. The city website is not user-friendly. I’ve received highly detailed reports from City Manager Randy Knight that would be very useful for everyone, but the information is available only to Commissioners. We need to better manage our communications to provide full and timely information.
Blydenburgh: We need good communications in order to make good decisions. You can get just about anything you want if you ask Randy Knight, but it shouldn’t be that way. The city’s responsibility is to inform us. I think we should redesign the city website so we can find the information that we need.
Creasman: There has been a “Balkanization of Communication,” and we are now talking past each other. Since the explosion of mass media communications technology in 2007-2008, communication presents a huge challenge for the city. Do we need to update the way the city communicates? Yes, but we need to recognize just what a large task that is.
DeCiccio: We need to improve the city communications department. We need to all have the same information so that we are all speaking from the same page. I would also like to see at least one Commission workshop every month, where Commissioners can publicly discuss their thinking. We should not have to wait for weeks to get minutes from a board or commission meeting.
Will you support an increase in city funding for the new library? If you are asked, as a commissioner, to stop or delay the library project, would you vote yes or no?
Blydenburgh: Our job as commissioners is to ensure the new library is delivered on the budget and the schedule established by the current commission. I would not support a stop or delay in library construction.
Creasman: We should increase city funding for the library, and I would vote no if someone tried to stop the project.
DeCiccio: I am in full support of the new library and increased city funding for it. However, if cost overruns get out of hand, then I would have to take another look. It is very difficult for me to say yes or no to that question. If serious problems surface, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t take another hard look.
Sullivan: Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, “Winter Park can be depended upon to do the right thing once we’ve exhausted every other possibility.” We need the best in-depth research possible to determine our citizens’ wishes. Hence, as your next commissioner, I will represent you, the citizens, on this issue and, from the results of the research, I will do your bidding.
Referencing 17-92, knowing that the infrastructure has already experienced failure with the present load, why is this not given paramount consideration when higher FARs [floor area ratios] are being put into place over existing codes?
Creasman: I think city has done a good job of budgeting, and city staff has done a good job of maintaining our infrastructure. I would look forward to continuing to support the expertise of city staff.
DeCiccio: We are fortunate that our sewer and water lines are in such good shape that the city has been able to reallocate that money into undergrounding our power lines. Water quality and water treatment are the important issues now, so that we avoid contaminating our lakes, streams and aquifer.
Sullivan: The city has done a good job of maintaining our core infrastructure. We need concurrency with our infrastructure and our new development to make sure new development does not over-tax our infrastructure system.
Blydenburgh: And to reach concurrency, right now the burden is on the city. We need to shift the burden to developers by implementing developer impact fees. The developers need to pay for the impact of their development on our infrastructure.
Are you in favor of Orange County Mayor Demmings’ one-cent transportation tax? State the reason for your position.
DeCiccio: Strongly support. Fifty percent of it will be paid for by tourists and it will be applied to transportation infrastructure. Right now, only 32 percent of the people in Winter Park both live and work here. Everyone else commutes. It can take up to two or three hours on Lynx, so if we could have more direct routes, that would be fewer cars on the roads. We also need to connect Sunrail to the airport and have it run nights and weekends.
Sullivan: Strongly support. Compared with other cities our size, we have about one-third the public bus system we should have. The tax will provide a dedicated funding source to invest in mass transit. We should turn Sunrail into a transit system and expand it. Every rider on Sunrail is one less car on the road.
Blydenburgh: Strongly support. The estimated amount coming into Winter Park annually is between $8 and $12 million. This is something the community should support.
Creasman: Strongly support. We need to invest in our police force, a mini-mass-transit system and Sunrail expansion. If we are going to solve the problems confronting us, we have to be willing to pay for solutions.
Do you support the Rollins plan to move their graduate business school and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum to property they own north of Fairbanks
Sullivan: To locate the Cornell Museum there would be wonderful. Bringing the Crummer Business School to that site would be the first time Rollins has brought classes north of Fairbanks. The third issue is the massing of the buildings, without much open space. I think there should be more open space, and I am not in favor of bringing students north of Fairbanks.
Blydenburgh: I support the project. The current commission has made several recommendations for increased setbacks and open space. I don’t have a concern with students coming north of Fairbanks, and to have the Cornell there would be a huge plus.
Creasman: I would listen to the residents on this one, to find out what works for everybody. Generally, Rollins has been very positive for our city. In fact, as of 2008, they were the second-largest taxpayer in the city, but I think Rollins has more work to do on their design.
DeCiccio: I strongly support the Cornell Museum relocating to that site, but I am opposed to the current design for the business school. The massing isn’t right. I support the college moving Crummer there, but they need to redesign the building so it doesn’t look so much like a prison wall.
Everyone should have received their Vote by Mail ballots by now, and if you’ve read yours, you may still be scratching your head. In addition to the four candidates for City Commission, 11 Charter Amendments appear on the ballot — in the form of questions.
You Still Have Time to Register to Vote
Before we get into that, if you haven’t registered to vote, there is still time to do so. You have until February 18 to register. Call the Orange County Supervisor of Elections at(407) 836-2070. The folks down there are courteous, knowledgeable and anxious to help.
Charter Must Be Updated Every 10 Years
Every 10 years, the City Charter is updated by a group of citizen volunteers, with professional guidance from an outside consultant – this year, Marilyn Crotty led the effort. A group of your neighbors spent an entire summer going through the City Charter, (in effect, our Constitution) going page-by-page, line-by-line, to make changes and clean up archaic and obsolete language. The result of their efforts is what you see on your ballot – only in question form.
Help Available at the City Website
The Communications Department at the City of Winter Park has put up a very informative page that shows you exactly what has changed. You will see about half the questions are simply housekeeping – such as making the Charter language gender-neutral. The other half, if passed, would make a change in the way the City operates. Click here to view the Charter changes.
Referring to the questions as they appear on your ballot, below is a brief explanation of each one. Between this and the page on the City website, you should easily be able to decide how you want to vote.
This is a rather comprehensive housekeeping question. Among the things it does is to make the Charter language gender-neutral and to delete obsolete language. There is no change to the way City business is conducted.
This changes the base salaries of the Mayor and Commissioners, which have not been changed for more than a decade. If this question passes, the Mayor will receive $15,000 a year and each Commissioner will receive $12,600 a year.
This simply acknowledges that the City has a “Commission-Manager” form of government. Nothing changes, we’ve had that all along, it just adds the language.
Language in this question will make our Charter language consistent with County and State law regarding the conduct of elections. No real change here.
Less complicated than it looks. Deadlines for citizen referendum petitions have been extended from 30 to 45 days, giving citizens more time to collect petition signatures. After you’ve submitted your petition, if the Commission fails to adopt a proposed ordinance within 60 days, or fails to repeal the referred ordinance within 30 days, then they have to hold a special election and put it to the voters. That election shall be held not less than 30 days and not later than 90 days from the date the petition was determined sufficient (i.e., accepted by the City).
If there is an election already scheduled within that time frame, there would not be a special election. Instead the measure would go on the regular ballot.
If a Commissioner becomes unable to serve within 60 days of a general election, this gives the remaining Commissioners the option of either appointing someone to fill the vacant seat or operating with a Commission of four members until the election is held.
This establishes the size of City advisory boards at seven members. It gives the Mayor the right to appoint three board members and gives each Commissioner the right to appoint one board member. If passed, this would change the current system which gives sole authority for all advisory board appointments to the Mayor.
This would allow the Mayor or a Commissioner to be counted present for voting purposes if they video-conference into the meeting. The privilege would be limited to three times a year for any Commission member.
Currently, Commissioners can teleconference (audio only) in to a meeting, but they cannot vote on measures that come before that Commission meeting.
This would simply change the term of the contract for the City Auditor from three to five years.
If passed, this would strengthen the ‘non-partisan’ status of Winter Park elections by denying any candidate the right to campaign as a member of any political party or to accept campaign contributions from any political party, and it establishes penalties for candidates who do not comply.
This question would renumber the section containing the Charter Amendment Process (housekeeping), and would extend the deadline from 60 to 180 days for the City to hold an election on a Charter Amendment proposed by a citizen petition.
Not So Bad
I confess I had the same reaction many of you may have had when I first saw the ballot questions. In the end, though, they’re not so tough. And they come as a welcome reminder that our Winter Park City Charter is, indeed, a living document.