Terry Hotard enters race for mayor against Sheila DeCiccio
The former mayor says he will challenge the current vice mayor in the March election
Oct. 13, 2023
By Beth Kassab
Former Mayor Terry Hotard said he will run against Vice Mayor Sheila DeCiccio for the city’s top elected post, driven to run by controversy over utility boxes that have appeared in the city right-of-way outside the Palmer Avenue property owned by Marc and Sharon Hagle, who are constructing the largest home in Winter Park.
“It’s a quality of life issue,” said Hotard, who served as mayor in the early 2000’s and worked for the company that became Duke Energy before he served as assistant director of Winter Park’s electric utility. “Once those boxes are put in place they will never move.”
He said the green boxes, which house electrical equipment, can fade over time and attract graffiti. He said the city’s own code mandates the boxes be on private property rather than on city-owned land.
A spokeswoman for the city cited a different portion of the code, but said alternatives are being considered for the transformer boxes near the Hagle house, which is expected to be 40,000-square-feet on the shore of Lake Osceola.
“The city is researching a more aesthetically pleasing alternative for these public utility boxes including traffic signal cabinets,” said Clarissa Howard.
Hotard said he enjoyed his time as a city commissioner in the 1990s and then as mayor in the early 2000’s before he went on to serve as assistant director of the city’s electric utility.
“I feel like I have a little bit of gas left in the tank and I have something to offer,” he said of the upcoming race.
DeCiccio announced her candidacy earlier this month and highlighted infrastructure needs as one of her top priorities.
“We’ve made great headway, but there’s still a lot to be done to maintain the heart and charm of the city,” she said shortly after that announcement. “Hurricane Ian laid bare a lot of our problems such as pipes that need maintenance, brick streets that need attention. Infrastructure is the No. 1 issue and we can’t kick this can down the road anymore.”
DeCiccio, an attorney who has lived in Winter Park for more than 40 years, said water basin studies ordered by the current commission along with more bike paths and extending sidewalks will be key for the city’s future.
She had to resign from her commission seat in order to run for mayor. Her resignation will take effect in April 2024, at the time she would take over as mayor if elected to that job. As a result, there is also a contest to fill Seat 2 on the five-seat dais.
There are two challengers for Seat 2: attorney Jason Johnson and Stockton Reeves, who leads the Center for Public Safety, which helps local governments build new police and fire stations.
Reeves said one of his key issues is advocating for police officers and firefighters.
“That’s one of the things that kind of pushed me to do this,” he said, noting he wants to reassess the policies at the police department and fire department to make sure that officers can donate sick time or other benefits to each other in times of need.
Reeves, who has served on a number of city boards and is now vice chairman of the Civil Service Board, grew up in Winter Park and has run for commission before, but was not elected. In 2018, he ran as a Republican against Democrat Anna Eskamani for the Florida House and lost.
In 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a public reprimand of Reeves after the Ethics Commission ruled that he violated financial disclosure requirements. Reeves said the matter was “the most technical of a technicality.”
Jason Johnson, who works in the Winter Park office of the Byrd Campbell law firm, is a first-time candidate who has lived in Winter Park for 13 years with his wife, Lori, and their daughter. He is chairman of the city’s Board of Adjustments, which rules on homeowner applications for building variances.
“My north star in all of this is to preserve the charm of Winter Park, but I’m also a rule-of-law guy and I recognize that landowners have rights and due process exists,” he told the Voice earlier this month.
Official qualifying for both the mayoral contest and Seat 2 does not end until mid-December.
Questions or comments? Email the editor at WinterParkVoiceEditor@gmail.com