Winter Park High coach enters commission seat race
Three candidates are now vying for Seat 2 on the City Commission while Commissioner Sheila DeCiccio remains unopposed headed into qualifying
Dec. 1, 2023
By Beth Kassab
Winter Park High School football and wrestling coach Craig Russell said this week he would run for City Commission Seat 2, making it a three-way contest as Sheila DeCiccio remains unopposed for mayor.
Jason Johnson, an attorney, and Stockton Reeves, who runs a public safety firm, are also running for the commission seat that opened when DeCiccio, also an attorney, decided to run for mayor.
The qualifying period for the March 19 election opens on Monday and runs until Dec. 11.
Russell, 43, graduated from Winter Park High and the University of Central Florida before he began his 20-year teaching and coaching career at his alma mater. He is an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach and teaches weightlifting. He said he wanted to enter the race to bring a voice from his generation to City Hall.
“I feel like it’s time for me to step up from my generation to help bring a change for our leadership and our community,” said Russell, a first-time candidate for office. “I want to make it better for our kids.”
He said creating more affordable housing and extending the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency west of downtown are among his priorities.
Russell, who is Black, said he doesn’t want to make his race an issue in the election, but he is aware that Winter Park has not had a Black commissioner more than 130 years.
“I think me getting up there and voicing my experience will remind people we’re a lot more inclusive than we have a reputation to be,” he said.
Jason Johnson, an attorney in the Winter Park office of the Byrd Campbell law firm, announced in October that he will run for the seat. He is also a first-time candidate who has lived in Winter Park for 13 years with his wife, Lori, and their daughter. He serves as chairman of the city’s Board of Adjustments, which rules on homeowner applications for building variances.
Johnson, who estimated he has raised about $17,000 in his campaign account so far, said his main priority is preserving Winter Park’s charm.
“It’s all about preserving this community that we all love,” Johnson said.
Stockton Reeves, executive director of the Center for Public Safety, also entered the race in October. He ran for the Florida House in 2018 and lost to Rep. Anna Eskamani in the general election. He has served on a number of city boards and is now vice chairman of the Civil Service Board and has run for commission before, but was not elected.
Reeves, who describes himself as a third-generation resident of the city, could not be reached for comment. But he earlier told the Voice that advocating for police and firefighters is among his top priorities.