The race for Winter Park City Commission Seat 1 is on, so where do the two candidates stand on the issues?
Winter Park residents caught a glimpse of their two prospective candidates on Friday, Feb. 10, as incumbent Greg Seidel and challenger Wes Naylor squared off in a candidate forum hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce at the Winter Park Welcome Center.
The forum covered a wide range of topics, and offered a brief introduction to meet each man behind the platform.
Seidel was first elected to the City Commission two years ago after Winter Park Mayor and former Commissioner Steve Leary vacated his seat to run for mayor. Before being elected, Seidel served on the city’s Utility Advisory Board for six years, serving as the chairman for four of those years. He’s an owner of The Balmoral Group, an engineering design firm with an expertise in economics, environmental analysis and GIS capabilities.
“If you recall two years ago during the campaign, development was a very contentious issue,” Seidel said. “Since I’ve been elected I’ve used my skills to help bring the neighbors and the developers together so we’ve had good, smart development in this town.”
Seidel added that he also played a role in initiating the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, which looks at Winter Park’s mobility and the possibility of adding traffic technology. He also helped push the power line undergrounding program forward under its new management and voted to add two new police officers to the city out of a concern for public safety, he said.
Challenger Wes Naylor has lived in Winter Park for nearly five years and served for 28 years in the U.S. Navy, where he held a variety of positions spanning from naval aviator all the way to commanding officer of the Naval Warfare Center Training Systems Division.
In addition to his military experience, Naylor has experience serving on multiple local boards, including the St. Margaret Mary School Board and the Winter Park Police Pension Board. He’s currently the president and managing partner at The Coe & Naylor Group, a consulting firm that advises clients in the fields of training, modeling and simulation. He’s also a faculty member at the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College.
“I love Winter Park like you love Winter Park,” Naylor said.
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, and when it came time to serve and came time to pick a place for my family for the rest of our lives, we decided Winter Park was that place.”
Naylor said the main reason he’s running is for is 10-year-old daughter, along with the future generations of Winter Parkers. The Central Florida region is dramatically changing, he said, adding that he sees it firsthand from the Central Florida Partnership Board and the Orlando Science Center Board. Above all, Naylor said, his main issue is public safety, noting that crime is increasing in Winter Park neighborhoods and that he will push to create a strong, thought-out plan to combat it.
Candidates were asked early on about whether taxes should be raised in Winter Park to fund additional needs in the city.
“I don’t believe that we should be raising our taxes,” Naylor said. “The increases in property values and the things that we’ve done to ensure that property values continue to increase are bringing net revenues to the city. My opponent has proposed raising taxes the last two years. I’m not sure what those were for … I don’t see any need to go up a mill rate.”
Seidel said that he believes in keeping the city’s options open when it comes to the millage rate, whether that involves lower it or raising it in the future.
“I proposed evaluating an increase in the millage rate because we needed additional safety officers for the city that were requested by the chief,” Seidel said.
“Funding was the issue, so when you talk about security and safety, I proposed evaluating it.”
Parking in Winter Park was also brought up when candidates were asked whether Community Redevelopment Agency funds should be used to create more parking spaces.
“This is one of the questions that I know raises a lot of concerns,” Naylor said. “If you ask the question ‘Is parking adequate here in Winter Park?’ an honest answer has to be ‘no.’ If you come [to Park Avenue] and try to eat lunch down here, eat dinner down here or come to an event, we have a parking issue without a doubt.”
“Nobody wants a 10-story parking structure in the middle of town. There are ways to mask them behind buildings that will give us the access, but also allow us to keep the character and village-feel of the downtown sector. That’s the solution.”
Seidel said he’s open to whatever comes before the city, adding that his expertise as an engineer allows him to look at major projects in great detail.
“I make things happen because I understand the details that go into them,” Seidel said. “When you talk about a parking structure, I’m anxious to see the details. I’m anxious to weigh the pros and the cons. I’m anxious to make the right decision for the city of Winter Park and the right decision for the CRA funds.”
Candidates were also presented with one of the biggest topics of the election season: crime. Both Naylor and Seidel were asked how they will work with the Winter Park Police Department moving forward, and asked to comment on the recent perception some residents have that Winter Park isn’t safe.
“Crime is going up, especially violent crime,” Naylor said. “It’s a horrible tragedy what happened in Central Park. Those types of things should never happen in any city, much less a city like Winter Park. I’m the only candidate up here on this stage who hopped out and said crime was an issue from the beginning of this campaign. I’m glad Greg’s come aboard and said he’s thinking about public safety … but you have to have an actual plan to go after it.”
Naylor said he would push to add more officers walking the streets of Park Avenue as well as promote apps like Nextdoor, which serve as a virtual bulletin board for neighbors to keep in contact with each other about car burglaries or suspicious activity.
Seidel said that preventing crime is just as important to him. He witnessed crime in the city firsthand when burglars broke into his house and stole a computer, which contained photos of his late mother.
“I’ve known crime is an issue,” Seidel said. “Before I got elected, they broke into my house.”
“If we had a license plate tracker or some kind of system in place to catch those folks, I would have those memories of my mom that I don’t have anymore. I’ve always supported public safety. … Our job on the Commission is to provide [police] with the resources and listen to what they’re asking for.”
Similar to Winter Park Magazine’s 2015 article listing the most influential people in Winter Park, Seidel and Naylor were asked to give themselves a moniker that best describes themselves.
“My background has been the ability to look into the future, that’s what the Navy paid me to do for the last 28 years: to look at tough problems and do visioning work,” Naylor said.
“Hopefully, without this sounding pompous, I’d like to think people would sit there and go, ‘That’s a man with vision.’ So, ‘visionary,’ if I could be so lucky to have that title.”
Seidel chose the word “local.”
“I learned to fish here off Dinky Dock,” he said. “I used to feed the peacocks when I was a kid.”
“I’ve been around for a long time and I know a lot of folks in town. My business is local. My family is local. … I’m proud of Winter Park.”
The Winter Park Public Library is set to host another candidate forum at noon on Friday, March 10.
Residents will be able to cast their vote and make their voices heard at the general election on Tuesday, March 14.