The City of Winter Park will hold its 2022 General Election on Tuesday, March 8. As a means of informing residents, the32789 submitted questionnaires to each of the four City Commission candidates. A series of Q&A-style features was created, one for each candidate, based on his/her responses. Answers were posted as received to preserve the integrity of each candidate’s response.
Anjali Vaya is running for Winter Park City Commission Seat 3. She was born and raised in Zambia, Africa and moved to the United States in 1990 on a scholarship to the University of Michigan where she received a master’s degree in healthcare. She currently owns a technology and marketing company, Tezz Mobile Solutions, and serves as vice president of the Indian American Chamber of Commerce, and serves on Winter Park’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.
Here, she discusses her candidacy, qualifications, and what she hopes to achieve for the City of Winter Park.
Why do you want to serve on the Winter Park City Commission? I’d like to serve the residents of Winter Park because I represent a younger generation of voters who are looking to have a voice at City Hall. At the same time, I also understand the needs of residents of all ages as I have three generations living in my home: me, my 15-year-old son, and my parents whom I’ve cared for since 2010 as they enjoy retirement in Winter Park. Our city has something to offer everyone, and I believe that a good City Commissioner represents all their constituents. If elected, I want every resident to know that I will listen and stand up for them and their neighborhood at City Hall.
What best qualifies you to serve? My background in technology and innovation is something that sets me apart. If elected, I will bring a fresh perspective and new set of skills our City Commission has never had before. I started my business career creating the first-ever e-commerce furniture website and have spent the past 20 years planning for the future and finding innovative solutions to complex challenges. Now I want to do the same for Winter Park. I’m also a successful business owner and vice president of the Indian American Chamber of Commerce, which represents $1 billion of economic activity across the state. I understand the nuances of running a business, the struggles business owners have been facing for the past couple of years, and how to thrive in today’s economy. I want to put my experience to work serving our small business community and our city’s economy. Additionally, I currently serve Winter Park as a Community Redevelopment Agency Citizen Advisory Board Member where I work with my fellow board members and the City Commission to create positive change for residents and businesses.
If elected, what would be your top priority as City Commissioner? My top priority is really two things: protect our past and plan our future. The village charm, natural beauty, and quality of life we enjoy today are the result of 140 years of residents and city leaders who cared for our city and contributed to its success. We must protect what has made Winter Park special for so long by ensuring new developments are compatible with our scale and village charm and protecting our natural assets like our lakes, tree canopy, and parks. At the same time, we must look at other issues to plan our future and make our own contributions to the city. If elected, I’d like to see our city move towards more connectivity in two senses of the word. First, I’d like better bike, pedestrian, and stroller connectivity between our neighborhoods, parks, and business districts. Second, I’d like to connect high-speed fiber optic internet lines to homes and businesses using our existing underground conduits. All of this—protecting our past and planning our future—is possible. We just need to start the conversation and work together as a city.
What do you think is the most important issue regarding the Orlando Avenue Overlay proposal as it has been approved? As a small business owner, I see many good things in the new Orange Avenue Overlay (OAO). The new version benefits more business owners in the OAO and removes some of the red tape the original plan had in place. For example, under the new version, more small business ownerswere granted allowances to expand and improve their businesses while still substantially increasing allowances for the largest landowners. Additionally, the City removed the burden of addressing parking and infrastructure challenges from small business owners so they can invest in their growth. All in all, the new OAO allows us to retain the charm of the Orange Avenue business district while still incentivizing economic growth. The issue I see with the OAO is the process. This project needed more time and more discussion with residents and small business owners to get it right the first time. Now that we have a good understanding of what a project like the OAO should look like in Winter Park, we can use it as a template in the future for incentivizing economic growth while still staying true to our city’s character.
How do you feel about the super majority options on the ballot? I’m happy that issues as important as the five super majority charter amendments are being put to a direct vote for residents to decide. I’m always for processes that create more dialogue with residents and more opportunities for their voices to be heard. If elected, I will support the will of the voters on these issues. I personally support the super majority charter amendments. In addition to protecting our village scale and natural beauty, these amendments will create more dialogue and get the best projects possible for Winter Park. We’ve had super majorities for similar issues in our recent history. I met with a 40-year veteran of our city planning department, and he told me city politics was less divisive and there was more dialogue when we had super majorities. Ninety percent of development projects in Winter Park don’t even come before the City Commission, and half the projects that do are approved without contention. It’s the 5% of projects that create division that needs more dialogue to ensure we’re getting the best deal for our city. Development is necessary to keep our city dynamic andmoving forward. With super majorities in place, our city will benefit from quality development without the divisiveness.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about Winter Park, what would it be? If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the city, it would be to solve our traffic and transportation infrastructure challenges. I’ve been knocking on doors and meeting with residents since last June to listen to their concerns. One thing I hear, over and over again, is that traffic, congestion, aging roads, and lack of functional public transportation are all issues residents would like to see addressed. Since we don’t have a magic wand, these issues are going to take hard work and smart solutions. We can do some things alone like redesigning key intersections, repairing damaged city-owned roads, and using fiber optic cables to coordinate the timing of our traffic lights. But other things, like expanding SunRail operating hours and connectivity to the airport, will take working with surrounding municipalities and the Florida Department of Transportation. I have strong relationships in Orange County and Tallahassee, and I’m willing to go to the state capitol if that’s what it takes to address residents’ concerns.
See the profile for Vaya’s opponent, Kris Cruzada, here.