Inside the 2024 State of the City Event

Share This:

Winter Park’s financial strength and future goals took center stage as Mayor Phil Anderson gave his final State of the City address at Winter Park Events Center on the morning of Feb. 16. Residents were invited to the free community event that also featured the annual presentations of city employee awards and the Mayor’s Founders’ Award.

Anderson, who will not be seeking a second term, began his address by thanking the residents for allowing him the privilege of serving them. “The strength of our city comes from all the people (who) live here,” he said. “All the people (who) work to make it a beautiful place.”

Mayor Phil Anderson takes the podium for his final State of the City address.

He noted the importance of focusing on the values of residents and cited the city’s partnership with the citizen-led Fix 426 initiative, aimed at improving safety along Aloma Avenue, as an example. He also discussed the benefits of the city’s partnership with Orange County in the proposed extension and expansion of the Community Redevelopment Agency. “It will allow us to fix more of our stormwater and flood prevention system,” he said of the extension. “And it’s going to allow us to put more money into keeping housing affordable by preserving homes and expanding the supply of attainable housing.”

Financial strength

A summary of the city’s financial strength pointed to the 2024 General Fund balance of just under $20 million, which was achieved without tax increases, and is the highest in city history. The millage rate continues to be the lowest in the region and residents’ values are reflected in the top three priorities of the city budget:

  • Safety: police dept. 23.2%, fire dept. 19.3%
  • Parks: 16.4%
  • Infrastructure: 16%

Results for residents

Anderson stated that, with the help of city funding, the Winter Park Library currently ranks second in the state and will begin Sunday hours on Feb. 25. Parks projects are also fully funded with improvements to MLK Park and the long-awaited completion of Seven Oaks Park expected by the end of the year.

He also cited the lack of open staff positions (15 open positions out of a total of 550 positions) as a measurement of the city’s effectiveness in meeting resident needs. “We had to adjust what our pay scales were, we had to respond to the market, and we had to do that to hold onto and attract the best people to come to Winter Park.”

A shout-out was given to Winter Park Chamber of Commerce for its efforts to attract businesses to the community, which resulted in a current citywide office occupancy of 93.7%, retail occupancy of 97%, and Park Avenue’s occupancy rate of 99%, up from 91.3% during the pandemic.

Future goals

Anderson discussed the city’s investment in its Sustainability Plan, aimed at achieving 80% renewable energy by 2035 with the potential for 100% renewable energy by 2050. He noted that the goals are achievable under the current electric utility rate, and said the utility undergrounding effort remains in progress with completion estimated for 2030 due to the lack of available materials.

Award presentations

Building & Permitting Services Technician Sandra Brown with Director Gary Hiatt

Permit Technician Sandra Brown was presented with the City of Winter Park Employee of the Year Award in recognition of her contributions and dedication. Building & Permitting Services Director Gary Hiatt noted Brown’s commitment and poise in the face of the cancer treatments she received last year.

Police Officer of the Year Award winner, Master Police Officer Kaitlin Gonzalez

Fire Chief Dan Hagedorn presented the Firefighter of the Year Award to Firefighter Jack Timmes, who was not present, and Police Chief Tim Volkerson presented the Police Officer of the Year Award to Master Police Officer Kaitlin Gonzalez.

Mayor’s Founders’ Award winner, Mary Daniels

Longtime Hannibal Square resident Mary Daniels received the Mayor’s Founders’ Award for her years of community leadership. Her previous appointments include Board Chair of Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten, Inc., President of Hannibal Square Community Land Trust, and past Advisory Council member of Rollins College Center for Life-Long Learning. She also served on the Canton Park Redevelopment Committee, CRA Program and Evaluation Committee, and on the City of Winter Park Planning and Zoning Board from 1996–1999. Daniels is currently Board Chair of the MLK/Shady Park Committee.

“I’m very humbled, very appreciative, that someone like me would even be considered for such an award,” she said. “Just remember; regardless of who you are or where you live, be active in your respective community. Do what you can do. And to all the blessings that have been given to you, pay it forward and bless someone else.”

Commission highlights

City commissioners in attendance were asked to state their top priorities for the coming years.

Commissioner Marty Sullivan said he believes in focusing on current city plans, including the Comprehensive Plan, 20-year Transportation Master Plan, and the 25-year Capitol Improvements Plan, as a means of providing for the future. He also lauded the recent ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and stated that he will “stick with the plan” and work to enforce the ordinance.

Vice Mayor Sheila DeCiccio said that infrastructure was her top priority with stormwater drainage and connectivity as “a continuing obligation that this city has.”

Commissioner Kris Cruzada agreed with DeCiccio and Sullivan in their assertions, but also believes in encouraging new generations of residents to serve the community. “Our city needs new, younger visionaries to carry this forward. We can’t do it without younger people getting involved.”

This was the second year the State of the City was presented during a community event. The Winter Park Chamber will present the State of the City Luncheon at Alfond Inn on Feb. 23. Click here for tickets and registration.

Share This:

Have a story idea? Send us a note at Follow our stories on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

If you value local journalism, please support our work by joining The Flock for as little as $7 per month.

Our Sponsors

the32789 Weekly

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Want News in Your Inbox?
the32789 Weekly brings all the Winter Park news you missed straight to your inbox. Sign up for updates every Sunday morning.
Want News in Your Inbox?
the32789 Weekly brings all the Winter Park news you missed straight to your inbox. Sign up for updates every Sunday morning.