EATONVILLE, Fla. – The Town of Eatonville is hosting its city elections on Saturday, March 5, the only election not being held on a Tuesday in Orange County this year, and early voting starts on Monday, Feb. 28.
The historically Black town is home to the Zora Neale Hurston Festival, in honor of the celebrated author and Eatonville native.
It’s also a town that’s been pushing its economic growth over the last few years, and there are plans that include a new mixed-use center, and revitalizing Kennedy Boulevard and the Denton Johnson Center.
Those economic goals will play a role at the polls.
Incumbent Mayor Eddie Cole, who first became mayor in 2016 after Mayor Anthony Grant was indicted on voter fraud charges, is running for another term. He was narrowly reelected in 2018, beating challenger Angie Gardner, who is challenging him for office again.
Cole says the town has accomplished much in a short time and his goal is to get “over $100 million of new projects” get completed in the next year, according to his Facebook page.
Cole was censured in 2020 after he called for an audit of the town’s community redevelopment agency by the Orange County comptroller. The comptroller’s audit accused the CRA of over $230,000 in improper spending, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel.
The Sentinel report says Cole was censured by Gardner and two other council members because his push for the audit violated the town’s charter.
According to her Facebook page, Gardner is running on a platform of change being needed in Eatonville. She supports bringing more venues to Eatonville in the hopes of attracting sports tourism dollars.
Gardner also wants the Orange County Public Schools to return 17 acres of land the school district considers “surplus” to the town. OCPS recently put the land up for sale.
Meanwhile, Theo Washington, the current vice mayor in Seat Two of the town council, is going up against challengers Angela Thomas and Ruthie Critton.
In Seat Three, Tarus Mack, a former councilmember, is going up against incumbent councilmember Rodney Daniels.
The Seat Three race bears watching. Daniels is the brother of councilmember Marlin Daniels. In 2020, Mack was elected to Marlin Daniels’ seat by one vote.
In October, however, an Orange County circuit judge overturned the results of that election, saying two of Mack’s votes were illegally cast. Daniels was sworn into office in December 2021.
In Seat Five, Wanda Randolph faces Marilyn Davis-Sconions.
Voters will go to Eatonville Town Hall to cast their ballots. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. Early voting begins Monday, Feb. 28 at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office on Kaley Street. in Orlando.
To view your sample ballot, head to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.