Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles will not seek re-election

Decadeslong career has been fulfilling, Cowles says

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bills Cowles, as he appeared for an in-studio episode of "The Weekly" in 2022. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Bill Cowles, Orange County’s longest-serving elections supervisor, will retire at the end of his current term to enjoy time with his family, he announced Wednesday.

“It has been the role of a lifetime to be trusted by the citizens of Orange County to conduct secure (elections) with the highest standards of integrity,” Cowles said in a statement.

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Now almost 70, Cowles’ 33-year career at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office — which he notes will be a 35-year career by the time he’s actually finished on Jan. 6, 2025 — began in 1989 with his hiring as chief deputy. In 1996, Cowles was elected to his current post and never lost a successive contest to keep it.

Cowles’ first countywide election was in 1997 for a proposed penny sales tax increase, what he said was the largest mail-ballot election at the time, citing the United States Postal Service. The year 2000 brought along Cowles’ first presidential election, though he has noted “Chad never came to Orange County” in reference to the five-week process it took for a recount in Florida, resulting in George W. Bush’s 537-vote win over Al Gore. The most contentious election Cowles oversaw was 2020′s, he added.

“From hanging chads to a complete overhaul of elections cybersecurity and the transparency of today, Supervisor Cowles has steadied the helm through some tumultuous and changing times,” the news release states. “Bill Cowles will leave the elections office in good hands, having assembled a team of professionals that has a combined 300+ years of elections experience. Several senior staffers have more than 15 years of experience each, from the local elections office, other counties in Florida, and even from multiple states.”

Some of Cowles’ other accolades include his creation of the county’s “Adopt-A Precinct” program in 1998, a community partnership which allows organizations to serve as poll workers while teambuilding and fundraising, the release describes. Cowles’ office said half of all polling places in the country were adopted by such groups in the 2022 general election.

Cowles graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1976 with a degree in public administration. Currently, he is a member of the UCF Public Administration Advisory Board.

Also mentioned was Cowles’ past roles as a 13-year staff member of Boy Scouts of America’s Central Florida Council, four years on the Federal Elections Assistance Commission Board of Advisors, a term as president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections and as president of the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers.

He seeks to retire to private life to spend more time with his four grandsons, two sons and his wife, Cheryl, who he married in 1978.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles joined anchor Justin Warmoth on “The Weekly” to explain how the ballot-counting process works in Florida, what voters need to know before heading to the ballot box, and how pandemic changed the way people vote.

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.