Oviedo mayoral race focuses on traffic, growth

Megan Sladek, Kevin Sipes and Abe Lopez 2
Mayor Megan Sladek faces Kevin Hipes, Abe Lopez.

Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek and her two challengers in Tuesday’s election, Kevin Hipes and Abe López, don’t disagree on the key issues — everyone in Oviedo talks about easing traffic and controlling growth — but they don’t necessarily agree on the approach.

Slaken wants to complete an update to the city’s comprehensive plan and avoid changing the rural areas of downtown.

“Traffic and growth, people tend to not mind growth so much as long as it doesn’t create extra traffic. It always creates extra traffic. People don’t want their commute times to increase,” Slaken said.

Hipes, who served as a Sanford City Commissioner before moving to Oviedo, is a consultant overseeing redevelopment of the Oviedo Mall on the city’s northwest side. He wants it redeveloped as a multiuse, eat-sleep-work-play property. He has been accused of having a conflict of interest. He has vowed to not accept any sales commissions related to the mall and said he would donate any that did come in to charity.

“Traffic and growth, they almost go hand-in-hand, but there are differences. Traffic is really very specifically Mitchell-Hammock (Road). They’ve overbuilt Mitchell-Hammock and they did not get the road structure built property. To me that’s a lack of city experience with big-time developers,” Hipes said. “That doesn’t happen to me. They tell me I’m a big-time developer therefore, I’m the enemy. No I’m not. The city of Sanford loved to have me on their end of the table negotiating with developers.”

López, a teacher and small business owner with a public service past in New Jersey, where he served both as a state director under Gov. Chris Christie and as a Deputy Mayor and committeeman in a New Jersey township, sees a need to get residents’ concerns addressed in developments.

“We need to develop every neighborhood, every thoroughfare, every urban corridor in our city with our neighbors at heart,” López said. “I am not anti-development. I embrace and welcome folks to invest in our city. But it’s gotten to the point where the perception, if not the reality, is developers are getting their way, and residents’ voices are unheard.”

The Oviedo mayoral election Tuesday highlights the Seminole County election landscape.

Also on Tuesday, Oviedo voters will be deciding whether to give Council Member Judith Dolores Smith another term or to elect Natalie Teuchert to the Group 1 seat.

Oviedo is a former rural enclave turned bedroom community in southeastern Seminole County straddling greater Orlando’s eastern beltway, State Road 417. The city is tucked between Orange County and the University of Central Florida to the south and Seminole County’s protected rural areas to the east. Oviedo has grown rapidly in the past 30 years, from about 11,000 residents in 1990 to 40,000 in the 2020 census.

Though Tuesday’s mayoral election is a three-way contest, there is no requirement for a winner to get a majority of votes. Whoever gets the most votes wins. There will be no runoff.

Sladek points to the city’s comprehensive planning update, the city’s accelerated efforts to retire its debts, and a MetroPlan mobility study that should lead to what she calls a “paradigm shift” in how the city assesses impact fees for transportation improvements.

Both Hipes and López have expressed support for many of Sladek’s plans but have charged that she lacks leadership skills to get her agenda through City Council. Enough plans already, they each say.

Hipes published his detailed “Contract with the People of Oviedo,” a white paper that covers his intentions for such things as growth management, environmental protection, permitting processes, and city-promoted mentoring programs.

López also has lashed out at what he says is an undertone of divisive politics emerging in City Hall. He said he would oppose Sladek’s proposal for a human rights ordinance, calling it “a horrible solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Some of the biggest concerns in Oviedo involve potential sprawl and traffic coming from outside the city. Three years ago, Orange County approved a big development just south of the city. “Thanks a lot, Orange County!” Sladek said sarcastically.

For the past three years, former Rep. Chris Dorworth has battled with Seminole County to get approval for his River Cross development east of Oviedo, in an area beyond the county’s rural boundary. The Seminole County Commission has blocked it. Dorworth keeps trying.

All three mayoral candidates oppose River Cross. Hipes has the distinction of being publicly attacked by Dorworth, who accused him of conflict of interest on Hipes’ Facebook page.

“I am rock-solid on that (rural boundary) line. I do not want that line breached. Dorworth came after me … I crushed him in my response,” Hipes said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


11 comments

  • Brandy

    November 2, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Megan is the least qualified candidate for an election. She may have been the mayor for last 2 years but she’s been a horrible one at that!

  • Branon

    November 2, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Megan‘s endorsements are from the worst elected officials in Seminole County, The best thing Oviedo can do is retire Megan!

  • Rusty

    November 2, 2021 at 10:18 am

    Megan is the equivalent of a crazy cat lady running a city government!

  • Meg

    November 2, 2021 at 10:19 am

    The Oviedo police are the worst police officers in the state of Florida they been sued multiple times all under the direction of mayor Megan!

  • Rico

    November 2, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Megan has done nothing for the black community of Oviedo! She lies and allied her horrible police officers to harass the minority community of Oviedo!

  • Sean

    November 2, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Megan lies she said she was anti-development now she’s pro development calling it planned growth and she wants everybody to drive electric cars and ride bicycles!

  • Tasha

    November 2, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Megan lied and try to take credit for bear proof trashcan‘s but that came from a charity organization called Bear warriors unlimited.

  • Eco warriors for Seminole

    November 2, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Abe and Kevin are in it for the goodness in their heart! Megan is purely in it for the money! She destroyed her childhood home to put in 22 houses for good profit. For someone with a college degree in law she should won’t debate her challengers!

  • Brandon Moore

    November 2, 2021 at 10:29 am

    Megan could not run a clean race she had her progressive liberal friends create a hate mail website for the other candidates! Keeping it classy!

  • Dom

    November 2, 2021 at 11:57 am

    Friends, countrymen, Oviedians! The time is now to remove an ambitious, self-benefiting mayor! Megan is not respected by the other Councilmen, pollack had stripped her for deciding vote. Dominic called her an immature child! The future depends on removing her!

  • Scott

    November 2, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    This is probably one of the worst election in Oviedo’s history! Two good candidates running against a crummy mayor that are just stealing votes from one another with the incumbent, idiot winning! A progressive Democrat named Natalie against a crummy incumbent named Judith! Bad choices!

Comments are closed.


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