Cheers echoed through the oldest house in Oviedo as supporters of Mayor Megan Sladek congratulated her on being re-elected Tuesday night.
“It feels very good,” Sladek said, seated on a couch among a revolving parade of supporters who stopped by her election night party. “It’s reassuring to know that what I’ve been doing is what I was elected to do. I’m meeting expectations.”
With Sladek grabbing 67.52% of the vote versus 20.58% for challenger and relative Oviedo newcomer Abe Lopez and 11.90% for former Sanford Commissioner Kevin Hipes, the win was a more decisive one compared to previous elections.
This was Sladek’s third time winning a city election in Oviedo.
The Oviedo native first won a seat on the City Council in 2016, but frequently found herself the lone dissenting vote on Council decisions and butted heads with then Mayor Dominic Persampiere, particularly over development issues.
In 2018 she was elected mayor for the first time in a relatively tight three-way contest, garnering 44% of the vote.
This time around, the mayor’s husband said, her record of civic involvement may have been an edge.
“Her being active and putting energy into so many things made a difference,” Paul Sladek said.
Supporter Rick Baringer said that her preservationist stance helped her win re-election.
“I’ve seen her support the rural boundary and advocate for not increasing development…there’s a track record there,” he said.
The Mayor said she hopes to keep moving on projects that began or moved forward during her first term.
“I want to finish all the stuff we were this close to finishing. Finish our comp plan, finish the mobility plan. The roads are mainly state and county level stuff but finish those partnerships. I think we’ll get a lot of that done in this next two years. Opening Solary Park on Nov. 20, I’m looking forward to that.”
The Oviedo mayoral race was one of two races on the ballot in the city, along with four charter amendments.
Teuchert unseats Smith
Donning a Ruth Bader Ginsburg-inspired, hand-beaded necklace from her grandmother, Natalie Teuchert celebrated winning the Group 1 City Council seat with her family and a sprinkling of supporters at Songbirds Music, Art, and Dance Center in Oviedo. It was a tight race, with Teuchert clinching the election with 52.37% of the vote over incumbent Judith Dolores Smith.
“I do think I flipped a lot of voters. They were looking for some new blood on Council,” Teuchert said. “I really tried to run a clean campaign and be myself and show them who I was and it turned out in my favor.”
One of Teuchert’s main goals for her first term is to bring Oviedo City Council matters down to earth a bit.
Teuchert said a common complaint she’d heard on the campaign trail was that people are clueless about what City Council does because of the legal language often used in meeting documents and discussions.
“When you see Council vote on something, a lot of times it’s hard to actually know what they’re voting on,” she said. “If you want people involved and you want them to show up to meetings, you have to make it so that they understand what’s going on.”
Teuchert said she’ll suggest that city staff draft summaries, explaining in plain English the topic of a vote or discussion, and display them during the meetings. She’s discussed this with other Council members ahead of being elected and said several like this idea.
“You can add three minutes to each subject saying, ‘Hey this is what the issue is so everyone in the audience knows’,” she said. “Hopefully that makes our meetings more interesting and more people will show up.”
Other issues she said she learned about during her campaign that she wants to follow up on now that she’s been elected are:
- Protecting the rural boundary
She said she met a woman in the Twin Rivers subdivision who couldn’t leave her home on several occasions because bears were in her yard. “It’s just going to get worse if we keep pushing [wildlife] into the subdivisions,” she said.
- Replenishing food banks, which she said are running low.
“You’re not going to vote on putting food in food banks but I think being a part of leadership in the city you have an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, there’s a need. Let’s get the public together to help them out.”
- Working to get low-cost Internet access in low-income areas of Oviedo, as well as public parks to help close the local technical divide.
“I would drop everything [if someone came to the Council saying their child couldn’t do their homework],” Teuchert said in a prior interview with OCN. “Education is such an important thing in your life.”
Teuchert said she draws inspiration from Ruth Bader Ginsburg because of the way the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice paved the way for women leaders.
“I’m in mechanical engineering, which has the least amount of women of any field. I’m also Jewish, so there are very few people who represent me on a large scale,” Teuchert said.
“I also feel that I’m walking the walk. I’m not just writing about things on the Internet. I’m going out and doing things for the community.”
Teuchert has four generations of family living in Oviedo. Her mother, Bonnie Marini‒who along with Teuchert’s father is also a mechanical engineer, said she’s proud that her daughter wanted to give back to their community.
“She did it for all the right reasons,” she said.
The candidates will be sworn into office at the Dec. 6 City Council meeting.
Charter amendments: 3 out of 4 approved
Amendment 1 (Term Length): Failed with 43.34% of votes
- This measure would have lengthened term limits from two to four years for Council members
- Extending term limits has failed in two previous elections.
- Some residents say they favor two-year terms because they feel that it offers stronger accountability of Council members to the voters.
- Others prefer longer terms so that council members are not constantly campaigning.
- The measure would have synced city elections with state and federal elections, which according to the City of Oviedo, saves taxpayers an average of about $23,000 per off-cycle election.
Amendment 2 (Debt Financing) : Passed with 52.23% of votes
- This increased the amount of money the city is allowed to borrow in a calendar year from $5 million to $10 million.
- Incurring debt above $10 million would require a city-wide vote.
- This changed what kind of debt is included in the cap. In the past, debt associated utilities, such as the 2010 purchase of Alafaya Utilities Inc. sewer and wastewater system, were included in the cap. This amendment eliminated the cap on utility debt because, as Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek explains, they are funded by fees, not taxes.
Amendment 3 (Election Provisions): Passed with 76.08% of votes
- This increased the number of signatures a candidate for City Council would have to collect in order to be nominated for Council from 25 to 150.
- It also increased the amount of time the city and candidates have to prepare for a special election to fill a Council seat vacancy from 30-60 days to 60-90 days from the Council’s approval of a special election until the actual election.
Amendment 4 (City Clerk/Public Depositories): Passed with 60.86% of votes
- This removes an option in Oviedo’s Charter for the City Council to require the city manager to take out a personal bond to cover any possible malfeasances.
- It also removed language that says the city clerk must report to the City Council since the Clerk is now managed by the city manager.
Read OCN’s previous article on the amendments here.
See all of the Seminole County elections results on the Supervisor of Elections page.