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An artist's rendering of the proposed Tavares performing arts center.
An artist's rendering of the proposed Tavares performing arts center. (Orlando Sentinel)

Tavares voters overwhelmingly rejected a $27 million bond issue to build a performing arts center and Mount Dora Mayor Nick Girone lost his rematch with former mayor Cathy Hoechst in Tuesday’s municipal elections in Lake County.

The proposal for a 37,800-square-foot performance venue near Tavares City Hall failed to take flight in the city that dubs itself America’s Seaplane City. The ballot measure rejected by a margin of 87% to 13%.

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The proposal was a hot topic in the race for two City Council seats, with every candidate opposing it, mostly on the grounds that it was too pricey and would be too big of a financial burden on the city of 18,000.

Tavares Mayor Troy Singer.
Tavares Mayor Troy Singer. (Courtesy photo)

Mayor Troy Singer, an opponent who had to defend his earlier favorable view of the performing arts center referendum, won in a squeaker. The margin was just seven votes out of 2,506 cast over Lake County Republican Party Chairman Walter Price in the Seat 4 race.

“Looks like we’re going to have to do a recount,” Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays said.

A machine recount is triggered in races where the margin of victory is within a half of a percentage point.

In the Seat 2 race, Lou Buigas, a licensed contractor and president of the Lake County Museum of Art, topped the four-candidate field to win her first elective office.

Voters also picked elected representatives in Clermont, Minneola and Mascotte. The only thing on the ballot in tiny Montverde was whether to change the town’s form of government to one run by a professional manager.

The proposal passed with 57% of the vote, an outcome that will make the south Lake County town, population 1,878, the smallest in Central Florida with a paid manager.

Montverde Mayor Joe Wynkoop is pictured in front of Montverde Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019.
Montverde Mayor Joe Wynkoop is pictured in front of Montverde Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Mayor Joe Wynkoop, who has been overseeing town operations as part of his mayoral duties, said the change was needed because running local government, even one the size of Montverde, is a complex undertaking.

In Mount Dora, Hoechst won the mayor’s seat back with 59% of the vote over Girone. He beat her four years ago following an uproar over the removal of many of the city’s cherished oak trees.

Mount Dora mayoral candidate Cathy Hoechst. - Original Credit: Cathy Hoechst's Facebook page
Mount Dora mayoral candidate Cathy Hoechst. - Original Credit: Cathy Hoechst's Facebook page (Courtesy photo)

Hoechst, who made a comeback in 2016 and served on the City Council until 2018, served for a decade as president of the Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce after a career with Orlando Health.

Mount Dora voters backed a charter amendment to add a fifth single-member district representative to the council. The council will remain a seven-person body but the number of at-large seats is being cut from two to one, with the mayor also being elected at large.

Voters in Clermont, Lake County’s largest city, gave another term to Seat 4 City Council incumbent Heidi Brishke. Brishke, a Disney technology manager first elected in 2017, defeated Ebo Entsuah with 57% of the vote.

Clermont City Council candidate Jim Purvis.
Clermont City Council candidate Jim Purvis. (Fallstrom, Jerry / Courtesy Photo)

In the only other Clermont race, Jim Purvis outpolled Joe Gustafson, 61% to 39%. Purvis will take over Seat 2, which was held for 15 years by Ray Goodgame, who died in July.

In neighboring Minneola, voters stuck with 10-year City Council veteran Joseph Saunders. He won reelection over Paul Giacalone with 65% of the vote. In an interview last month, Saunders said he should be elected “because I’m good at it."

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A retired engineering manager for a high-tech company in Massachusetts, he said he hopes to see the opening of a new central fire station in another term.

Mascotte voters ousted Mayor Barbara Krull, who has held the post since 2015, in favor of her challenger, Mike Sykes. Sykes received 59% of the vote to Krull’s 41 %.

Turnout was light in Lake County — only 15%. Those who showed up were given the option of receiving an “I Voted” sticker or one that says “My Vote Honors Veteran [blank],” with a space to add a name.

“It’s just our small way of saying thank you to our veterans,” said Nanci Cornwell, spokeswoman for the supervisor of elections office, of the initiative launched last year. “It is very popular and we have gotten a lot of positive feedback on it.”

[email protected] or 407-420-5444

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