There is a new spirit permeating the Town of Eatonville and it starts with Mayor Bruce Mount, recently given an overwhelming second-term mandate by its citizens.
Last week I sat down with the mayor to discuss his future plans for Eatonville, and the significance of Founders Day, the upcoming 125th anniversary of the Town.
“The second term is very significant because, during my first term, we started a number of projects which must now be completed,” Mount said. “For example, we acquired the Hungerford property, which was a school that was closed and we also started our streetscape, which is our gateway project to the town.”
During his first term, the perception of Eatonville was a negative one, which he has been able to turn around. A second term will allow him to build on this favorable view of the Town, he added.
Eatonville is a town in Orange County, Florida, six miles north of Orlando. Businessman Joseph Clarke bought 112 acres from Maitland Mayor Josiah Eaton, and begun selling lots to Black families. On August 18, 1887, 27 registered voters, all Black men, met and voted to incorporate the town. The vote made history and Eatonville became the first incorporated African American community in the nation.
“When I first came into office, we needed to secure that property (Hungerford), so we rented it from Orange County for a dollar a year. We are in the process of purchasing the school. It is important to keep that going, because we use the gym for recreation, we use the cafeteria as a rental facility, and we have the classrooms in there,” Mount explained. The Hungerford property has been an integral historical part of the community since 1930, and to lose the property would be tragic.
Mount’s vision is to turn the Hungerford property into a Charter School so that it becomes a driver for economic development. Furthermore, he is looking closely at the Winter Park Village which he says could serve as a model for the Town, with its many eateries, movie theatres, shops and condos.
Earlier this year, the citizens of Eatonville turned out in record numbers to cast their ballots. The mayor attributes the record turnout to the fact that, elections were held on a Saturday when more citizens are available. He is proud of this achievement and believes that more counties will follow his lead.
When Mount took office Eatonville was notorious for its record keeping; records were misplaced or just lost. Today, that’s not the case.
“I am very proud to say, that this is the first time since 1980 the Town of Eatonville is caught up on its audits,” he said. “When I came into office we were three years behind on our audits and the records were in shambles.” The state of Florida cannot believe we organized our records in such a short period of time, the mayor adds with a big smile. Some of the information is on line and every department is responsible for delivering their records to the Town Clerk.
“Visit Orlando and Experience Eatonville” is the new motto and slogan for the town. The town is well-known nationally and internationally, because of famed author Zora Neal Hurston who grew up there and the annual Zora! Festival held in her honor.
Mount is excited about the upcoming Founder’s Day, 125th anniversary week celebrations beginning August 18, 2012. During the week of festivities, Eatonville will unveil its streetscape, host a parade, banquet, mayor’s breakfast and convene a series of workshops to educate residents and visitors on the Town’s history.
“We are planning a big celebration, because we are proud of our history and we have faith in our future,” he said.
Notwithstanding the challenges in Eatonville, the government is transparent and its leaders have integrity. Besides, Mount’s excitement regarding plans for taking the Town forward are contagious. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he convenes a ‘walk and talk’ group, whose overarching goal is to be the healthiest community in America.
For more information on the Founder’s Day Celebration contact; www.townofeatonville.org or call 407-623-8900.