Kissimmee elects first female Hispanic mayor and 2 new city commissioners

  • Olga Gonzalez
    Olga Gonzalez

Olga Gonzalez will become the new mayor of Kissimmee after winning 56.16 percent of the vote and defeating fellow city commissioner, Angela Eady, who captured 43.84 percent.

She will be the city’s first female Hispanic mayor.

Gonzalez will replace Jose Alvarez, who is term limited from running again for mayor. (Alvarez failed to unseat current County Commission district 1 incumbent Peggy Choudhry during the August primaries).

Gonzalez currently serves on the Kissimmee City Commission. She was elected in 2016.

Gonzalez was born in Harlem, New York and worked for General Motors. 

After retiring, she moved to Osceola County and started a nonprofit organization called Church and Community Assistance Program, Inc.

The organization helped distribute food to families in need. It eventually partnered with other agencies, including the State Department of Children and Families, to connect people with additional support services.

Kissimmee’s charter maintains a weak mayor form of governance, meaning the mayor doesn’t hold more power than any of the other four commissioners.

But that didn’t stop six candidates from packing the mayor’s race during the August primary.

Gonzalez and Eady were the two left standing in that race.

Gonzalez ran on a platform of combating homelessness, improving educational opportunities and engaging more citizens in local government.

Castano takes Gonzalez’s spot on the City Commission

As one Olga is elected mayor of Kissimmee, a different Olga takes her current seat on the board.

Olga Lucía Castano narrowly won seat 1 on the City Commission Tuesday night with 12,842 votes, defeating her challenger, Noel Oritz, by just 787 votes. Ortiz captured 12,055 votes total.

Castaño will take over for Olga Gonzalez, who vacated Seat 1 to make a run for mayor.

Castaño is a real estate professional who immigrated from Columbia to New York in 1981. She has lived in the Kissimmee area for 24 years.

She holds strong ties with the local business community as a member of the Osceola County Association of Realtors, the Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and the Kissimmee Main Street Organization.

Castano is a friend of Gonzalez. The two worked side-by-side at Gonzalez’s nonprofit, Church and Community Assistance Program, Inc., for six years.

The two also campaigned together as “the two Olgas” throughout the race.

“Now she’s won too, and I’ve become her right hand,” Castano told the News-Gazette Wednesday morning. “I’ve learned from her too along the way.”

Castano raised about $15,678 in campaign donations. About 41 percent of that money came from donations Castano made to herself.

Castano said one reason she was motivated to run is because she wants to see more women in government.

Once in office, Castaño said she wants to sit down with local groups and residents to pinpoint specific issues and help them overcome challenges.

She also wants to work closely with Career Source to retrain and reemploy Kissimmee residents laid off during the pandemic.

Castano has a personal connection with Career Source. As a 23-year-old single mother of two, the organization helped retrain her as a data coordinator. Castano said they employed her to provide vouchers for people going back to school, and that opportunity changed her life.

“The program is good because it helps take people to the next level,” she said. “It’s OK to need welfare and help at certain times of your life, but it’s important not to abuse it and to move up.”

Castano said she’s proof that these programs make a difference and wants to provide more residents with similar opportunities.

Carlos Alvarez wins seat 3

The Kissimmee Commission seat 3 was neck and neck most of the night, but Carlos Alvarez III finally prevailed, defeating his opponent Reginald Hardee with 52.72 percent of the vote.

Alvarez ran a small but strong grassroots campaign, spending less than any other candidate in the race.

Alvarez is a retired HVAC field supervisor mechanic from New York who relocated to Kissimmee in 2008.

He is an active volunteer with several groups, including Organize Florida.

He will replace Angela Eady on the board, who vacated seat 1 to run for mayor.

Alvarez said his first priority is to assure Kissimmee’s recovery from COVID-19 by focusing on housing, education and the workforce.