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2022 “If I Were Mayor” Essay Contest Winners

Posted October 19th, 2022

The Florida League of Cities encourages Cities throughout the state to take part in promoting municipal government during Florida City Government Week. As part of this celebration, the City of Winter Haven is hosted an essay contest. Teachers at all schools in Winter Haven were encouraged to have students prepare essays for submission.

The City received 28 essays from three schools plus homeschooled students.  Staff from the City Manager’s Office and the Winter Haven Library selected the winning essays during 2022 City Government Week.

Winners have been invited to the October 24 City Commission meeting to be recognized.

Essay Theme:

Answer the following questions in an essay that is 500 words or less.

  • Why is Winter Haven great? What makes it special?
  • What would you do to improve Winter Haven if you were mayor?
  • Timothy Bretz
  • Olivia Elliot
  • Liam Foster
  • Harper Hassett
  • Isabelle Payne
  • Penelope Powers
  • Charlotte Roy
  • Presley Young

Essays are below in alphabetical order by last name.

Timothy Bretz
Cypress Junction Montessori – 6th Grade

I think Winter Haven is a great place for many reasons. Here are some reasons why Winter Haven is great, why it is special and finally, how I could improve it if I were mayor. First Winter Haven is great because of our theme parks and our city. Winter Haven is special because we have great schools and the Chain of Lakes. I could improve Winter Haven with the homeless people and libraries.

I think Winter Haven is great because of the theme parks and the city. The Legoland theme park is very popular in Winter Haven because of how big and attractive it is to the younger children. The new Peppa Pig theme park is also very popular now because you can bring your toddlers there to have a great time. The city is something that is very great in Winter Haven for many reasons. There are good restaurants and shops including the new restaurant Lucille’s American Cafe and a great place to go is Haven Coffee Roasters or a family favorite, Adlers. There are many other wonderful places to go in the city of Winter Haven.

There are many reasons Winter Haven is special. The schools in Winter Haven are very great and special in many different ways. There are many great schools in Winter Haven including Cypress Junction Montessori, Language & Literacy Academy For Learning, and Brigham Academy. Winter Haven is also special because of the Chain of Lakes. Winter Haven has nine lakes comprising this 6000-acre chain where fishing and boating are extremely popular. This is something very special in Winter Haven.

I could improve Winter Haven as the mayor in many different ways. First they could add a homeless shelter to help the homeless people sleep, eat and gain health. They could start an organization that people could donate to to help the sad people to stay healthy, to eat well, and to stay healthy. I could improve Winter Haven also by adding more libraries. There is already a great library in Winter Haven but if we add at least one or two more we could improve the children in school to help them to have a better career.

Winter Haven is great because of our theme parks and our city. Winter Haven is special because we have great schools and the Chain of Lakes. I could improve Winter Haven with the homeless people and libraries. There are many reasons why Winter Haven is great and why I could improve it as mayor.

Olivia Elliot
Cypress Junction Montessori – 4th Grade

Winter Haven is a great city because it’s so beautiful and there are so many pretty houses and lakes! Another reason why Winter Haven is great is that it has warmer claimants and most people that live in cooler climates year-round would like to live here. Another reason why Winter Haven is so great is because most of my friends live in Winter Haven. Also there’s a
lot of fun things to do like Winter Haven theater, good restaurants, and the best school Cypress
Junction Montessori!

Winter Haven is special to me. It’s special because it’s so pretty and beautiful. Winter Haven is home to many lakes so you can spend time out in nature. People can go fishing, swimming, and go out on boats. When you are on the lakes you can see a lot of different things like birds, fish, and if you are lucky you can mabey find an alligator or two. Most of my friends
and family live here. Also its home to the best school in the city, Cypress Junction Montessori.

If I could be mayor of Winter Haven, there are a few things I would like to improve. I would like to create or add more gas stations. They need to be more clean and it would be nice if they were bigger gas stations like Buckys in Georgia. Also we need to take better care of Winter Haven. I propose we should help out Winter Haven by cleaning up and maybe grow
more plants, different crops of fruits, and vegetables. I would also like to add more fun family activities to do in downtown winter haven like, bingo, outdoor family movie night, and more arts in the park. We could have outdoor concerts or put on plays.

In conclusion, if i were mayor, I would love to help people in need. I would also like to help clean up the environment. These are just a few things I would do if I were mayor.

Liam Foster
Cypress Junction Montessori – 5th Grade

Winter Haven is an awesome place! It has so many restaurants, stores and it holds my school, Cypress Junction Montessori. I wouldn’t change much about Winter Haven, except a few things.I would try to build and open more fresh produce stores!

If I was mayor, I would start by opening new stores for fresh produce, like Krogers and Publix. After that, I would open orphanage and animal shelter homes. And finally I would try to pay to fix all of hurricane Ian’s damage that was caused. I would also repair CJM’s playground fence and the greenhouse.

Winter Haven is great because of its education system. (Not always but it’s decent) The teachers at Cypress Junction Montessori are also amazing, from the lowly Willow Primary to the Mighty Oak Upper, at CJM, we are a community that functions amazingly. (Most of the time at least) Winter Haven and CJM are a great place to be! In CJM, we have special events that take place at the end of the year, Holidays Around The WOrld, Pumpkin Day and Field Trips.

I would also like to improve the education system a smidge. Like maybe adding more Montessori schools to the mix. Because I think that all kids should get to experience Montessori the same way we all did. It would just be fair to give the new generation a taste of our love from our teachers. I would also want to increase recess time for every kid in school.

In conclusion, if I were mayor, I would put the needs of others in front of my own. While also setting up a safe and fun environment for all my citizens.

Harper Hassett
Cypress Junction Montessori – 4th Grade

If I were mayor I would improve Winter Haven by making sure our county stays clean. I would also make sure everyone in Winter Haven stays safe. I would make sure all medical services like The fire department, A hospital, Emergency medicals, and the police help keep our county safe. Lastly, I would listen to residence and see problems and help the city reach its
goals. I would also improve gas stations and gas prices. Winter Haven Is a great place to visit and live.

Winter Haven is such a great place because The people care for others, The city keeps everyone safe at all times, And the schools provide great education. Another reason Winter Haven is so great is because all my friends and family live here. Winter haven is also so safe. I will help citizens in need of help or food. Winter Haven treats everyone the way they want to be treated. I run into friends and people and It reminds me how great Winter Haven truly is.

Winter Haven is special because It’s different from every other city. It’s also special because Winter Haven has an amazing library and schools and shows and plays and kind people who care about others. If there are problems they are always solved. My favorite thing about Winter Haven is that It is clean and it has amazing weather. My last reason is Because it’s
pretty and beautiful. Also I go to the best school and have the best friends at school.

In conclusion I think Winter Haven is amazing and I was mayor and I made a few changes It would be even better.

Isabelle “Belle” Payne
Homeschool – 5th Grade

If you were mayor what would you do? Winter Haven is a great community! If I were mayor I would improve several features about Winter Haven. I would use the opportunity to be more involved with those in need in our community and provide improved recycling options. I would encourage locals and tourists to ‘shop local’. I would also implement gluten free and other allergen free options at restaurants. As Mayor, I would encourage people to make girls football teams and other inclusive outdoor sports available.

Helping the community is very important. Being Mayor, I could help the poor and homeless. I would encourage people to volunteer and donate to The Mission of Winter Haven. Another way to help is to pick up trash and recycle as much as possible. Many schools and small businesses do not recycle. As Mayor, I would talk to businesses and give them more resources to recycle.

Winter Haven has many boutiques and enjoyable shopping places. My favorites are The Shop, Little Studio, and 417 Boutique. We also have many good restaurants like Nutwood, Arabella’s, Harborside Grill, and Tsunami Sushi. These places have great menus but need more gluten free options. I would encourage our citizens to support our small businesses and restaurants.

Winter Haven has many fun and important recreation activities. I personally enjoy the library and Trail Head Park. There are no girls football teams. As a mayor I would encourage the city and school board to make girls football teams. I know many who would play. Rock climbing is also fun and there should be a place for it downtown. It gives people something fun to do and more tourists would visit.

Winter Haven is a unique town. It has restaurants and stores that are authentic to Florida. As a mayor, important topics to me are improving youth sports, supporting local businesses, adding dining options for people with food allergies, and more recycling options. Being a mayor of Winter Haven would be busy but it would be outstanding!

Penelope Powers
Homeschool- 7th Grade (They/Them)

A mayor can’t change the world in the blink of an eye. But a mayor can change their town for the better. If I were mayor, I would try my very best to do just that. I would listen to the people, listen to what they want, but most importantly of all, listen to what they care about. A community can be built just on that and more. A community is important for the stability of a town. If we didn’t have that, than what would any town be? I would grow our community, strengthen our bonds and it all starts with what makes us Winter Haven.

Our town is filled with lakes, it’s a big part of what makes Winter Haven great! We’re the water ski capital of the world! So in turn, we should take great lengths to conserve our lakes. A great way to protect our lakes and our town is to plant native greenery around our shores. This helps hold back soil erosion and will keep our roads safe. Not to mention it would help with flooding, and keeping our lakes crystal clean. We can also conserve water by running our faucets less and installing low flush toilets in our public places.

How would I improve Winter Haven? A major issue facing our community is the overwhelming amount of homelessness. It seems that around every corner in Winter Haven you can see the affects of another town struggling with homelessness. The top five reasons include lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, mental illness with no affordable or available treatment, and substance abuse. I see these people every day out in our hot Florida weather, and all I can think is, is everybody seeing this too? The fact that homelessness is so prevalent in our community drives me to help rehouse and rehabilitate them. An easy way we can begin to tackle this overwhelming problem, is to open rehabilitation centers. In return for free housing, free meals and all manner of rehabilitation programs, all the tenants need to do is pass a weekly drug test. In these rehabilitation centers the mentally ill can get the help and treatment they need, all covered by our own taxes. Once these vulnerable individuals have gotten back on their feet it can in turn help our economy by providing new workers.

In all, if I were mayor, I wouldn’t just help you or me, I would help everyone in our town. I would help the lakes, the economy, the homeless, everyone who lives in this town should feel happy and safe in their own hometown. Winter Haven is unique with its adaptation to grow and thrive together, and we should celebrate that every day. After all, it is what makes us such a special haven.

Charlotte Roy
Cypress Junction Montessori – 4th Grade

These are a few things I would do If I were mayor to make Winter Haven an even better place than it is now.

It is so fun to just walk around and there are so many shops to go to and restaurants that have been here since my parents were kids. I love to go to the library and pick out a book or two . I also love going to Andy’s Igloo because who doesn’t like ice cream!

I’ve always wondered what makes Winter Haven so special but now I realize that many people have grown up here including me and it has been here for so long . It’s also beautiful . I adore all of the murals that are painted on the buildings . And my favorite part is to see the fountain . It was such a good idea to make it so it changes colors . Usually when winter comes around they set up farmers markets with cute little booths .That’s all the things that make this
wonderful place so special.

If I were mayor I would probably add a few things including a shelter for the homeless because when I’m driving home to my beautiful house there are many people just on park benches and I feel terrible . So that is probably the first thing I would do . Next I would put together many community activities such as a book club , somewhere for kids to hang out after school and do fun activities such as scavenger hunts around the park , and boat races through puddles, and fun crafts.

In conclusion ,If I were mayor winter haven would be an even better place then it is now.

Presley Young
Homeschool – 6th Grade

Mayor is one of the best titles to have and something to be very proud of. Winter Haven has one of the best Florida downtowns. Even though winter haven is a great place to live, I would improve some features. One feature is improving recreational sports facilities. Also our population is growing and our homeless kids are increasing.

As mayor I would attend games and be involved in the kids’ sports. I would also give more money to sports organizations to improve their facilities. Although Mayor Dantzler has improved several facilities I would still improve other facilities and organizations. This helps Winter Haven to have happier kids and more active people. I would encourage hosting more sport tournaments and games. Sports Organizations really do need some work. There are so many fields that can be made into softball or baseball fields, which will grow the sports facilities.

There are many homeless kids in Winter Haven. According to an interview with mayor Dantzler and the Ledger there are “400 to 800 homeless kids in Winter Haven at any given time”. This is an astonishing number that I would like to bring awareness to as mayor. We can help by encouraging food sources and safe places for these kids to go to. A little act of kindness can go a long way.

We have a beautiful downtown. It has outstanding restaurants with amazing healthy foods, some even a little bit unhealthy but still very appetizing. With the beautiful parks and fountains downtown, it is all tied together. I would personally invest in our beautiful downtown area by getting people to maintain these flowers and gorgeous plants. Also, I would like to promote the downtown area and small businesses by shopping and eating there.

As we all know, that mayor comes with great responsibility. But Bradley T. Dantzler has done great work for our beautiful city. These are a few features I would improve from the homeless to our sports facilities to our downtown area. As we all know people have their little critiques but those are what makes Winter Haven a great place to live. Winter Haven is truly a haven to live in.

Oldt, Thomas R. “We can move anything. Winter Haven Mayor Brad Dantzler Reflects on City’s direction.” The Ledger. December 31, 2021