ORANGE COUNTY – Bill Cowles, Orange County’s longest serving supervisor of elections, announced today that he intends to retire at the end of his current term, January 6, 2025.
“It has been the role of a lifetime to be trusted by the citizens of Orange County to conduct secure election with the highest standards of integrity. After a fulfilling 33 years (which will be 35 years at the end of the term), first as chief deputy and now supervisor, it is time to pass the torch and retire to private life and enjoy time with my wife and four grandsons,” said Supervisor Cowles.
Bill Cowles has been an integral part the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office since 1989. Prior to joining the elections team as chief deputy, he served thirteen years on the staff of the Central Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America. He was elected as the Orange County Supervisor of Elections in 1996 and has been re-elected in every election since. Bill supervises the fifth-largest county elections office in the state of Florida.
Cowles’ tenure has seen its fair share of elections excitement. The first county-wide election he conducted was the 1997 Penny Sales Tax election. It was declared by the US Postal Service to be the largest mail-ballot election at the time. Cowles’ first presidential election was the infamous 2000 election filled with hanging chads – although, to be clear, in the words of Cowles: “Chad never came to Orange County.” Additionally, the most contentious election he has overseen was the presidential race of 2020.
From hanging chads to a complete overhaul of elections cybersecurity and the transparency of today, Supervisor Cowles has steadied the helm through some tumultuous and changing times.
Bill Cowles will leave the elections office in good hands, having assembled a team of professionals that has a combined 300+ years of elections experience. Several senior staffers have more than 15 years of experience each, from the local elections office, other counties in Florida, and even from multiple states.
Always finding new ways to engage the community in the elections process, Mr. Cowles created the “Adopt-A-Precinct” program in 1998. The community partnership allows organizations to serve the community as poll workers while teambuilding and fundraising for their cause. In the most recent 2022 general election, 50% of the polling places were adopted by community groups.
With his 70th birthday approaching, Supervisor Cowles joked that he “never intended to break Earl K. Woods’ record.” He chose to announce at this time out of courtesy to those seeking to fill his shoes, allowing them more time to begin making plans for their campaigns.
Cowles served on the Federal Elections Assistance Commission Board of Advisors from 2007 to 2011. His other professional involvements include being past president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, as well as past president of the International Association of Clerks, Recorders, Election Officials, and Treasurers.
Cowles graduated in 1976 with a degree in public administration from the University of Central Florida. Not only is Bill busy with his professional associations, he is also very active in is church and community. He is an elder at Quest Church, a board member of the Central Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America, a member of the UCF Public Administration Advisory Board, and a member and past president of the Kiwanis Club of North Orlando.
Bill Cowles has been married since 1978 to Cheryl and has two married sons and four grandsons. He will miss the job but is looking forward to spending more time with his family.