Mayor Art Woodruff works for the future

Oviedo High School teacher, Woodruff, is ending his final term as the Mayor of Sanford with content from building a welcoming community


Lauren King

On the chilly morning of Dec. 7, teacher Art Woodruff is adorned in OHS staff attire whilst working at his desk. He is sorting through classwork for his computer science class, managing a routine that gives him the opportunity to dedicate his efforts to Mayorship.

Art Woodruff sits at his desk in the science classroom at Oviedo High School, grading through papers in the early morning sun. A buzz fills the quiet of the room and his eyes snap to his phone screen, which illuminates a pop-up of a caller. Setting the academic work to the side, the Mayor of Sanford picks up the phone to find out that the parts for the 100-year-old sewage system are still being held up. A sigh sounds, but his heart doesn’t feel heavy. He hangs up. Woodruff will get the job done – whatever it takes.

Having dedicated just about his entire life to the people, Woodruff sets himself up for success to ensure the community is satisfied. He has been teaching for nearly four decades and has been running in the Sanford office for half of them.

His family started up in the city in 1844 as farmers . . . [and] his great-great-grandfather was mayor in 1903.

— Lauren King, 11

“I’ve told people I think one of the reasons I manage to do well being elected is that for 37 years, I’ve had to get along with anyone who came into my classroom. So I can get along with people pretty well,” Woodruff said.

The only time Woodruff took a break from his civic duty was in 2014. He took off for four years from being the Sanford District 1 City Commissioner to care for his kids during their developmental years in middle school. Woodruff was re-elected for the position in 2018, then appointed as mayor in 2020. 

Once he was first elected, the original fault Woodruff sought to correct was the way development was going. He fought for the restoration of Mellon Park instead of it being torn down to create a hotel and conference center. 

“It was for the community . . . A lot of people used it and to see it change to something that would be privately owned, taking the space away from the residents – I thought that was a bad move and I didn’t think it would succeed,” Woodruff said.

From the start, it is evident that he had the community’s best interests in mind. Protecting a Sanford icon – home to basketball courts, a sparking lake, and the sounds of jovial children on playground sets.

“I want things to be good for my kids when they grow up . . . I don’t know that they’re going to stay in Sanford, but if they do I want them to have a good place to live. Likewise, for other kids growing up . . . I want Sanford to be a place where people want to stay,” Woodruff said.

Juggling between such virtuous ambitions, many students and staff speculate how the high school teacher and mayor balances out his schedule. One week might be only five hours of mayorship duties, the other week could be 15 hours.

“It just varies widely, based on what meetings to go to and things you’re trying to take care of,” Woodruff said.

His aspiration is to cultivate a safe environment for the people of Sanford and to fulfill their desires, listening to the voices of a community and returning their support with his. 

“Mainly [to sustain] just good government, getting things done, and taking care of the city and making it a good place for everybody to live,” he said.

Whilst maintaining the security of the city, Woodruff is working faithfully to expand its appeal to visitors and the working class. To do so, he is looking to increase the entertainment value of downtown Sanford by opening bars, restaurants, retail stores, and offices.

One of the things I wanted to do was bring it back – bring Sanford back.

— Art Woodruff

Having plenty of experience under his belt, Woodruff understands how to tackle obstacles. The main hurdle to leap over is having the financial opportunity to do what must be done to sustain and develop the city.

“It has to do with budget – with having enough money to do what we want to do. We’re trying to build a fire station and pay our police and firefighters enough money that we can keep them. We have a 100-year-old sewer system . . . and we can’t get the parts [to fix it],” Woodruff said.

Sanford has been his home for many years, as well as for his ancestry. His family started up in the city in 1844 as farmers. His great-great-great-grandfather and his son became leaders of the community and the city continued to grow from there. His great-great-grandfather was the mayor in 1903.

Having grown up in Sanford, Woodruff accounts that everything was moving out of downtown. Activity was in a decline and it was a downturn for the city. The once bustling city became quiet as residents moved away to find bigger and better things.

“One of the things I wanted to do was bring it back – bring Sanford back,” Woodruff said.

Whilst he helped pave the way for the city, he does not take credibility for all of the achievements he made. He believes that while he leads the charge, his staff are also to receive recognition for their aid.

“It’s hard for a person to take credit for any particular thing … [because] it’s a lot longer-term than one person. It’s the commission as a whole pushing things along,” Woodruff said.

Serving the community for two generous decades, Woodruff is thinking of this being his last term. 

Despite this being Woodruff’s final walk as mayor, his trail of accomplishments speaks for itself. He has developed the city of Sanford into a thriving home for the people, giving opportunity for future prosperity – whether it be individually or the community as a whole. He will be leaving behind a 20-year-long run of good deeds and he continues to be a role model for students at Oviedo High School: promoting integrity, trust, and duty.