A new Orange County Commission was sworn in this week, one that hit several historic markers for including the county’s first African-American mayor, two new Latina commissioners and the first all-female Orange County Commission.
For these and many other reasons, it was an emotional installation service. “It’s a great day in Orange County,” said Mayor Jerry Demings, an Orlando native from Washington Shores who previously served as Orange County Sheriff and Orlando Police chief. “We are building the experimental prototype community of tomorrow,” he added, quoting Walt Disney,
The ethnic diversity of the board more closely resembles the up-and-coming demographics of Orange County, which is 31 percent Hispanic, nearly half of that Puerto Rican, census figures show. Blacks make up 23 percent, for a total of 54 percent Hispanic and black population.
Maribel Gómez Cordero, representing District 4 in east Orange County, spoke in both English and Spanish, a nod to her Puerto Rican roots. Mayra Uribe of District 4 mentioned being the daughter of middle-class Argentinian and Colombian immigrants who met in New York. Victoria Siplin, now serving a second term in District 6 which includes the heavy Caribbean area of Pine Hills, uttered a few words in French. Christine Moore, the first female commissioner of District 2, invoked the leadership of her mother, a community volunteer.
All were surrounded by family and friends, which for Demings included his 96-year old father and wife Congresswoman Val Demings. Cordero was surrounded by four generations of family members and even the mayor of her home town of Ceiba, Puerto Rico.
“I’m a proud Puerto Rican and I feel the particular pain and hardship that my people have endured after Hurricane María. I carry it with me every day. How can I not do that?” said Gómez Cordero, who ran for District 4 in 2014 and lost and was elected this year against all odds, with little money. “But I am also a just-as-proud Floridian and member of this community.”
There appeared to be some agreement on the issues the new commission will face, including:
- Affordable housing
- Reliable public transportation
- Diversifying the economy
- Growing the workforce
It was refreshing to see a display of bipartisanship and faith in government. Demings called for a moment of silence in honor of late President George H.W. Bush, who died last week, saying, “I think he deserves that. A great American.” Moore talked about having “joy in service.” And Cordero mentioned the need to “work together, in good faith to find common sense solutions.”
˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor