ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Recently, an Orlando publication published their top 12 most powerful people in Orange County and Orlando politics. And when I reviewed the list there seemed to be more than a number of names out of order and many missing. So, while certainly subjective in nature, I have decided to create my own list (“just a guy with a Facebook page”) that I think more closely mirrors the power in Orange County politics.
Let’s first begin with what I believe quantifies power and influence in politics. It comes down to responsibility and influence. And for some reason some of the heavy hitters that truly have the most responsibility in our county are often underestimated. Whether it’s being mayor of one of the largest counties in Florida or overseeing a $170 billion-dollar property appraiser and assessment process, don’t get it twisted, often those in elected office have far more power than the recently published list acknowledged.
Let’s start by posting the Orlando publication’s relatively weak and misguided list of the most powerful politicians in their published order:
1. Mayor Buddy Dyer
2. Attorney John Morgan
3. Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher
4. Attorney Mayanne Downs
5. Mayor Teresa Jacobs
6. Marcos Marchena
7. Kelly Cohen
8. Sheriff Jerry Demings
9. Chief John Mina
10. Senator Bill Nelson
11. Commissioner Patty Sheehan
12. Congresswoman Val Demings
Below you will find “Randy’s TOP 25 Powerful People in Orlando/Orange County Politics,” followed by the ones to watch. I will highlight a few.
1. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Hands down the most powerful role and responsibility in our county. How a city attorney ranked above her escapes me. I originally met Mayor Jacobs in 2000 and I can honestly say she’s the same down-to-earth person I always believed she was. Last year, through her compassion and leadership, she finally got the respect I felt she always deserved from the LGBTQ community despite it being a tragedy that opened that door. While I support term limits, watching her term out in 2018 will be a difficult thing to see. We can only hope that Mayor Jacobs is looking at options to continue her time in public service.
2. City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Certainly the Orlando City Mayor has a substantial responsibility, but to suggest it’s more encompassing than that of our County Mayor is subjective privilege, not fact. I do predict we’ll see the Mayor announce his leaving for office to become the President of The University of Central Florida…anyone wanting to hedge a bet?
3. Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh. One to watch? I don’t think so. In addition to running what could best be described as one of the most effective property appraiser offices in Florida, Singh has taken his office to places most wouldn’t even dream. In addition to saving citizens millions through critical evaluations, he manages nearly 50 billion more dollars of assessments than his predecessor. I also believe we’ll see him soon jump into the Orange County Mayor’s race. But you didn’t hear that from me… I’m not one to gossip.
4. Attorney and Medical Marijuana Activist John Morgan. Not only has he taken the medical marijuana initiative to reality with millions of dollars, he has been a fundraising guru for Democratic Presidential candidates for years. While I don’t believe he’ll ultimately run for Governor, I do believe he has clearly established himself as a political leader in Orange County.
5. Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph. I’ve been somewhat critical of Randolph in the past, but you only need to have to renew your license or interact with his office to recognize he has taken the Orange County Tax Collector’s office to the next level with technology and convenience.
6. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings
7. Attorney and Political Power-Broker Frank Kruppenbacher
8. City of Orlando Police Chief John Mina
9. Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles
10. Orange County Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell. Time and time again I hear nothing but praise for how Russell is running the Clerk of Courts office.
11. Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond
12. Orange County Commissioner, Former Florida State House Representative and Apopka Mayoral Candidate Bryan Nelson
13. City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan
14. Orange County School Board (District 6) Member Nancy Robinson
15. City of Orlando District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill. Hill represents one of the most integral areas of our City requiring more thoughtful planning for growth than most may be willing to acknowledge. While Lake Nona and Medical City are substantial, Hill’s district truly is the heart of Downtown Orlando, making decisions in and surrounding it impactful and trendsetting.
16. Town of Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn. Mayor Bruhn is everywhere and possesses loads of clout with his fellow mayors. My guess is he’s perfectly happy being the Mayor of Windermere even if he gets the subtle urge here and there to look at other offices.
17. Orange County School Board (District 3) Linda Kobert
18. Orange County Public School Board Chair and Rumored Orange County Mayoral Candidate Bill Sublette
19. Florida Senator Bill Nelson
20. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy
21. Congresswoman Val Demings
22. Orange County Commissioner and possibly Orange County Mayoral Candidate Pete Clarke. Everyone likes “Pete,” but will that be enough to compete in a heavy Democrat town even in a nonpartisan race? We shall see.
23. Hotelier Harris Rosen
24. Timeshare Mogul David Siegel
25. Consultant and Trump Florida Hispanic Spokeswoman Bertica Cabrera-Morris. As one person suggested to me, Bertica has the ability to touch many things in our community and her brilliance is that most will never know she was there. She embodies class and hard-knocks passion for the clients she represents.
ONES TO WATCH (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
1. Belle Isle Mayor Lydia Pisano. Pisano is one of the most misunderstood elected officials I’ve met. In fact, maybe too perfect. But be on the look out–my money is she will seek County Commission District 3 in 2018. Only time will tell.
2. Orange County Republican Party Vice Chairman Chadwick Hardee
3. Florida State House District 44 Candidate Bobby Olszewski
4. Florida State House District 49 Representative Carlos G. Smith
5. Orange Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Eric Rollings
6. Former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez. Fernandez surely must be eyeing various races looking for the right fit. And when he identifies one, he’ll be all in 150 percent.
7. Florida State House District 44 Candidate John Newstreet
8. Political Consultant and Edgewood Commissioner John Dowless
9. Florida State House District 50 Representative Rene Plasencia
10. Planned Parenthood External Affairs Director and Florida State House District 47 Candidate Anna Eskamani
11. Orange County Republican Executive Committeeman and Candidate for Florida Agriculture Commissioner Paul Paulson. Paul is scouting the state right now, putting signs up for his bid for Agriculture Commissioner in cow pastures and roadsides only road warriors can find. He’s viable and not afraid of putting his own money where his mouth is. That combination will prove, I believe, a positive combination.
12. Orange County Young Republicans President Nicholas Primrose
13. Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge
14. Philanthropist Christopher Comins. Now retired, developer and philanthropist Chris Comins, I predict, will be a person we’re going to hear more about in 2018 and 2020.
15. Florida State House District 30 Representative Bob Cortes
16. Florida Senator David Simmons
17. East Orlando Post Founder Jacob Engels
18. Orange/Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala. While I think her State Attorney role is on life support, she’s set herself up for something, by accident I believe, far greater for those that do not support the death penalty.
19. Ericka Dunlap, Candidate for City of Orlando District 5 Commissioner. As Dunlap, a former Miss America, sets her sight on this seat, if she doesn’t win, she has certainly set a path for a future as a possible spokesperson for the University of Central Florida or Government Affairs for a Fortunate 500 company.
20. Florida Senator Andy Gardner
So there you have it. It’s just my opinion. But the power in Orange County politics isn’t sitting with names people haven’t heard of necessarily. Give the credit where it’s due: to the people in those elected positions responsible for everything from our property assessments to our safety. Give credit to those that truly have impact. To me, that’s the power!
What does your list look like?