Launching mayoral campaign, Val Demings says she wants to bring integrity back to Orange County

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One question for former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings is why she decided to run against Mayor Theresa Jacobs.

Her answer is characteristically straightforward — to bring integrity back to Orange County government.

Coinciding with the Thursday announcement event at Orlando’s Lake Eola, Demings campaign issued a statement the same afternoon explaining her motivations behind her decision to run for mayor.

For Demings, it began as a natural response to several local residents, community leaders and concerned citizens expressing a desire to challenge the failed leadership of incumbent Republican Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

Demings’ tenure in the Orlando Police Department certainly gave her the experience for higher office, as well the motivation to continue making a difference in her community.

In addition, Demings undoubtedly has a history of rising to address the difficult challenges facing Central Florida.

Appointed chief in December 2007, Demings was the first woman to lead the department. Under her leadership, violent crime in Orlando reduced by 40 percent, while she trimmed the agency’s operating budget by over $10 million.

After serving with the Orlando Police Department for 27 years, Demings left in June 2011, but her reputation remains a significant factor, something reaching far beyond retirement.

Val Demings is just the kind of no-nonsense, solutions oriented and experienced based problem solver that we need,” says Carlos Smith, newly elected chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. “The citizens in our community deserve better than pay to play local government where regular people take a back seat to special interests. Demings will bring trust, fairness and integrity back to Orange County government, which at this moment is sorely needed.”

Trust in local government has dogged Mayor Jacobs’ administration for quite some time, Demings points out. Lack of confidence by voters peaked when the Florida State Attorney’s office discovered Jacobs and other commissioners violated the law by destroying public records related to the Earned Sick Time ballot initiative.

Subsequent public records requests uncovered how Jacobs, her staff, and fellow Republican commissioners exchanged hundreds of text messages with corporate lobbyists during public hearings, defying the county charter. This behavior thwarted the will of the voters who followed the rule of law to have the petition added to the ballot.

According to Demings, voters in Orange County are ready for a local government that respects ordinary citizens of Central Florida over the interests of powerful business.

Demings believes she is the right leader at the right time to move Orange County forward.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.