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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 2 months ago

Five file as candidates for Orange County mayor

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School Board chair Bill Sublette and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings are among those vying for the county mayor seat in the upcoming 2018 election.
by: Gabby Baquero Staff Writer

ORANGE COUNTY – Five individuals have filed to run in the Orange County mayoral race to succeed Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who has reached the eight-year term limit.

The five candidates to have filed so far are Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette, nonprofit consultant Rob Panepinto, Jose Datil Colom and Robert Edward Melanson. 

Demings, Sublette and Panepinto cite similar goals when it comes the issues they wish to tackle first if elected — issues focused on Orange County’s notable economic and population growth.

Demings, a Dr. Phillips resident and 36-year law-enforcement officer in Orlando, said he decided to join the race following “an abundance of requests” by the hundreds from Orange County citizens “looking for the next regional leader.” Demings, who was elected in 2008 as Orange County’s first African-American sheriff, is now in his third term as Orange County’s sheriff.

“My No. 1 priority in this community is to improve public safety. Secondly, to maintain and improve our economy, and thirdly, to be a bridge builder between business, citizens and government,” Demings said.

Orlando resident Sublette, who was elected as OCPS chairman in 2010 and served eight years in the state legislature, prides himself on having championed several laws aimed at protecting consumers and the environment. Sublette emphasized he entered the race to continue Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ legacy.

“I think that’s a wonderful legacy she’s left behind, and I got in the race because I believe I can continue that legacy,” he said. “I also believe that we need someone with a proven track record in leadership who’s shown they’re willing to fight for us and holds a positive vision and good agenda for Orange County.”

Sublette cites growth management, transportation issues, crime reduction and infrastructure improvements as focal points and added that pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods also would be on his to-do list if elected.

“Growth is here to stay, but we need to make sure we have the necessary infrastructure in place before we permit development and make sure we have adequate bike paths, sidewalks, and walkable neighborhoods,” Sublette said. “We need to tackle gridlock in our transportation system with better planning and timing of our traffic signals. And crime is always a big issue in a community like ours because we are the No. 1 tourist destination in America, so we need to focus on reducing crime further.”

But for Winter Park resident Panepinto — president of Florentine Strategies and a nonprofit consultant — affordable housing and economic diversification was the crux of his interest. Panepinto, a New York native who has been heavily involved in the business, start-up and nonprofit sectors of the community, emphasized that he joined the race to give Orange County citizens the option of voting for someone with a more varied professional background.

“It’s very difficult for a government, in and of itself, to resolve some of these issues, particularly in a community that’s at the stage we’re in,” he said. “We need the government sector to work more closely with the business and nonprofit sector to really move forward on these issues. We really need people with a much broader background than folks with experience that is, by and large, focused on the government sector. We need broader expertise to move the community forward.”

Robert Edward Melanson did not return phone calls before press time, and the number publicly listed for Jose Datil Colom is disconnected.

The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2018.

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