Vera Carter was an Orange County commissioner from 1980 to 1992 and was a big proponent of managing growth.
To appreciate the open green spaces in Orange County, the protected wetlands and rivers, the wildlife at the Tibet Butler Preserve and linear parks such as the West Orange Trail — one must appreciate the hard work and dedication of Vera Carter.
She was the first female elected to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, in 1980, and she served three terms totaling 12 years fighting for the environment. She represented District 1, which includes West Orange County.
Carter, 86, of Windermere, died Tuesday, June 13, 2017. She was born April 1, 1931, to Thomas and Gladys Murray in Jessup, Georgia.
She was married to Jack Carter for 44 years, and they had three children.
Her devotion to the community began long before she was an Orange County commissioner — as a PTA president, Girl Scout leader and Cub Scout den mother, as well as Red Cross first-aid instructor and swim instructor. She was a lifelong Sunday school teacher, as well.
After becoming a government figure, Carter took on a number of community challenges.
She led the fight for the county’s wetlands protection regulations and pushed for regulations that protect the Wekiva River. She established the 440-acre Tibet Butler Preserve, and, as a result, the Vera Carter Environmental Center was named for her.
Carter served the community in various capacities, including on the West Orange Memorial Hospital board, the South Florida Water Management District board, Orange County Planning & Zoning Commission and East Central Florida Regional Planning Council.
Then-Florida Gov. Bob Graham appointed her to the Growth Management Advisory Committee. She supported protection of the Econlockhatchee River and championed the county’s open-space requirements and mandatory garbage collection and recycling.
“She was a tireless advocate for the environment, and her leadership helped Orange County look hard at our environmental policies,” said current District 1 County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey. “She loved the community and did whatever was in her power to improve the area. … Her hard stance has informed a better way of developing and influenced Horizon West policies greatly.
Carter loved the outdoors and gardening and was one of the founding members of the Bloom & Grow Garden Society, the gardening club in West Orange County. She was active in landscaping yards for West Orange Habitat For Humanity homes and helped the garden club obtain land and establish the Path of Life, at Chapin Station on the West Orange Trail.
“The Path of Life was a joint partnership with Trail Friends from the very beginning,” said past club president Jackie Brown. “Vera and I met together with Orange County Parks & Recreation to discuss our plans for installing a brick pathway and having a quiet garden area. … When I came up with the idea of putting in a public garden by selling bricks, Vera was an Orange County commissioner at the time and knew about the county’s plan to put another 26-acre park along the bike trail. They named it Chapin Station.”
Bloom & Grow members dedicated their 2017 Spring Fever in the Garden festival to Carter.
Carter was preceded in death by her husband, Jack; and siblings, Margie Tyre, Laverne Murray, Kenneth Murray, Bernard Murray and Nina Jones.
She is survived by two sons, Jack (and Audrey) Carter and Mark (and Nikki) Carter; and one daughter, Lynne (and Russ) Erickson; as well as six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; one sister and one brother.
A celebration of Carter’s life was held June 19 at the First Baptist Church of Windermere. Contributions can be made in her memory to 1000 Friends of Florida or the Alzheimer’s Association.