Editor's note: These are the complete, unedited answers from Orange County Commission District 1 candidate Nuren Haider.
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Dr. Phillips
FAMILY: Husband, Dr. Saif Haque; three children
EXPERIENCE: Attorney; daughter of immigrants who became small-business owners
EDUCATION: Waterbridge Elementary, Southwest Middle School, Cypress Creek High School, Bachelors in Political Science minors in Business Administration and Education from U of F, Juris Doctor from Florida A&M College of Law
EXPERIENCE: My real-life experience comes from working with small business in legal contracts, management, marketing, the construction industry, and most importantly being a mother. I am very active with my cultural and religious communities, this inspired me to become affiliated with the Peace and Justice Institute, to volunteer with groups motivating children for higher education and cultural awareness. I have moderated a panel for the Southeast-Southwest People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference and the Environmental Law Symposium. I am an active alumni of FAMU Law School, currently volunteer with the Interfaith Council, my political party, and the LOWV.
ENDORSEMENTS: Democratic Women's Club of Florida, Democratic Disability Caucus
This race is one of the most competitive in Orange County, and it also happens to be one of the most important to West Orange residents. There have been several negative advertising pieces sent to District 1 residents by more than one candidate. Evaluate yours — and the other candidates’ — campaigning processes.
I have not sent out any negative mailers. I am not running against my opponents. I am running for the office of County Commissioner.
West Orange County is one of the fastest-growing communities in the country. How do you balance that growth? What is smart growth?
Smart growth is growth that supports the local businesses we have here already in our community and growth that supports the residents who are already living in our community. As a community we need to put an end to the concept of growth for growth’s sake and the myth that this boosts our economy. Development is inevitable, people are moving here every day, but I believe we should be using our current local builders and skilled laborers in our development. Ask ourselves what the total impact is on the community before approving a project. Will this bring jobs? How does this impact the environment? What will this do to traffic? Not just for a mile or two but for the entire community.
What would you do to maintain safety in West Orange as it continues to grow?
We need to re-evaluate pay and benefits for our first responders. The brave men and women who put their lives on the line in our Sheriff’s Department and our Fire Rescue should be receiving the top training and top pay for what they do so that we know that we have the best and the brightest on the streets and that their time off for rest is not spent working second and third jobs just to support their families.
What would you do to increase jobs in West Orange?
Focus on infrastructure. We need to build new bike paths and sidewalks. The County's plan to become ADA compliant for streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, ect. is going to take 20 years to manifest. This is unacceptable. Focusing on infrastructure will make our community safer, more inclusive, and will create jobs for skilled labor. These improvements also increase property values and boost the economy for small business owners.
After tourism, what should be the second-largest economic driver in West Orange?
West Orange has been experiencing growth in many areas including high-tech, media and entertainment, finance, insurance, real estate, and healthcare. We have a long history of agriculture, tourism, and the service industry driving the economy in West Orange. I think the economic diversity of our community is one of the best parts of our county because it contributes to the diversity of the population. Instead of focusing on one industry we should be nurturing all areas to continue to have diversity in our economy.
What is the greatest problem facing District 1, and what are your solutions to that problem?
Again, Orange County residents need to feel safe above all else. This means to we need to pay our first responders what they deserve, guaranteeing we attract and keep the best and brightest police and fire rescue. In order to afford this without excessively raising taxes we need to make our public transportation system effective and efficient. We do this with a dedicated transportation budget. This would save tax dollars and end wasteful spending.
Communication between the Orange County Commission and the Orange County School Board will continue to be important as West Orange continues to grow. As District 1 commissioner, how would you work to ensure the two entities cooperate and communicate?
As a mother of school age children, serving families is a top priority for me. The main overlap in responsibility between the Board of County Commissioners and the Orange County School Board is new school placement. Both boards and the community need to come together for a series of conversations on the topic. I will work to schedule and promote those meetings.
Evaluate the work of outgoing District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd. If you had to assign Boyd a letter grade (A to F), how would you grade him? Why?
I would give Commissioner Boyd a D+. Commissioner Boyd has done a good job of working with community leaders and organizations to create community improvements such as the Magic Gym in Winter Garden. However, the commissioner has done a lot to stand in the way of the will of the people. The Commissioner was found guilty of destruction of public records during his administration. He has advocated for measures that would make it more difficult for the people to petition the government. Most recently despite overwhelming public comment with concerns involving the traffic and the environment the commissioner voted in favor of a large development on the east side of the county. These actions show the Commissioner’s failure to put the will of the people as his first priority.
If you were elected, what would stay the same under your leadership?
Orange County has a signature aesthetic that makes it one of the most beautiful places of earth to visit and live. We call Orlando “The City Beautiful”. People come from all over the world to visit our home for shopping, dining, attractions. This is also the place we work and live. We must preserve the environment that makes our home unique. While there are still issues, SunRail is putting us on the right track to making our transportation system efficient and effective. Most importantly, the best thing about Orange County is the diversity of our fellow residents who make up a melting pot of races, genders, religions, orientations, and abilities. In the past weeks we have proven to be people who lift each other up and look out for our neighbor as we do for ourselves. This seat in Orange County is not just mine, it is meaningful to all of us.
If you were elected, what would change under your leadership?
Under my leadership we would focus on transparency, efficiency, and inclusion. Our number 1 priority always needs to be the will of the constituency. We were elected by the people. We do this by creating a more inclusive and accessible government that hears the voice of and represents the voice of every resident. If I am elected that sends a clear message that the will of the people is the need to have smart growth and not growth for growth’s sake.
What differentiates you from the other candidates for this position?
If we continue to elect the same people with the same political ties and the same donors we will get the same results. I have never been elected to or appointed to any government position. I am not in any way a developer. This is not my job and was not my dream. I woke up one morning, looked around at all the abandoned strip centers and still I saw construction and I said this has got to stop. I am simply a motivated citizen trying to make some change
What qualities or skills do you bring to this position?
Although I do not have years of political experience, I have been blessed to have experienced life. Now more than ever we need a voice of progress who understand real world problems and has real solutions. My real life experience comes from working with small business in legal contracts, management, marketing, the construction industry, and most importantly being a mother.
Why are you the best candidate?
My name means light and strength. This is who I am. Light and strength that shines in the beautiful mosaic of Central Florida. I am a leader, a strong women of faith and of color, a wife, a mother of 3 children, a daughter of immigrants who became small business owners living the American Dream. I am an attorney, and a lifelong resident of district 1. I know how to bring people together. I know and respect that this seat is not just mine. This seat in Orange County is meaningful to all of us in this District. This is a seat of diversity, a seat of acceptance, of understanding, of opportunity, and a seat of change. We need to step up for the rights of everyone, we need to communicate with and represent all of our citizens.