The West Orange Chamber of Commerce hosted a debate luncheon featuring two of the three candidates running for Orange County Sheriff and the Orange County Commission District 2 seat at Tanner Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Two of the three candidates running for Orange County Sheriff — Jose “Joe” Lopez and John Mina — fielded questions from the debate’s moderator, Allison Walker Torres from News 13. Orange County sheriff candidate Darryl B. Sheppard, running as a Democrat, was not invited to the debate, he said.
Orange County District 2 candidates — Christine Moore and Patricia Rumph — also participated in the debate. Rumph and Moore were the two top vote-getters from the four-candidate race during the Aug. 28 primary election and will move forward in a run-off during the Nov. 6 general election.
ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF
Torres asked both pairs of candidates five questions relating to issues in West Orange and their plans to handle challenges that will come with their aspirational roles.
Lopez, a father to two, emphasized he is not part of the establishment and not a politician. He added he has served the community for 45 years and is a veteran who served in the U.S. Marines.
Mina, a 28-year Orange County resident who is a U.S. Army veteran and father of two, emphasized that in his role as the chief of the Orlando Police Department, he is in charge of a $146-million budget and commands 1,000 personnel. Mina added that, under his leadership, crime, use of force by police officers, juvenile arrests, and officer-involved shootings have gone down.
The candidates also shared how they will improve communication and collaboration between law-enforcement agencies. Lopez said OCSO needs to establish better relationships with local agencies and make sure they all come together to reduce crime, while Mina said Central Florida already has a “fantastic collaboration” between its law-enforcement agencies and gave examples of how the local, state and federal agencies work together to share important information.
Particularly in Horizon West, response times continue to be a concern. Mina said as the county grows, the Sheriff’s Office needs to grow as well and added that he plans to request that Orange County commissioners increase funding for new deputies based on crime statistics.
Lopez said the OCSO is severely undermanned and the planning process for new infrastructure and roads should include consideration to OCSO’s ability to effectively police those new-development areas.
During their closing statements, Mina reiterated his point of how crime has gone down under his leadership and emphasized the need for an experienced Orange County sheriff.
“We can’t just let anyone come into this position. We need someone who is tested and trusted,” he said. “I care deeply about this community, I can’t just let anyone fall into this position.… You have seen for yourself what I have done for this community.”
In his closing remarks, Lopez stressed his point that he is not a politician.
“People are telling me that they want a sheriff who leads with integrity, not a sheriff who misleads the public and the media,” he said. “... The community is tired of politics. I am not part of the establishment. I am a police officer, not a politician. I am not beholden to anyone except the residents of Orange County.”
ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT 2
Rumph, who retired after a 30-year career with the Florida Department of Corrections, noted she has extensive experience in administration, budget management, and human resources during her career in criminal justice.
Moore said she understands the business community’s needs because she also has owned a business and helped manage Orange County Public Schools’ billion-dollar budget before she stepped down from her role as the District 7 School Board member.
When asked about their plans to help streamline the building and permit process, Moore said she would consider trying a local structure or hiring a firm to adjust and improve the processes.
Rumph laid out the current challenges the county faces regarding its building permit process and suggested the county re-evaluate the process and consider setting up a system where the county can monitor progress.
The candidates were then asked to identify the district’s strongest economic drivers and a plan to both strengthen and diversify them.
Moore identified transportation as a huge economic driver, and proposed making sure the county work with incubators to help small business thrive and focus on higher education opportunities.
Rumph also identified transportation and tourism as strong economic drivers in Orange County and encouraged a focus on job development and job training for youth to keep the county’s economy on solid ground.
During their closing statements, Rumph emphasized she has dedicated the majority of her life to public service and was raised with strong principles and a work ethic that she has applied to her life. And Moore shared that even as a teenager she’s always been interested in public service and shared what she achieved during her time in the school board despite the multiple challenges.