Orange County School Board member Pam Gould has announced her candidacy to run for Orange County District 1 commissioner.
Gould filed her intent to run for commissioner Monday, May 1.
“I’m more than excited to announce my candidacy for Orange County commissioner for District 1 — I’m ready to take action starting day one,” Gould said in a prepared statement. “Every stage of my life, personally and professionally, has been in preparation to serve as District 1 Orange County commissioner, and every organization I have led has provided me insight into the issues and the ability to effect change that improves District 1.”
Gould is three-term School Board member and the former president and CEO of Shepherd’s Hope, a faith-based nonprofit and the largest free healthcare clinic for the uninsured in Central Florida.
Gould helped Shepherd’s Hope secure its first multimillion dollar endowment through Healthy West Orange. She also diversified funding and increased multiple major gifts while guiding the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gould has served on the School Board since 2012. During her tenure, Gould advanced the opening of dozens of new schools; increased career and technical certifications and training by nearly 300%; improved career-transition opportunities for students with disabilities; started Generation WOW; helped to guide the development of the Guidewell Mental Health Think Tank; and spearheaded the Farm to Table program with OCPS' Food and Nutrition Services.
“I am a champion for driving economic prosperity by increasing students’ access to skills-based learning, certifications and apprenticeships that ready them for a successful life and career,” Gould said of her time on the School Board. “I’m a firm believer that we achieve our greatest successes when we bring together private, public and grassroots entities for partnerships that match students with jobs they could never have imagined even exist in a rapidly changing economic environment.”
Gould also led various divisions and guided organizations over the years. She has held executive leadership roles at Orlando Health, Health Central/Health Central Foundation, Island One Resorts, DL Foundation and Dave’s House.
From 2010 to 2019, she owned her own business that supported entities such as the Town of Oakland Health West Orange Arts and Heritage Center, Lakeside Behavioral Health, ARDA Foundation, the West Orange Chamber of Commerce and the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation.
If she were to say she had a superpower, Gould said hers would be bringing people together around issues.
“I truly believe that all of the professional and personal experiences I’ve had have been in preparation for this role, to really further the impact I can have at a wider scale on items I’m passionate about,” she said. “Housing, getting from place to place safely, preserving the wonderful natural assets we have in Orange County while we’re going through growth, business opportunities for our young people. … I’ve bridged them from the inside of OCPS to out, and now I want to do it from the outside, in and really enhance the work I’ve been able to start there with a whole new perspective.”
Although Gould said no elected office has been an ultimate goal of hers, she felt a calling to run.
“With the School Board position, of course the community asked me to step forward on that, and the County Commission, as well,” she said. “I’ve had people asking me since Scott (Boyd) left office, to run, and I met with my family in December … and I said, ‘I feel like I’m having this calling again to do something with my skills and with my passions.’ And my oldest son said, ‘Mom, what took you so long?’”
District 1, which represents the largest and fastest growing district in Orange County, has been a place Gould has called home for many years.
“Over the course of my more than 30 years in this community, I have led, guided and advised to enhance our economy, overcome challenges in health and human services, manage growth, retain arts, preserve our natural resources, and change education to prepare learners to become earners,” Gould said in the press release. “My passion is to provide every neighbor with a path to prosperity and quality of life. My ability to create change comes from my enthusiasm to facilitate collaborations and cooperation around common objectives. These outcomes have provided our community with the opportunity to thrive.”
Although Gould and her family lived in Orange County for about 11 years before moving to West Orange, she said when they moved to the area, it felt like they came home.
“(What makes it so special is) how interwoven together (the community is),” she said. “Whether you’re talking about Dr. Phillips or Winter Garden, Oakland, Windermere, Horizon West, we all are anchored in the love of where the community came from. From the citrus roots, from that sense of place we have for it, we all help each other all the time, which is an amazing quality. I think even the new people coming in are assimilating to that if they get engaged in the community and engaged with one another."
Gould said she has already started a plan of what she would like to get done in the first 100 days.
“One of the advantages that I have is I’ve been part of the growth of opening 15 schools in the last 10 years,” she said. “I’ve had to work with each commissioner, the County Commission and the municipalities on sidewalks, lights, easements where we are going to locate schools, rezoning, so I know a lot of the issues."
Gould is married to her high school sweetheart, John, and lives in Windermere, where she raised her two sons, Gregory and Matthew.
The county qualifying dates for the 2024 election are noon, June 10, 2024 through noon, June 14, 2024 (dates subject to change).
The election will be held in August 2024.
For more information on Gould’s campaign, click here.