Orlando woman navigates bureaucracy by going to source

After years of attending council meetings, Sherry Dirienzo gets results

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Sherry Dirienzo is this week's Getting Results Award winner.

Dirienzo can best be described as an engaged citizen who has captured the attention of city officials. 

Her journey into navigating the bureaucracy of city and county government started in 2008 when the backyard of her south Orlando home was flooded -- the water coming from undeveloped county land.

"After all my emails to the county, I got a personal visit from the director of Public Works," she said, adding that the problem was quickly solved. "Doing that gave me the encouragement that I had a voice."

A voice that was just beginning to be heard.  

Since then she's become a regular at city council, county commission and even regional transportation meetings. Her attendance is almost expected. On a recent visit to Orlando City Hall, many city staff members seemed to know her by name, even embracing her.

"They love the idea that I'm doing this to help my neighborhood and help people," she said.  

Dirienzo was nominated for the award by Orlando District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz.

"That lady is unstoppable," he said. "She's a leader, she understands the needs of the community and she understands that getting involved is how we get things solved."  

She's constantly on the lookout for ways to make her neighborhood better. Everything from damaged infrastructure, like sidewalks and utility boxes, to public transportation funding catches her attention.  

"I say it like it is," Dirienzo said. "I don't beat around the bush. I tell them about the problem and what improvements need to be done." 

Years of persistence have paid off.

"I like to say I have connections," she said. 

Dirienzo relies on a motorized wheelchair to get around. She suffers from a loss of motor skills that started after she was hit by a car as a child and has progressed with time.

She doesn't see her disability as a setback, in fact she hopes it inspires others.

You can often find her patrolling her Countryside neighborhood looking out for her neighbors and offering assistance for any problems they might have.

"I use my wheelchair like you use your car," Dirienzo said. "It's just like a hybrid car, you have to charge it." 

Ortiz said more residents should follow her example.

"We need more people like her, we need more people engaged in our community, more people engaged in our government," he said. "She's larger than life. She's a motivation to all of us."  

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.