‘To the next level:’ Mayor Jerry Demings gives 2023 State of Orange County address

1.5M people now call Orange County home, Demings says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings delivered his 2023 State of Orange County message on Friday, discussing recent struggles, accomplishments and views of future projects.

In 2022, Demings spoke to bold investments in a county-wide community that was expected to grow beyond 1.5 million residents within the year. Now that we’re there, as Demings said Friday morning, the event urged that the progress of Orange County and positive aspects of life within it be taken to the next level.

“Continuing investment in tourism promotion is how we take tourism and hospitality to the next level. Focusing on economic development that welcomes businesses, innovation and entrepreneurship is taking our economy to the next level. Delivering quality education for in-demand careers takes our talent pipeline to the next level. Strengthening our partnerships and investing in the Housing Trust Fund takes affordable housing to the next level. Preserving and sustaining our commitment to the environment takes the community’s quality of life to the next level. Protecting our community and enhancing programs and services takes public safety to the next level. Ensuring access to children and family programs takes our services to the next level, and investing in arts, entertainment and culture takes our community’s diversity to the next level,” Demings said.

The mayor spoke at the Linda W. Chapin Theatre within the Orange County Convention Center, what he said was his fifth State of Orange County address in the center’s west building. From topic to topic, June to June, the theater once again saw the year recapped.

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Demings highlighted Orange County’s preparations for and response to hurricanes Ian and Nicole. With focus on the former, Demings said that the 500-year flood caused by Ian’s 16 inches of rainfall in September, 2022, saw Orange County Fire Rescue teams save 1,700 residents and their pets. In the aftermath, Demings said the county worked with the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to distribute hundreds of thousands of meals, partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help impacted residents via Disaster Recovery Centers and cleared almost 8,000 truckloads of storm debris from over 2,600 miles of roadways.

“HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and FEMA have provided Orange County with $243 million of federal funding to help the needs of our community. We’re looking for more FEMA money, HUD money as well, (but) this funding will be used to provide economic revitalization, restoration of infrastructure and housing to mitigate flooding impacts in the future,” Demings said, standing before backdrops describing $219 million in CDBG Disaster Recovery Funding and $23.5 million for the Orlo Vista Flooding Mitigation Program. “This will help us fill the gap of people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.”

Demings also mentioned Orange County’s charter form of government is currently under its quadrennial review, in part to determine questions for the 2024 ballot.

On theme parks, the mayor displayed optimism at recent and upcoming developments within Disney, Universal and SeaWorld’s respective domains, laying praise on Tron: Lightcycle / Run and Pipeline: The Surf Coaster while promising more to come from Universal’s Epic Universe, an all-new theme park set to open in 2025.

Tragedy was a topic as well, as Demings spoke about the Pine Hills slayings which took the lives of 9-year-old T’yonna Major, 38-year-old Nathacha Augustin and 24-year-old Dylan Lyons earlier this year.

“In February, our emergency service personnel responded to a tragic and senseless shooting that resulted in fatalities that included an adult woman, a 9-year old child and a TV reporter. Nothing will ever replace a loved one taken by a violent crime, but it should not stop us from doing something about it and doing what is right. The very next day, I announced the reconvening of the Citizens Safety Task Force, which is charged with reviewing and modifying recommendations to reduce and prevent gun violence and violent crime,” Demings said, describing progress made in a series of county funding missions and programs.

Hinting at the future, Demings previewed such initiatives as affordable housing construction, a second phase of the county’s Small Business Grant Program and a yet-to-be announced plan meant to improve quality of transportation in lieu of a transportation sales tax measure that voters decided against in 2022.

Watch the presentation again in the media player below:

For more information, visit the county’s website here.

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About the Authors:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.