In reflecting on 2017, I continue to be buoyed by Orange County’s ongoing success – from economic achievement to community development, this annual “Year in Review” showcases solid progress and exciting initiatives. But above all, I continue to be overwhelmed with pride and gratitude for our Orange County community. Pride in our heartfelt response to one of the largest humanitarian crises in U.S. history, as we welcomed more than 100,000 storm-stricken Puerto Rican evacuees to Central Florida – and gratitude for the deep and authentic sense of compassion that we continue to demonstrate.
In January, when we suffered the shattering loss of Orlando Police Department Lt. Debra Clayton and Orange County Deputy Sheriff Norm Lewis, and then in August, when two City of Kissimmee police officers were tragically slain, our community enveloped the families and colleagues of these law enforcement officers with love. We remember these fallen heroes and their families today and every day, along with all those who valiantly pledge to protect and serve – despite knowing they may one day make the ultimate sacrifice.
We also demonstrated our extraordinary culture of caring on June 12, when we came together for the one-year observance of the Pulse nightclub tragedy, and the vicious attack on our LGBTQ, LatinX and Hispanic communities. Through our actions, words and deeds, we launched the first annual “Day of Love & Kindness,” again showing the world what it means to love, care and accept. On that day, we honored the memory of our 49 innocent Pulse angels with a moving exhibit of Pulse artifacts at our Orange County Regional History Center. That night we remembered the spirits of those taken from us with a candlelight vigil – an outpouring of grief, love and solidarity that showed our true hearts.
After Hurricane Irma struck on September 10, damage in Orange County was widespread, including prolonged power outages. We came together seamlessly, assisting each other with generosity and ingenuity. From post-storm recovery to debris pickup, we demonstrated the reality of our neighbors helping neighbors philosophy.
On September 20 – barely a week after Hurricane Irma, our brothers and sisters on the island of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands sustained unimaginable devastation from Hurricane Maria. Despite more than $50 million dollars in damage here at home and the continued widespread loss of power and personal resources, the citizens of Orange County mobilized as one to offer comfort and aid. From throughout Orange County, including first responders, churches, schools, businesses and community groups, Hurricane Maria relief efforts sprang to life.
As we prepare for 2018, I am confident in our continued success. Not only because of our strengthening economic climate, our outstanding quality of life and the many ongoing initiatives showcased in this “Year in Review,” but because of you – our heart and soul – and the role you play in Orange County.
I offer my sincere best wishes for a wonderful New Year! By working together, I know that the best is yet to come.
Orange County Mayor