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Meet Orlando mayoral candidate Aretha Simons

Election 2019


Treasure chest: $50,000

For first-time mayoral candidate Aretha Simons, justice has no expiration date.

She believes in reparations for the African American descendants of slaves and believes that Orlando City Council could dole out restorative resources in recompense for centuries of unspeakable damages, in the form of discounts for city services and reduced-price housing permits.

As for deciding who qualifies, Simons suggests using whatever records are available to assess someone's origin.

"There are ways of figuring that out. It can be done," says Simons.

After growing up in Arcadia, Florida, Simons spent 20 years in the Navy.

"For the most part, I enjoyed it," she said. "Except during wartime. I thought there would never be a war."

Simons served active duty stints during Desert Storm and after 9/11. She has a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Phoenix and a master's in education from Nova Southeastern University, both of which come in handy for her business, Multiplying Talents, a firm that helps people start nonprofits.

Although in her eyes, the window for indemnification never shuts, the period of time someone is mayor should be fixed, slamming shut before any one person can become too powerful.

She thinks mayors should be limited to three terms. Mayor Dyer is finishing up his fourth. Simons says Orlando's government needs a shake-up, an infusion of new leadership that will work to better engage residents in city decisions.

The old guard has allowed the economy to inequitably tilt toward the few and has let gentrification roll over lower-income families who have called now-desirable neighborhoods home for generations, she says.

A way out, she argues, is through cutting "wastefulness." There's no way, in her mind, that the affordable housing crisis and homelessness can be squelched while spending millions on parkland and development areas like Creative Village that seem designed specifically for the well-to-do.

If elected, Simons says, she would spend her first weeks pushing simple solutions to make life nicer for those who don't seem to have ready access to the seat of city power – like purchasing 100 eco-friendly buses to bolster the city's lackluster transit system. She would allocate money and time to improve crime prevention while evening out how each Orlando neighborhood is policed, so more kinds of communities are comfortable with Orlando cops.

Simons got into the business of helping people launch nonprofits because one day she was asked by a friend to help with start-up paperwork. Then someone else asked, then someone else. Simons noticed a service gap and realized that she had the skills to fill it. She also has a culinary degree. She pursued this because she liked to bake, then a friend asked her to bake her wedding cake. It was so good that someone else asked, and again Simons sprung into action.

She believes she can do the same for Orlando residents – listen to their concerns, find gaps of service and protection, and find ways to do something about it.

That is, if she can dethrone, as she calls him, "King Dyer."

Meet the other two candidates for Orlando mayor: Buddy Dyer and Samuel B. Ings.

This story appeared in the Oct. 30, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.

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