Before serving his community as Orlando City Commissioner for 13 years, Sam Ings protected it as a member of the Orlando Police Department.
Hailing from Orlando, raised by a pastor for a mother and Orlando's first black detective for a father, Ings graduated from Boone High School in 1970. He was a police cadet for two and a half years and joined the police force in 1973. He retired as a police commander in 2014.
"All my life has been about protecting the community and serving it," says Ings.
Before joining the council in 2006, Ings ran for mayor in 2003, losing to Buddy Dyer. Ings has been itching to unseat Dyer ever since.
Ings has stepped into this year's race because he feels it's time for a new voice, and for Orlando's mayor, going forward, to have no more than three terms seated in the middle chair of the council chambers.
Ings and Dyer have repeatedly butted heads on the council, on issues including the shuttering of Grand Avenue School in 2017 and the destruction of Tinker Field in 2015.
Ings felt there were ways the historic school and minor league ballpark could have been used to enrich the largely black neighborhoods surrounding the former landmarks. He doesn't think the recreation center that replaced Grand Avenue School, or the concert venue in lieu of the grandstands and playing surface at Tinker Field, do much to help those living in the immediate surroundings. Ings promises, if elected, to be more considerate in more personal ways.
"Think of the elderly; a lot of elderly live near the concert venue. It's loud," he says, also claiming that the concert activity has contributed to an uptick in overdoses in the immediate area.
Grand Avenue School was moved to the Creative Village, another favorite project of Dyer's that Ings questions. The Creative Village itself was built where Nap Ford Community School, a bastion for black education, used to stand.
"They opened their doors for everybody, not just African Americans," says Ings, adding the city "lost a huge opportunity" to invest in an institution that engages with more kinds of Orlando residents.
But Ings did more during his council tenure than tussle with Dyer. He says he's most proud of road improvements, especially on I-Drive, that make Orlando more walkable and add dedicated bus lanes; the naming and dedication of President Barack Obama Parkway; and the proliferation of police substations, making the statement to drug dealers, Ings says, that "we're not going to tolerate you."
As mayor, Ings says he'd wield his city council experience to enact real change for different communities. He believes property owned by the city, like empty lots in Holden Heights, could be used for affordable housing. He is against community land trusts, arguing that the city can help its poorest and most marginalized residents build wealth through rent-to-own programs.
He realizes that the mayor must balance protecting and increasing the affordable housing stock with incentivizing developers to come to Orlando, preferably to diverse locales within the city.
"The voices of all the people need to be heard," says Ings, adding that a more connected Orlando is better for the city and all its residents, including their bottom line.
– 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.