Treasure chest: $850,000
Sixteen years since Buddy Dyer first took office in 2003, he seeks re-election, touting his years of hard-earned know-how.
He certainly knows how to win elections, routinely racking up victories clearing the next vote-getter by more than 20 points. Headed into this race, which would gain him his fifth term as Orlando mayor, he once again holds an aura of the overpowering perennial favorite over the competition: Commissioner Sam Ings and ex-Navy businessperson Aretha Simons.
Dyer's experience as City Hall boss could be the difference in effectively seizing a new opportunity for the city, argues the Orlando native and former state senator, or in seeing through one of the projects or policies launched during his decade and change in office.
"I'm known as a builder," says Dyer. He wants to finish what he's started, and he believes he's gained the skill to be an even more effective mayor.
Under his watch, the ambition to build a University of Central Florida college of medicine at Lake Nona has led to the development of the Lake Nona Medical City. In the face of over 30 years of failed efforts and political handwringing, Dyer championed the SunRail transit program. And he wasn't done revitalizing there, spearheading efforts to revamp downtown Orlando with the Creative Village and bringing Major League Soccer to the city center.
"My highest and lowest moment both revolve around the same thing," says Dyer of his lengthy tenure. "The June 12 shooting of Pulse Nightclub, the lowlight in probably our community's life." He adds that the community response of compassion and love in the days following the tragedy doubled as his proudest as mayor.
Part of Dyer's hard-earned experience includes knowledge of less-proud times, too, like being indicted for campaign violations. In 2005 he was charged with illegally hiring a staffer to collect absentee ballots and suspended from office by then-Governor Jeb Bush, only to be reinstated in less than two months after charges were dropped. Although both challengers Simons and Ings – but particularly Ings – have made perhaps predictable stinks about the now-dissipated whiff of improbity, the whole thing kind of went away with little impact (aside from launching the brief mayoral campaign of OW writer Billy Manes, but that's another story).
And that was 15 years ago. Dyer's go-to word in this campaign is "momentum." With solid name recognition, a knack for steamrolling re-elections, and splashy recent moves like bringing EA Sports' headquarters downtown and approving a $15 minimum wage, Dyer just wants to keep the energy going.
"The issue front and center right now is affordable housing," says Dyer, who says he's committed to carrying his mo' into viable answers for the homeless and the more than 1,000 people who move to Central Florida each week.
He says he's up for "using every tool we have in the toolbox," like community land trust deals similar to the 83 affordable housing units in Parramore approved in February and the five-acre land trust on Orange Center Boulevard OK'd in May.
Other ongoing projects Dyer wants another term to cap off include finishing the Southern Terminal Complex at Orlando International Airport and connecting SunRail to the Creative Village. He doesn't support term limits, noting if they want him out, people can just vote him out.
And "If I ever lost my enthusiasm for this job," says Dyer, "I wouldn't run again."
– 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.