Orange County WHM-The Orlando Times
Orange County Government: An Innovative Inclusive Workplace That Promotes Women Leadership
BY JERRY L. DEMINGS, MAYOR ORANGE COUNTY, SPECIAL GUEST WRITER
During the month of March, communities across the nation will observe “Women’s History Month”, which is a celebration dedicated to highlight the contributions made by women in American history, and the significant roles they play in our society.
Despite all the milestones achieved by women throughout history, there is a long road ahead to achieve gender equality. According to “UN Women”, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and empowerment of women, there are only 21 countries around the world where women serve as Heads of State. Their report further indicates that 119 countries, including the U.S., have never had a woman Head of State. On January 21, 2021, Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President of the United States of America. My prediction is that it will not be long before America elects its first woman President. It is important to note that more women are presently serving in the U.S. Congress than ever before. My wife, U.S. Representative Val Demings, is one of these women and represents Florida's 10th Congressional District in Washington, DC and she serves alongside 142 female members of Congress.
Fortunately, in Orange County, we have worked hard to close the gender gap. I proudly serve with six women on the Board of County Commissioners and we are all committed to bringing about equality for all people.
Since I took office in 2018 as Mayor of Orange County, I have made it a priority for my administration to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects the multicultural and multi-ethnic community we serve. This diversity is reflective of my leadership team and includes key female appointments from all ethnic groups. To date, 43% of my managerial appointments have been to women and 71% of them represent either women or minority groups. My Chief of Staff is Roseann Harrington and my Deputy Chief of Staff is Carol Burkett.
In Orange County, we continue to make history day-by-day with key appointments of female talent that in the history of the County, are the first ever to occupy their positions. One of my first appointments was Dr. Yolanda Martinez who is the first Hispanic Health Services Director.
Another significant appointment has been that of Division Chief Lauraleigh Avery. She is not only the first woman to serve as Orange County Emergency Manager but is the first firefighter to rise through the department to become emergency manager. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, both Dr. Martinez and Division Chief Avery, as well as their dedicated staff members, have played a vital role in the County’s delivery of an effective and efficient public health and emergency response.
More recently, I had the privilege to appoint Ms. Carla Bell Johnson as an Assistant County Administrator. She is responsible for overseeing the operations of our Community and Family Services Department. She is also responsible for the Administrative Services Division, overseeing 17 divisions with more than 1,200 employees. Ms. Johnson became the first African American female to serve in the role.
One additional appointment I would like to highlight is that of Ms. Diana Almodovar. She is the first woman appointed as Deputy Director of Publics Works. Ms. Almodovar is also the first Hispanic female to be designated as County Engineer.
As we move past the pandemic, it is an honor to serve as your Orange County mayor and I remain committed to taking proactive measures to promote gender diversity within our county government. This balanced approach is required of modern and effective governments focused on meeting the needs of its community.
Mayor Jerry L. Demings was sworn in on Dec. 4, 2018 as the 5th elected Mayor of Orange County and is the first African-American to serve in the role. He oversees more than 8,000 Orange County employees and a $4.9 billion budget as the County’s chief executive officer. He says that his goal is to make Orange County the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” by creating a community culture of innovation, collaboration and inclusiveness.
Always a trailblazer, Mayor Demings became Orlando’s first African-American police chief in 1998 and was elected the first African-American Orange County Sheriff in 2008. He was re-elected in 2012 and again in 2016.
An Orlando native, Mayor Demings is married to former Orlando Police Chief Valdez B. Demings, who also made history as the first female police chief in Orlando. In November 2016, she was elected to the 115th Session of the United States Congress and was re-elected in 2018. Congresswoman Demings represents Florida Congressional District 10. They have three sons who are all graduates of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
A lifelong public servant, Mayor Demings is a graduate of Jones High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida State University and a master’s of business administration from Orlando College. He graduated magna cum laude.
He is a graduate of the 194th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Academy and studied at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Mayor Demings currently serves on several regional boards of directors, including the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Central Florida Expressway Authority, Metroplan Orlando, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Lynx, Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Orange County Tourist Development Council, Orlando Economic Partnership and he is involved in numerous civic organizations. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and is a steward at Saint Mark AME Church in Orlando. Mayor Demings has a passion for working with organizations that support children and volunteers with several non-profit agencies.