Interview with Roberta Walton – Candidate for Orange County Commission, District 6
Conducted by: West Orlando News Online
Date: May 29, 2014.
WONO: You are running for Orange County Commission, District 6, in a very crowded field. Who is Roberta Walton and what unique factors you feel gives you a competitive advantage?
Roberta Walton: I’m a citizen, I’m a resident. I relocated to this area for purposes of practicing law. I found my calling in practicing law as a community servant. So I started out with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida servicing the community as a Public Benefits advocate. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the couches and going above and beyond not just from a legal perspective, but also from a community resource perspective in making sure that each one of my clients and their families’ had everything they needed. As a result of that someone saw my service, someone saw my heart and actually prompted me to serve on a much broader scale.
I’m a mother, I have two children. I have two wonderful sons ten years apart- kind of crazy. I’ve one in high school and one who has just graduated from Kindergarten.
What I have learned is I have even become more humble in my older years in giving birth to my younger child and finding that he has a disability. He is autistic. Again, finding the resources and being an advocate, yet again, on behalf of my own family.
So when you ask who is Roberta, a couple of terms come to mind. I am an advocate. I am an advocate professionally, as a licensed attorney here in the State of Florida. I’m an advocate for my community. I am the president of Southwest Orlando Jaycees. I am the vice-president and a charter member of the Metro Orlando Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. I am a member of several other civic and community organizations and I also serve as the Orange County District 6 representative on the Community and Housing Development Advisory Board. So I’m an advocate and leader, and I have a heart to serve. That’s why I am humbly asking the people to elect me as their next District 6 Orange County Commissioner.
Outside the scope of being an advocate, and being a leader and having a heart to serve, I’ve garnered some serious insights over the last seven-and-half years about how Orange County government operates internally and externally.
So, again, when you ask who is Roberta, I’m also skilled about the issues and I would say experienced, regarding the issues of the people who live and reside in Orange County District 6. I am experienced and knowledgeable about the stakeholders who are vested here in Orange County District 6. I am also experienced and knowledgeable about how to garner the resources needed and literally direct them to the needs of the people that live and reside here. And quite frankly, that is what distinguishes me from my competitors in this very crowded field.
WONO: The Orlando/Orange County area has been named the #1 tourist destination in the U.S. The area attracts 59 million tourists. Despite this many District 6 residents feel left out while living in the shadows of world-class theme parks and attractions. What is your message to voters who feel this way and what will change if they send you to the Orange County Commission?
Roberta Walton: You are very correct in stating that we are the number one tourist destination in the nation in terms of those who come to visit and invest. My message to the people would be resources. We need to do a better job of capitalizing off of our brand. The leadership in this area has spent much time building the brand, now it’s time to transition to capitalizing off of the brand.
I also would like to go on record as saying that, there are a significant amount of people in District 6 who do capitalize off of our brand and who do benefit from what our tourists bring into this area, but their voices are not loud. The loud voices are from the people who are not benefiting, who have not yet found their way to capitalize and benefit from it. It is not a question of – It can’t be done – it’s about being educated on what’s out there. I come in contact with people daily who say, “I had no idea that these type of contracts existed within our convention center.” Or they might say, “I had no idea that these different buildings and different development projects are coming forward in the I-Drive corridor.” So, we have to do a better job of communicating what’s happening, so we can drive people to the area where resources are, so they can benefit.
One thing that I am promoting is a Community Caucus where, on a quarterly basis my ‘armed forces,’ my ‘District 6 armed forces’ collectively come together, come to hear what is going on in the area. So, if you don’t get the information on Tuesday mornings, you’ll certainly get it on a quarterly basis. You’ll also get electronic newsletters because, we quite frankly are living in a day and age where everything is electronic. But we won’t really expect everyone to operate that way.
The other thing I’m looking to do from a leadership and empowerment perspective is, bring together project managers, MWBEs in the area, also on a quarterly basis. I have discussed this with Eric Young in the Orange County Business Development Office. Eric has been considerate enough to help me with this. I have also spoken to several other business development managers from targeted corporations, including Orlando Health and Unicorp, who is building the big wheel, the I-Drive Eye. I have asked representatives of these companies to come to these quarterly meetings. And their participation would debunk the whole argument that, “I don’t know where the MWBEs are,” or “I didn’t know there were these MWBEs out here who could do this.” So, bringing everybody together would help cultivate these relationships.
You have to understand, we are still living in a town here we have not yet transitioned into a city and relationships are what makes this work. I don’t want any MWBE or any vested company in this area to be so tied to Commissioner Walton. When I leave I want my legacy to be, “You built your own relationship so that you can benefit from it long-term.” That’s where I see so many MWBEs and so many of our District 6 stakeholders falling in this loop-hole because, they capitalize based upon a relationship that someone else has cultivated, as opposed to cultivating that relationship themselves. This is a seat that I’m running for and people will come and people will go. But what has to last is the relationship that the MWBE’s have put together, so that they can build long term and create and enhance their own legacies.
WONO: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in his State of the City address talked about diversifying the economy and making the city more tech oriented. Mayor Jacobs too, has underscored the importance of diversification and branding Orange County. What are your thoughts on economic diversification, particularly in tech? And how would you go about creating a higher skilled workforce particularly with District 6 residents in mind?
Roberta Walton: Well, Mayor Dyer – and I know anyone can argue this – does have vision. I think sometimes he may go to sleep at night and wake up and say, “This is what I want to do.” You know what, you gotta love that because he adheres to it and I think his vision to really diversify the economy in terms of technology, is starting with the Creative Village. I think we all know that in the digital media era, that’s where we’re going, and I think this is something that should have happened long ago. We’re the home to EA Sports here in Central Florida, which – and I don’t know about you, but I have two sons and I really should be a stockholder with EA Sports in terms of video games. The same thing with Full Sail – Full Sail being the phenomenon that it is and we are also home to Universal Studios. Diversifying the economy in terms of digital media and technology is by far a great enhancement to what we have. It’s a no brainer because we have the infrastructure already set up here and we have resources that we can tap into.
I had this conversation recently with the dean of Florida A&M College of Law. When you go to Florida State they’re talking about environmental sciences; at Stetson it’s something else. So, maybe at Florida A&M College of Law should be talking about digital media law, because it’s happening right down the street.
While serving as the aide to the current County Commissioner, I had the opportunity to talk to an organization that does broadband, because of a conflict the commissioner had. They said they installed broadband voice media, security systems, broadband cable, the internet, telephone, you name it. It’s a great career and the company has done very well. But they also wanted to help train persons without jobs, get them certified and wanted to know how the County could help. Well, initially, the Community Action Division said they didn’t have funding for a jobs training program, but I discovered that if you tweak the language to say ‘funding for an employability skills program’ then they did have funding. And that’s exactly what happened.
So the Community Action Division has been funding a training program that is directly tied to certification and directly tied to a living wage/permanent job opportunity for persons who are not working right now. This helps us to diversify our economy and it’s not reinventing the wheel, quite frankly.
I always tell this story. I am a product of the Jobs Training Partnership Act (JTPA). I had my first job at fourteen-years-old, as a receptionist. Who knew that after I graduated from college years later, I would go on to become the Director of the American Heart Association in Leon County. My mom is an alum and a product of SEDA, which is another Workforce Investment Act funding project. All Workforce projects, they’re not reinventing the wheel. SEDA did exactly what I just expressed to you, which is happening right now at Community Action with that program. What I plan to do is expand the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Workforce and Orange County Community Action – expand that program and enhance it so that we can prepare the residents of our district for what is coming forth, because it is coming.
WONO: Homelessness is a growing problem in the city and the county. What are your thoughts on how homelessness should be tackled?
Roberta Walton: There are so many organizations right now who are tasked with serving the homeless population. We have the Homeless Coalition, the Healthcare Center for the Homeless, Homeless Network, Shepherds Home, to name a few. Orange County has a homeless program that is directly tied to mental illness. Everyone has a project dealing with the homeless, but not many are dealing with the mental illness which I would say is behind about 50% of the homeless epidemic that we seeing before us. Most programs are certainly not dealing with children and mental illness – most for them are almost obsolete. I just believe that if we can get behind the mental illness issue that is roaming through Orange County and particularly in the African-American community, we could have a major positive impact on the homeless problem. Homelessness is an epidemic that Orange County isn’t facing alone, our nation is facing it.
You might recall the spat between former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty and Mike Bloomberg, the then Mayor of New York at the time. It was said that, Mayor Bloomberg did put busloads of homeless people on a one-way bus and shipped them to Orlando. You know what, that’s what he did and we have experienced an epidemic here. But the epidemic is linked to something else and I believe that is the hierarchy; I believe it’s linked to mental illness.
WONO: The homeless problem is also linked to affordable housing or lack of affordable housing?
Roberta Walton: Homelessness as it relates to our families is linked to affordable housing, which is directly linked to the recession that we just came out of. If you recall, Orange County spent a little over a year with an affordable housing task force that was led by Bill Segal a few years back. The task force came up with all of these interesting recommendations on how to move forward with affordable housing. But, you want to know what the developers were coming over knocking on the doors and saying to the District 6 Commissioner? “I can’t make any money, so I can’t build.” Right around the corner at Silver Pines, developers were saying, “I can’t finish it.” Mable Glen, which was another project that was in the Little Egypt/Washington Park neighborhood, they said the same thing: “I can’t finish it.”
There are many developers saying, “Although I want to do affordable housing, I can’t do it for free.” The problem is, our definition of affordable is not the average lay person’s – that’s not their definition of affordable. We can see that in City View downtown Orlando. The funding for that project was always tiered in three different levels where you had to do very, very low income, low income, and then you got to do something at market rate. Well, guess what? The whole point of it was, we want to tier it that way because we don’t want to create bona fide ghettos.
But what happened was, even with Big Mama their very low wasn’t enough. We had people who could not afford the Habitat for Humanity homes that were being built over in the Callahan area. They were being foreclosed on; Habitat holds the mortgage, so it’s zero interest rate. So what is effectively happening is, because people are not being employed in large part due to the recession – even the skilled people and those without a criminal record – couldn’t find a job, and as a consequence being able to afford to pay rent to live someplace became a problem. This even happened to people who were living in affordable housing. So, when America got sick, communities like District 6 caught pneumonia.
When you talk about the blight – and infrastructure blight is my main issue – I think if you enhance the face then the rest of redevelopment will follow. Many studies have come to this conclusion. But the other part of that is, we have to be careful what we ask for as people will be displaced, all under the auspice of affordable housing because, it wasn’t affordable to our community.
WONO: Crime continues to be a problem in Orange County, including District 6. We have seen two law enforcement officers gunned down within a six-week period not so long ago. What do you think can be done to help reduce crime and improve the quality of life for residents?
Roberta Walton: I have so many friends that are law enforcement officers and that’s always a great fear. I have high regard for first responders and those who put their lives on the line on behalf of someone else every day. Your question seemed to suggest a disproportionate share of crime in District 6. Neither of those incidents happened in District 6.
In large part it’s about how we, in our own community, view ourselves when it comes to crime. You will hear me talk about the “broken window” theory often. If you feel good about the way you look, then you treat yourself better. You take more measures to enhance your area. Right now the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has a program called, “If you see something, say something.” I think it’s a phenomenal program because that is the number one issue in District 6. We have people who see something but in large part they are fearful and never, ever say something and that’s the drawback. The people where those two incidents happened, when they see something, they said something. They look at their community as the face that it is, and they treat it as such.
I’d rather get us [District 6] to stop branding ourselves ‘bad’ because we are not bad. We have to stop branding ourselves that we’ve got the highest crime rate in the area, because we don’t. There’s a higher crime rate, proportionately, on the East Side than we do have here. But if you ask the media, if you ask the average person walking down the street who is a resident of this area, they won’t agree with you.
There are a couple of platform items that I have put forth. I probably talk to a member of law enforcement via my cell phone on a day-to-day basis. I have the cell phone number of each Crime Prevention Officer for dispatchers who serve this area, which is right now Sector 3, Sector 4, and Sector 6. And I love them dearly because they really do care and they are really great guys. With that said, I’ve talked to them at length about a couple of projects.
One is a Crime App to enhance that, “If you see something, say something” program. To remove the fear that if I say something, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is not going to pull up in front of my house, get out, look around, knock on my door and let the entire community know that I’ve called the cops. We have a lot of elderly people who live alone who are living in fear, in large part because they are scared to say something about what they just saw.
The other thing is our Lighting Code. You hear me talk about the infrastructure being my number one platform item – removing the element of blight across the face of District 6. A part of this is honoring the fact that the Orange County Code, in large part, is a suburbia code. It has not caught up with how we’ve grown, the growth spurt that we are currently in the middle of. It’s still dedicated to green grass, woods, and trees. So our Lighting Code is dated and I think that we need to look at how we can enhance the lighting in our areas, especially our more mature areas. Let’s face it, that means District 6 because we are the mature neighborhoods in the mature communities.
The last thing is security cameras in the right-of-ways. I’ve probably been working on this and done the due diligence a little over two years ago. The security cameras will help our law enforcement officers and just serve as their eyes. So, if you do see something and you refuse to say something, there’s a little help up in the sky.
WONO: Transit is very much in the news these days with the launch of SunRail. Is this the answer to the transportation woes of people in District 6? What your view on a dedicated funding source for LYNX?
Roberta Walton: No it is not the answer but it is a start. With every good project, with every good intent, you’ve got a start. So I do applaud the SunRail project because it had to be started. It has been stalled for many, many years. Whereas the first part, and maybe even the second part of SunRail wouldn’t even help District 6 residents, by way of service. However, we know, just as Eisenhower started the highway system that it will grow and eventually it will enhance this area and that the people who live and reside in District 6 will be able to benefit. But in the interim, what we can do is, we can work on dedicated LYNX bus routes, these are bus routes linked to SunRail stops to make sure that where SunRail does currently serve that people of District 6 can get there and they can get there in a timely manner. We can do this prematurely until the routes for SunRail and the funding for SunRail is enhanced and grows. When you look at District 6, I’m so proud of the area because we are a core center and a major transportation corridor. It’s all in our area and it’s a link to how we grow.
Regarding the I-Drive area, and how we move people, if we want to remain competitive and grow our brand, then we are going to have to find a better way to do so. We can’t keep showing up on the most hazardous pedestrian safety list. It is a fear of any pedestrian to walk and move around in that area. We don’t do a good job of moving people. So introducing some type of monorail, or some direct-connect projects geared to moving people and creating some transportation synergy in that area is a number one priority. And every stakeholder in that area agrees. They may not agree on everything but they all agree on that.
Lastly, when you talk about a dedicated funding source, we won’t get where we need to be without dedicated funding for transportation. We have some real smart people working in this sector, but we will continue to lose talent if we don’t get a dedicated funding source. We lost our CEO of LYNX to Atlanta because they have a dedicated funding source and this will continue if we don’t identify dedicated funding.
WONO: A quick follow-up as it relates to dedicated funding. A Regional Expressway Authority seems to be very much in the cards and I know that at a recent forum you were not in favor of this. Has your thinking changed on this?
Roberta Walton: I still feel the same way. I still think that you have better controls when you operate and manage locally. For example, we all use the Turnpike but strictly speaking, we have no idea what’s happening with it. We don’t know how it operates. We don’t understand the funding. All we know is that if there’s an increase we either take it or leave it. You take it, right? We don’t have any local participants that really have a say on how the Turnpike operates.
I believe that when you lose the local controls you take yourself out of the decision making process and you really lose sight of what is happening and why it’s happening. I just think we lose sight of that with a Regional mechanism.
WONO: You have styled yourself as a leader who listens. Voters are looking for more accountability from their elected officials. If elected, how will you go about holding yourself more accountable to the people?
Roberta Walton: When you initially put yourself out there and establish your candidacy you start vetting things like slogans and colors, you name it. So many people said because I’m a graduate of Florida A&M University I should make my campaign colors orange and green. I also went to a marketing specialist who showed me that green meant conservation, it meant you actually cared for the earth. Orange meant cheerful giver. It spoke to who you were. So that’s how I came up with my colors and how I came up with my slogan, “A leader who listens.”
I basically put forth my entire platform and I did it all by myself. My entire platform is based entirely on everything I’ve heard the people say – sitting on their couches, standing on the side of the road, the interviews and the meetings over the course of the last seven-and-half years. My entire platform is built on that.
We have so many in the race that hold themselves out as community leaders and they don’t even understand the roles or responsibilities that come with the position that they are actually running for. We have people talking about education and what they are going to do about the schools, but they are running for county commissioner. You have people talking about minimum wage and they’re going to change the minimum wage and they’re going to do this, but they are running for county commissioner. I never heard anybody talk about the roles and responsibilities of a county commissioner. That is so important.
As I said before, I will have my ‘armed forces’ who will support me in the neighborhoods and communities. One of the first things that I did was, I went to different stakeholders and asked them if they would serve as a member of my District 6 ‘armed forces.’ I’m building a caucus because I want to make sure that this community understands that we are one and whatever happens and whatever their feelings, I know about it.
So we’ll have these quarterly caucus meetings to share information with the community and the community too, will share with us their issues – whether it’s one of poor lighting, a pothole or an overgrown tree. I will participate, as well as my staff. I’ll talk about what just happened at the Board of County Commission meetings on Tuesday morning if you missed it, and I’ll talk about what is coming forth on the following Tuesday. With this approach, people in the community won’t be able to say, “I have no idea what Commissioner Roberta Walton is doing,” because, guess what, I’ve got a general, I’ve got a lieutenant and people in the community serving as part of my ‘armed forces.’
But the community also has to play its part in this too. I can take the information to the community, I can open myself up, but I also need the community to want the information. I need the community to come and meet me where the caucus meetings are being held so that we all can grow together. It is time for us to divorce this tale that our leaders have got to be simply accountable to us. We got to be accountable to each other.
Just to conclude on this. Many people don’t really understand that there are three people who work in the District Office – an administrative assistant, an aide, or you can have two aides, however you like to structure it, and there’s the commissioner. And you have a district that encompasses about 95,000 people and one which is quite spread out. Moreover, many people do not understand that if you live in the City of Orlando that does not mean that you also don’t live in Orange County. Orange County has 13 municipalities under its umbrella and the district, in large part, is more than 50% in the City of Orlando. So you still have representation from the district level and at the city level. We have to make sure that everyone understands that some people have double representation. You are still a part of the District 6 ‘armed forces,’ and you still should feel accountable to yourself to come and find out what is happening.
WONO: There’s been a lot of murmurings about mistakes from your past – and you have had a couple of challenges when you were younger. You have absolutely overcome them. The bigger question is how did you bridge the chasm from there to here? What’s your message particularly for the youths?
Roberta Walton: That’s really who and why I do in large part what I do. I am my family’s trail blazer. I was born in Virginia, but I left at six months old. I was reared in an urban community where just this week, because I still keep up with what’s going on, there’s been three murders, just this week of my classmates’ children. So that’s my background, that’s where I came from.
I’m the very first person in my family to attend a university and graduate. I’m still the person in my family that when anyone has a problem they come to me – every uncle, every aunt, my mom and dad, and what that means is, I have tremendous weight on my shoulders.
Certainly, we’ve all had opportunities to be immature and without going to details – I have disclosed and talked about what happened in college – but I have grown from it. I do think it was pivotal to my growth, and for people to learn from it. I don’t think my testimony is for everybody, but I do think it is for some and I think that I had the eye to know when I needed and who I needed to share it with to help them in whatever they were going through. I do share with a lot of young people, I have several mentees that I’ve taken under my wing, kind of adopted. I’m not trying to run their lives, but sometimes its appropriate to share my life story and how I was able to move forward.
I will never forget my elementary school principal who came to my wedding and shared how he would never give up on me. There were two kids who I hung out with while growing up and we fought all up and down the railroad tracks. They never made it past fifth grade and were diverted out. But the principal wouldn’t let that happen to me. As much as I wanted to be a troubled child, I had straight As, and it wasn’t because I studied, it was something that was innate to me. He saw something in me and and never turned his back on me. I spent entire days sitting in his office staring him down and I did my work. But it was just he and I. To this day, I still share with him. Even with the incident, what many people don’t know is, after it happened, I wrote a letter to the people who supported me, who came to bat for me and I said: I apologize because I let not just myself down, but my family because they are depending on me to make it. If I don’t make it everybody behind me won’t. So, everybody is depending on me to make it. But I would like to promise you that you will never, ever have to worry about me again.
From that point, I set my sights on building a legacy to serve. Professionally, my entire career has been surrounded by community service. I started with the Boy Scouts of America. I was the first African-American female District Executive at Boy Scouts Counseling in Tallahassee, Florida. I was hired at 22 years old. Where they did not think that I would break membership fundraising goals and be the type of leader that I transitioned into, I did it. I always stood out and always asked the tough questions. I was mentored by a gentleman who kept up with my Boy Scouts career. He gave me ideas and I blossomed.
I was recruited by the American Heart Association to become their District Director for the Leon County area. Then I moved on to 4C (Kids Incorporated) to open up their development department and be their first development director, also in Leon County. Then I decided I needed to grow even more and that is when I transitioned into law school. Upon graduation I went into services yet again, from community legal services to Orange County government.
For the average District 6 resident, to see me transition as their next Orange County Commissioner, someone who is from a very urban community who messed up, who isn’t perfect, who has fallen short, but always has found a way to pick herself back up, and to grow from whatever lesson – not repeat it, but actually grow and prosper from it – that for me, is very powerful in itself.
WONO: You have worked as an aide to the current Commissioner for several years. Some feel that she has failed to deliver for the people after these many years. What would you do differently, if elected to serve the people of District 6? What would be your top/first policy priority?
Roberta Walton: It’s no secret that Commissioner Moore-Russell and I are friends and I applaud her for what she has been able to do. One thing that I think she has done a great job is, brought about respect for that seat. When we initially got there it was during the Venues vote and Commissioner Moore-Russell had to get up to speed very quickly and she did so. What people don’t know is that many of the key stakeholders who needed things to happen were walking past the District 6 Office and they didn’t have a lot of regard for the seat. Now, in large part, some of these same people find themselves meeting or desiring to make an appointment with the District 6 Office first. To me, that speaks volumes and that is something that I think will be transitioned over.
I sat in on almost every meeting and as the issues bounced across the table they bounced on to her plate, but they also bounced onto mine. Certainly, I’m being scrutinized because of her platform and her administration, but I’d like to go on the record and say I am a first time candidate and I have never, ever run for County Commissioner before. I did the best that I could possibly do in my role as a District Aide, which was to support the current County Commissioner’s administration and platform and to work at her pleasure.
As I go door-to-door people are saying that as the aide to the County Commissioner ever time they needed something done, or needed to be heard, it happened. So I’d like to think that my record of accountability to the people stands firm. It always has. I’ve been gone from that office since last August and it is a good feeling to hear people say, including Commissioner Moore-Russell, you are missed.
Commissioner Moore-Russell worked on the Pine Hills Task Force now the Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District and that is something that I will continue to work diligently on. And beyond this, everything that worked, I will continue to do.
One good thing about being in-house is, you got to see first hand what worked and what didn’t. As I listened to some of the other candidates talking about what they aspire to do, I say, “Yep, Commissioner Moore-Russell tried that and it didn’t work. Good luck with that one.” So, being on the inside has given me great insights – I got to observe what was tried, tested and failed and what worked.
As an example, before Tiffany, an overlay district in Holden Heights was tried and was a huge failure. The OBT corridor and Holden Heights will never, ever be a Thornton Park where you sit out and drink Starbucks Coffee and have Panera sandwiches.
So having been on the inside gives me the extra knowledge because, I understand so many things that work and those that didn’t.
Another example is the Tymber Skan Condominiums project. I have a file on Tymber Skan that is very thick. I have sat for years in Special Internal Meetings with Housing, the County attorney’s office, planning, neighborhoods and the mayor’s office about how to fix the Tymber Skan issues, including those related to Code Enforcement. I’ve got power points presentations, reports, numbers. I could tell you how many are Homestead out of all five buildings. I know all of the background because the due diligence has been done.
So now, one of the first projects when you talk about policy initiatives, is to bulldoze the remaining portions of Tymber Skan for eminent domain purposes and put together a park. The area is very park deficient; it is a recreationally deficient area.
The second thing that I plan to do is to see how we could move people around in the I-Drive corridor more efficiently. I plan on working with the ETC, the I-Drive CRA and other stakeholders to make sure that we can move people from A to Z in that area, and connect them.
There are other infrastructure projects that are a high priority. One is in an area called Little Egypt. A sore subject for me is to see the same projects and the same proposals coming through, over and over again and not advancing. At a recent meeting, I sat next to the Assistant to Housing and Community Development and as we finished, I said, “Now that we’ve done that, can I have $2.5 million for the Little Egypt area.” They laughed at me, but I’m very serious. I have had so many meeting to discuss this area. It is an area near Old Winter Garden Road, Ivy Lane and Raleigh which lacks infrastructure and still to this day has ditches with animals in them. Study after study has been done on this area. The right-of-ways make for very small, narrow sidewalks and so it is a pedestrian safety nightmare.
Perhaps the good news is, some of the area – 38 acres – has been purchased by Habitat for Humanity, and is now getting ready to become Butler’s Preserve. So with Butler’s Preserve coming in and new infrastructure in terms of new affordable housing for the community, I’m asking for infrastructure for the entire community. Also, there is the Barack Obama Parkway that is still looming. So, all of these discussions are happening at a pivotal point as I would be sworn into office and I would be able to pick them up and hit the ground running.
WONO: How is your campaign going? And why should voters elected Roberta Walton as their next District 6, County Commissioner?
Roberta Walton: My campaign is going phenomenally well. I have a great team behind me who believe in me, quite frankly. And to me that’s what’s most important. Yesterday, the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association Local 3057 announced they were endorsing me and that speaks volumes.
In terms of fundraising, it’s moving right along and I am ramping that up. I’m still in the number two spot in terms of fundraising. One other candidate that entered the race in 2012 – as you know I didn’t enter the race until August 2013 – is ahead of me in large part because he is highly self-financing himself. A lot of my campaign donations are not solicited. They are from people who think highly of what I bring to the table as a candidate.
People should vote for Roberta Walton because I am the only candidate who could come in, put down her purse and get started right away. That’s important to people. Everyone else in the race is going to have to figure out the map and get acquainted with the landscape. Everyone else is going to have to be introduced. And I know that to be true because in 2006, that is exactly what we had to do and I consider both Tiffany and I pretty smart.
The other day, I got a brief phone call from an elderly lady who lives in the North Lake Mann neighborhood. She called my cell phone and said, “Roberta, I don’t feel like calling the County, so I’m reaching out to you. The mosquitoes outside of my house are looming so much that I can barely go and sit outside, and I like to sit outside on my porch. Is there anything that you can do?”
I told her I couldn’t make any promises, but to give me until the end of the day and I will see what I could do. The only promise I’m going to make you is that I’m going to work diligently on what you asked me to do. And that’s exactly what I did. I picked up the phone, used my charm and wit and called everybody who I knew could help.
By the end of the day, Ms. Ernestine, the elderly woman, called me back to say thank you and that someone had come to spray for mosquitoes and had done the entire street. She also said, she had been sitting on her porch all evening.
If for no other reason, the residents of District 6 should vote for Roberta other than, she is the candidate that has garnered the experience and can get things done. She is the candidate that understands because she has been there. Roberta is the candidate who has been most exposed over the course of the last seven to eight years on the issues that concern you today, not what happened back then, but today. Voters should elect Roberta because she is the candidate who will be up front with you, who will be accountable, who will tell you that I heard what you just said, and not only did I hear it, but I have listened to what you said you needed. And I’m going to take these resources that I have and tie them to what you said you needed as I listened to you speak, to help us all to get to where we need to be, which is a quality of life that is worth living. And everybody deserves that.
WONO: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Roberta Walton: I would like it to go on record, and I would be remiss if I didn’t ask for the District 6 voters to vote for me. I’m asking for your vote. I’m humbly asking and to me that makes the difference. I’m humbly asking – I’m no different, I’m not putting myself on a pedestal and holding myself out there to be this grand stewardess. I’m saying I’m doing the work and I know how to work. In large part, I do believe that no other characteristic fits a leader other than hard work.
If voters are interested in more details about my platform, which has five layers – and under each layer there are four doable projects that I’m going to hit the ground on day one working on — please visit my campaign Website at: www.electrobertawalton.com.
WONO: Thank you, Candidate Walton.
Roberta Walton: Thank you, too.
MORE ABOUT ROBERTA WALTON
A licensed attorney in the State of Florida and community advocate, Roberta has served the community with diligence and shown that she has the stamina to integrate effective commissioning into the District 6 community. In her seven years as District 6 Aide and Senior Advisor to Orange County Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell, she displayed a strong grasp of not only the intricacies surrounding local government and policy implementation, but more importantly about what makes this community work – and how strategic planning and LEADERSHIP will serve to make it work better.
A native of Panama City, Florida in the Panhandle, Roberta Walton obtained a degree in Social Work at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. From there she began her career in philanthropic development as a District Executive for the Boys Scouts of America. She later served in similar roles with the America Heart Association and Kids Incorporated (also known a 4C), an early childhood human service agency.
As the first individual from her immediate family to graduate from a four-year university, she felt compelled to blaze the trail for those who followed her – establishing expectancy for continued education. On that note, she received her Juris Doctorate from Florida A&M College of Law in 2005, as an inaugural member of the re-established College of Law. Currently, she practices real estate, land use and development, immigration and business law at Voight P.A. Prior to serving in her role at Orange County Government, Roberta practiced Administrative Law and Legal Services providing litigation and advocacy for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability, and other like public benefit cases on behalf of low-income clients with diverse backgrounds and experiences at Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida. Additionally, she has served as an adjunct instructor for both ITT Technical Institute and Everest College in the Criminal Justice department. In these roles, Roberta provided classroom instruction to associate and bachelor level students pursuing a degree in the Law Enforcement field. Roberta’s strengths include her energized worth ethic, passion for the community, caring heart, willingness to assist others, and her ability to mobilize and encourage residents and stakeholders alike to support multiple projects through the local community.
Both personally and professionally, Roberta is devoted to serving her community. She is a co-founder of the Central Florida Women’s Empowerment Summit held annually and the Orange County Government African American Employee Network. She has held memberships in the Florida Bar Association, Orange County Bar Association, Central Florida Women Lawyers Association, Paul C. Perkins Chapter of the Virgil Hawkins Bar Association, League of Women Voters of Orange County and currently serves as the District 6 Representative on Orange County Housing and Development Advisory Board and on the Board of Visitors for Florida A&M College of Law. She is also the current President of the Southwest Orlando Junior Chamber of Commerce; Vice-President and Charter Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Metro Orlando Chapter; board member for RAPHA! Soul Care and Empowerment Institute; member of the Orange County Chapter of NAACP; the Orlando Chapter of the Florida A&M University National Alumni Association and a devoted member of Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in Oakland, Florida
Roberta has two sons that love and adore their mom and reign as a priority over and above her professional and civic obligations. She makes time to be an attentive mom who prepares and supports her kids for school and extra-curricular activities while also balancing a very challenging career and impacting the community in service and advocacy.
Roberta Walton has demonstrated the ability to serve others selflessly, understanding the importance of using her gifts to motivate and benefit others. She is one who openly gives her ideas, energy and support to causes that help people, some nameless and faceless throughout our local community. The following identifies just a few key community events and projects that Roberta has served in a leadership position on behalf of the local community. They are as follows:
? Annual Family Hope Day and Easter Egg Hunt in the Washington Park community (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Annual Summer Safety Event for local youth (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Annual Back to School Health and Education Fair serving 1000-1300 OCPS students (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Gobble-Gobble Turkey Give-Away with the Chris Johnson Foundation feeding head start families and senior citizens in the Mercy Drive corridor (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Holiday Senior Brunch serving 350-375 seniors annually (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Holiday Toy Extravaganza serving 1000-1300 OCPS students (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Central Florida Women’s Empowerment Summit
? Pine Hills Relay for Life
? Jones High Candidate and Political Information Forum
? Lawyers for Justice Volunteer and Precinct Leader
? Downtown Orlando Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Parade (Judge)
? Downtown Orlando Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Parade Celebration (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Annual MLK Prayer Breakfast
? Phyllis McCray Benefit Committee raising more than $55K
? Mt. Zion AME Greek Day (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Central Florida Women’s Empowerment Summit (Co-Founder/Presenter)
? NAACP National Convention–Mayor’s Reception (Chairperson/Coordinator)
? Annual “Hoops for Hope” Back to School Celebration hosted by the Darius Williams Foundation (Coordinator)
CAMPAIGN CONTACT INFORMATION:
Roberta Walton Campaign
Post Office Box 585125
Orlando, FL 32858
Phone: (407) 223-9075
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