Teresa Jacobs’ frequent battles towards the established order as an Orange County commissioner proved she might battle. Now a candidate for county mayor, Jacobs is set to indicate she will be able to lead too. By Sean Holton
Fifteen years in the past, Teresa Jacobs made her foray into Orange County politics as a neighborhood activist. She hit a brick wall. She additionally bought a brick wall. It runs proper throughout her again yard, a every day reminder of her failed campaign to cease a four-lane freeway challenge that sliced her southwest Orange neighborhood in two. Right this moment—just a few ft from her patio on the opposite facet of the excessive wall—what was as soon as an unobstructed view of a lake and close by woods is now a roaring river of site visitors known as Apopka-Vineland Street.
“Hear the noise?” Jacobs asks. “I don’t spend any time on my patio.”
Even in solitary moments in her kitchen making bacon and eggs for breakfast, Jacobs can’t escape the din of vehicles, vans and sirens. However she describes the relentless racket as an inspiration. It reminds her of what launched her political profession and of the battles she fought throughout her eight years as an Orange County commissioner. Now the sound spurs her on to complete the a lot greater campaign she began in late January to develop into county’s
If she succeeds, she says her first order of enterprise can be to show the county authorities inside out—basically by throwing the “insiders” out.
“We have to change the tradition of that group again to a company that respects and acknowledges that they work for the residents of Orange County,” Jacobs, 53, says in an interview at
Jacobs is a late entry into the August non-partisan main election. If no candidate garners 50 p.c of the vote, the highest two vote-getters go to the November basic election. Her opponents embrace three former colleagues on the county fee—Invoice Segal, Mildred Fernandez and Linda Stewart—and political newcomer Matthew Falconer. Like her competitors, Jacobs advocates financial progress and extra environment friendly authorities.
What units her aside within the race is her status as Orange County’s iconoclast-in-chief, somebody prepared to oppose the established order of a county authorities that she criticizes for placing builders and different insiders forward of standard residents. She says she determined to leap into the race comparatively late after seeing, in her view, no different candidates prepared to take up that banner for basic reform.
“I waited to see who else would get within the race,” she says. “It wasn’t one thing I needed to do. Personally, I don’t must be mayor. However it’s one thing we [elected officials] must do. We’ve to alter the best way we interact the general public.”
Jacobs’ marketing campaign is off to a stable begin financially. At presstime, earlier than the deadline for submitting her first quarterly fundraising report, she estimated she had raised $105,000 within the first two months of her marketing campaign. That quantity would exceed what any of her rivals, besides Segal, have been in a position to elevate by contributions in 2009. As of Dec. 31, Segal had raised practically $500,000.
Jacobs mentioned she isn’t nervous about being outgunned financially by Segal, as a result of she’s received as an underdog earlier than. Her status as a contrarian, nevertheless, raises a key query for voters: We all know Teresa Jacobs can battle, however can she lead?
Jacobs is aware of it’s a query she should reply, and she or he begins by attacking the standard knowledge that she is the “anti-development” candidate.
“I’m not anti-development,” Jacobs insists, noting that she counts many builders amongst her monetary supporters. “However I’m anti-school-overcrowding. I’m anti-road-congestion.”
Her enemies belong to what she sees because the chummy, backroom membership of political insiders and development-industry friends who use their connections to public workplace to serve their very own pursuits.
There’s No Disgrace in Dropping
Jacobs’ first political success got here in 2000, when she ran a grassroots marketing campaign towards District 1 Commissioner Bob Freeman and convincingly blasted him out of workplace simply 4 years after he had pushed the highway challenge by her neighborhood.
After gaining workplace, she fought—and infrequently misplaced—battles over more durable ethics reforms; bans on company marketing campaign contributions; and reining in builders with extra scrutiny and better charges that assist pay for the encompassing impacts their initiatives have on site visitors, faculties and the setting. She approached every difficulty with a take-no-prisoners method that blended mountains of analysis and evaluation with the identical tenacity she had again when she was a full-time mom of 4 making an attempt to avoid wasting her yard tranquility.
“It’s higher to lose than be improper,” Jacobs says. “I’d fairly be on the best facet of the difficulty and lose than be on the improper facet and win.”
Alongside the best way, Jacobs made enemies, together with some on the county’s skilled employees, different commissioners and particularly Mayor Wealthy Crotty, who’s nearing the tip of his decade-long run in workplace.
For many of Jacobs’ time on the county fee, from 2000 to 2008, Crotty was her nemesis, with the 2 butting heads again and again over improvement and authorities ethics.
Each of these points got here to hang-out Crotty when, in 2006, he was discovered to have made $112,000 in a land-investment partnership with a neighborhood developer who at about the identical time was getting a positive ruling on an unrelated challenge from Orange County’s planning employees. A particular prosecutor cleared Crotty of any wrongdoing, however Jacobs was alone amongst commissioners to criticize all the episode as one more instance of how the great ol’ boy system works in authorities and as an additional erosion of public belief. Crotty’s funding deal gave her the ammo to name for sweeping campaign-finance and ethics reforms in county authorities. In the long run, Jacobs did not win help for stricter rules of company contributions and a more durable requirement on commissioners to reveal enterprise companions. Nonetheless, she supported the extra restricted package deal of reforms that handed unanimously.
Not too long ago, Crotty and Segal got here underneath scrutiny for probably operating afoul of a type of reforms. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the 2 attended “men-only” gatherings organized by a number one land-development lawyer-lobbyist. Attendees on the occasions have been handled to gourmand meals, top-shelf booze and high quality cigars. After questions have been raised about potential violations of a ban on presents exceeding $35 to elected officers by lobbyists, Crotty and Segal wrote checks of $100 and $150 ($50 per occasion they attended), respectively, to cowl their estimated prices.
Notion Isn’t Actuality
Jacobs’ outspokenness on the fee typically bought good media play. Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas known as her “our most dear elected official, somebody who persistently outworks and outthinks everyone else within the room.”
Detractors, nevertheless, see her as lone ranger who’s been unable to domesticate robust relationships with county employees and fee colleagues. They are saying she couldn’t even construct a consensus on the problems she cared about.
Commissioner Fred Brummer is as blunt about Jacobs as he says she was whereas they served collectively for 2 years. “It’s very simple to be a bomb thrower,” he says, referring to Jacobs. “It’s much more tough to handle individuals. Certainly one of her types was toembarrass employees publicly. It’s far more difficult if you’re the mayor and it’s a must to produce outcomes.”
Brummer and Jacobs have clashed ceaselessly. Not lengthy after he joined the fee, Brummer complained in a memo to Jacobs that he was distracted by her cell-phone use and text-messaging throughout conferences. One other time, he was heard saying, “Thank God” when Jacobs famous in passing that she solely had just a few months left on the board.
In 2003, Jacobs drew a powerful rebuke from different colleagues who voted her out because the panel’s vice chairman after she used the phrase “maybe corrupt” to explain a earlier deal the board had permitted to permit a billboard on county-owned land.
Jacobs meets the criticism that she will be able to’t get together with others with an acknowledgement that will probably be used towards her within the mayor’s race. Characteristically, she plans to reply with analysis and information.
“To begin with, that’s a picture that others have created of me that isn’t even near actuality,” she says. “So if I may give you some information to dispel that…”
As an illustration, she says it’s a delusion that she was ceaselessly the only real dissenter in fee votes. So she has her marketing campaign employees combing by the minutes of conferences from all eight years of her service to rely the precise variety of such events. She says her personal spot checks have discovered such events to be uncommon.
Extra broadly, she factors to her management of such organizations because the Orange County Owners Affiliation Alliance, the Florida Affiliation of Counties and the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council as examples of having the ability to work with teams. After leaving county authorities, she labored with quite a lot of native governments in positions on the College of Central Florida and the Florida Division of Transportation.
“Why was I having a tough time on the Orange County Fee once I appear to succeed in all places else?” Jacobs wonders.
Then, answering her personal query, she cites the distinctive dynamics of the Orange County board. It’s a system with a robust however term-limited mayor—half govt and half legislative chief—main a board of term-limited commissioners whose longevity in workplace depends upon shifting up fairly than staying put. And he or she says the end result is sort of a actuality present that places competitors forward of
“Any commissioner who steps out of the fold and tries to do one thing—if it’s a good suggestion there’s virtually this tendency to squash that concept and that individual,” Jacobs says. “It’s extra just like the Survivor tradition the place the very best doesn’t succeed—the very best must be stomped.”
Jacobs says that dynamic doesn’t matter now that she’s off the board and campaigning for mayor as an outsider. In her view, all that issues is convincing voters that she is the candidate with the purest motives, the very best stage of integrity and the very best concepts for the job. And this time round, it’d take greater than a brick wall to cease her.