Orlando’s longest serving commissioner Patty Sheehan running for re-election

ORLANDO | Patty Sheehan has been the city commissioner for Orlando’s District 4 for more than two decades. The long-serving councilmember was the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the city and is now seeking re-election for her seventh term on Nov. 7.

“I’ve been hearing a little bit of ‘maybe we need a change,’” Sheehan says. “I have been representing this community and fighting for this community my whole life. Why in the world would you want to vote for someone that you don’t know what their track record is? We have to know someone’s background, their track record on issues and I don’t think either one of my opponents come even close to my advocacy for the community.”

Sheehan has two opponents in this election looking to unseat her — business owner Katie Koch and conservative activist Randy Ross, the latter having challenged Sheehan for her seat in 2015. Ross, who is also openly gay, is best known for serving as the Orange County chair to former President Donald Trump during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“We do need more openly gay elected officials, it’s nice to have allies but nobody’s going to fight for you like someone in your own community,” Sheehan says. “However, I don’t think that person should be Mr. Ross because of all his unfortunate legal troubles and everything like that. That would be a huge distraction from the work at hand.”

Ross’ legal troubles Sheehan mentioned include his arrest in 2015 on insurance fraud charges. During this election cycle, Ross’ attention has been focused on criticizing the city for not doing more to procure the Pulse property so that a proper memorial could be built, something that has recently been done.

“People seem to have no problem being critical when they have done absolutely nothing,” Sheehan says.

Koch, who is a first-time candidate, is an executive with IFCO Systems and says she is running to become city commissioner because there are “some real problems that are not being addressed.”

“[I]t’s time moms with school aged children have representation on the Orlando City Council,” Koch said in a quote on her campaign website. Speaking with Florida Politics, Koch says she believes in a “neighborhood-focused, citizen-run government” and plans to champion for term limits.

“There are term limits and they’re called elections,” Sheehan says. “I ask for people to rehire me every four years and they seem to be pretty happy with my track record. If anyone thinks that term limits are the end-all be-all answer to government they need look no further than our dysfunctional state government which is a revolving door of less and less qualified people. … We have got to start taking elections seriously and educating ourselves, and term limits are not the answer.”

Sheehan, who says she has knocked on thousands of doors in her district already this election cycle, isn’t hearing that voters are unhappy with her performance or longevity in her position.

“I feel strongly that if you do a good job, you deserve to keep your job. If you do a lousy job, you lose your job,” she says. “I’ve even have people say to me, I might not agree with your lifestyle but I think you do a heck of a job. Well, I don’t need for them to agree with my lifestyle, I just need for them to understand my point of view when it comes to protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.”

One way Sheehan is protecting LGBTQ+ folks, more specifically trans members of the community, in her district is having the bathrooms at Lake Eola redesigned into single-stall restrooms.

“Because our governor is obsessed with being the potty police, we’re going to have single-stall bathrooms at Lake Eola Park,” Sheehan says. “Because of that law we came up with a solution, and we did that because that’s what you do when you’re a smart, welcoming and decent community.”

Sheehan says her seventh term will also be focused on projects that will make the district happier and safer, including renovations to Lake Eola Park’s walkways and drainage, rebricking parts of Summerlin Ave. and continuing to improve safety around sections of Robinson St., to name a few.

“This is just the nuts and bolts of the job and I’ve been here a long time,” Sheehan says. “I’ve represented you for 23 years but that is knowledge and knowledge is power, and I want to be here to continue serving you. I want to provide superior service, and that is not just a slogan to me that is an aspiration and that’s what we do every single day for the residents My district is my life, it is my love, it is my passion and I want to continue serving the residents of District 4.”

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