When Regina Hill was elected this week to represent Orlando’s poorest district on the City Council, she rode a wave of dissatisfaction from residents who feel ignored by City Hall.
In Hill, they found one of their own: Someone who grew up in Parramore — a former welfare mom, no political pedigree, even criminal convictions in her past — who rose above her circumstances.
In her, voters saw hope for themselves.
“The things she’s been through, most of the people in the neighborhood kind of went through the same thing,” said barber Lee Garner. “They can see progression. They can see that their life can change, just by looking at her.”
“I’m someone they can relate to,” said Hill, 48. “Our community is very forgiving. They look at me as one of their own.”
They were also looking for change in leadership.
Hill won the election by a 10-point margin, beating Juan Lynum, son of Commissioner Daisy Lynum, who has held the District 5 City Council seat for 16 years.
During Daisy Lynum’s tenure, the city launched a jobs program for Parramore residents and created Parramore Kidz Zone to help the neighborhood’s youth. But the biggest physical changes residents see are things that benefit others: the Amway Center, the still undeveloped Creative Village, and soon, a Major League Soccerstadium.
Voters were looking for more, and that’s what Hill promised: more jobs and job-training, better housing, more from City Hall.
“I think it was about 60 percent voting against the Lynum last name and about 40 percent voting for her,” Orlando political analyst Jason Henry said. “She ran on a ticket of, ‘We’re no longer going to take what the Lynums have been giving us, so vote for me and I’ll make sure your voice is heard.’ That resonated with a lot of people.”
Hill won’t be sworn in until June 2, but she said she plans to meet with representatives of the Orlando Magic, Orlando City Soccer Club and the Citrus Bowl renovation team.
“I’ll see how we can make sure the people of District 5 are included in the development of the city, in terms of jobs and contracts,” she said.
Hill knows the venues can produce opportunity. She was once hired to do food prep in the kitchen at the old Orlando Arena, a job that moved her off the welfare rolls. From there, she took nursing classes, became a certified nursing assistant and is now a licensed practical nurse.
Sterling Miller and some other residents said Hill’s victory wasn’t necessarily a rejection of Daisy Lynum, but mistrust of her son.
“Daisy Lynum, she was pretty good, but her son Juan — that wasn’t cutting the mustard,” Miller said.
Lynum qualified for the election claiming to live in his mother’s home in the Rock Lake neighborhood, and he provided enough proof — driver’s license, insurance policy, utility bills — to satisfy city code. But there was widespread skepticism among residents.
“They see the same thing happening over and over, and they didn’t feel a real connection with Juan Lynum,” Miller said. “The way he back-doored, it just left people with a bad taste.”
Juan Lynum also made an apparent misstep by criticizing Hill for her arrest record. That tactic backfired, according to some voters.
“Run on your platform, don’t put your opponent down,” said one of Hill’s voters, who asked to remain anonymous because he lives in Commissioner Lynum’s neighborhood.
Miller put it this way: “For the most part, we all know somebody who’s been arrested. If you’re just going to judge a person on that alone, that’s very shallow….
“It might be more than one time — who cares? As long as your acts prove to be sincere, then people will follow you.”
Voter James Joseph said district residents just want “something different.”
“We wanted somebody new and somebody kind of reckless,” Joseph said.
“Let’s see a little change.”
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