An attorney who has built her career around resolving neighborhood disputes has filed to run for the District 3 Orlando City Council seat.
Asima Azam could become the first Muslim to sit on the council, although the city does not keep records on religious affiliation.
Robert Stuart, who said he plans to file in March to run for his fourth term, currently holds the seat. District 3 includes College Park, Baldwin Park and surrounding neighborhoods.
Azam, whose father emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan, was born in Indiana and lives in Baldwin Park. The real estate attorney for the Divine & Estes law firm has served on the Citizen’s Advisory Board for MetroPlan Orlando, on the Orange County Zoning Adjustment Board and the Orange County Citizens’ Commission for Children.
“I did not decide to run to be the first Muslim elected to an Orlando city council seat, but if my candidacy inspires other Muslims to engage and invest in the city we call home then that makes me proud,” she said.
Her top priorities are neighborhood safety, creating a culture of communication and finding solutions to traffic congestion, speeding and parking issues. She also wants to implement smart growth strategies to ensure new developments do not impact the lifestyle of existing residents.
Azam said she is running to bring a change in leadership to the district, which Stuart has represented since 2006.
“In the last 15 years, the neighborhoods in District 3 have changed dramatically,” said Azam. “Families in the district like being closer to downtown Orlando and they want the easy access to downtown amenities, while maintaining their own community identity. With the changes that are occurring, I feel leadership hasn’t changed with it.”
Stuart, who is the executive director of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida, was born and raised in Orlando. He said he is not ready to discuss his plans for the future since he is not yet an official candidate. However, he pointed to a list of accomplishments that prove his leadership skills.
He was instrumental in the creation of the Lake Alert system, the formation of the Edgewater Drive Vision Task Force and the renovation of the Dubsdread golf course. He has worked to address issues surrounding homelessness, poverty, affordable housing, education and transportation.
Stuart said he is especially proud of the resolution Orlando passed following the Pulse massacre to join 79 other cities throughout the world as a “Compassionate City.”
“We are going to use compassion as one of the four principles when creating public policy,” Stuart said. “It will have a long-term impact on how the city conducts business.
He also pointed to his tough stance on crime and his work with the Edgewater Drive task force, which helped guide growth and development in College Park. He is leading a similar transportation and growth study for the Virginia Drive area.
Stuart created Operation Lock It Up in 2014, a program where Orlando police officers walk through neighborhoods to look for unlocked vehicles and homes.
Voters have plenty of time to decide on a candidate. The election will be held on Nov. 7.