Rob Panepinto, board president of Orlando Inc., the regional Chamber of Commerce, will be running for Orange County Mayor, according to a report in Tuesday’s Orlando Sentinel.

Panepinto, 50, of Winter Park, made the announcement Monday when he told the Sentinel he was a candidate in a race that last week drew Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette.

Panepinto is president of Florentine Strategies, a Winter Park consulting firm, and serves as CEO of Entrepreneurs in Action, which helps nonprofits raise funds. His group is part of the Central Florida Social Enterprise Accelerator, which also helps nonprofits.

Panepinto also sits on the board of the Central Florida Foundation, the nonprofit Canvs, Orlando-based capital group FireSpring Fund and the Rollins College Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship.

“I’m not one of those … ‘I’m a business guy, I have all the answers’ guys,” Panepinto told the Sentinel about his candidacy. “I’ve spent time in the private sector but also the civic sector, and I have a sense of how government works and how we can work together.”

Panepinto joins Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings of Windermere, Robert Melanson and Jose Colom, both of Orlando, in the race.

Both Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke of Orlando have announced their candidacy, but have not yet filed to run.

“We have to start with a focus on effective economic diversification,” Panepinto told the Sentinel. “At a certain point, if people can’t come down here, get a job and find an affordable place to live, they will stop coming here.’’

They are all seeking to succeed Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who faces term limits.

The election officially is nonpartisan, though Demings and Colom are Democrats, while Sublette, Clarke, Melanson, and Panepinto are Republicans. The primary election is Aug. 28, 2018. If no one candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote, the top two would head for a general election Nov. 6, 2018.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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