Anyone who actually lives in bustling Orlando and the surrounding communities will tell you the region is much, much more than what surrounds Cinderella’s Castle.

This fact was never more true than in the days and weeks that followed the tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub.

Elements that often unite communities — sports teams, food culture, generations of residents living in the same neighborhood — are young or nonexistent in Orlando, where nearly two-thirds of all residents were born out of state.

Such a situation has left a vacuum in Orlando that has been filled with symbols of Gay Pride, a result of the tragedy brought on by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Signs are all around Orlando; rainbow banners fly alongside the American flag at City Hall; many hip neighborhoods and suburbs like Winter Park proudly display Pride stickers and similar symbols. Lake Eola’s fountain – the heart of Orlando’s downtown – is awash nightly with gay pride colors and stores quickly sell out of T-shirts sporting “#OrlandoUnited” with rainbow hearts.

My wife and I witnessed this unity firsthand during a recent, non-Mickey visit. We were in town for a benefit performance staged by Bravo’s Andy Cohen and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Before they walked on stage, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, his shoulders burdened with the weight of the world, was given a thunderous standing ovation by the crowd.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

In this edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, veteran reporter Scott Powers examines Dyer’s pre- and post-Pulse legacy. As difficult as dealing with the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy has been, Dyer — unencumbered by term limits and presiding over a booming boom town — may have one of the best jobs in Florida politics.

If Dyer is king of Central Florida, there still remain many, many princes and princesses who wield significant, um, influence. This issue introduces you to many of them, while also exploring why the increasing number of Hispanics in Central Florida have so few identifiable power brokers.

If there is a center to Orlando politics outside of City Hall, it may be law offices of GrayRobinson, which represents many of the largest interests in the region, including the City of Orlando itself. Our cover story is about the new GrayRobinson, forged by its merger with former House Speaker Dean Cannon’s lobbying shop, Capitol Insight.

Like everything else in town, GrayRobinson seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.

… including the size of this magazine, which is now more than a year old and, in this period of declining ad revenue for print journalism, is close to ‘making it.’ Our editors and reporters are beginning to pivot to the next phase of this project, which includes more original reporting and features, especially about important policies. Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster does this with her story about “The Seminole Solution,” while Mitch Perry explains how Central Florida is ground zero for “The Politics of Disruption.”

The best read? Perhaps it’s Andy Gardiner‘s frank exit interview.

Of course, there are still pages and pages of fun features, like Rochelle Koff’s guide to adult dining at the theme parks, Fred Piccolo’s cool infographics, and our quick hits in the Political Aficionado section.

Dare I say reading this edition of INFLUENCE is like taking a tour of – oh boy – a theme park about politics.

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