After winning in Orange County’s District 1 to be their new commissioner, Betsy VanderLey finally got what she wanted — a good night’s sleep, at last, after the long election cycle.
Having never served in a governing role before, she appeared excited about the challenge, but also thoughtful — there may be a lot of late nights at community meetings, listening to residents, but she’s ready for the task, she told FloridaPolitics.com.
Her district is a large and tourism-based one that includes the area near Disney and International Drive, with high traffic and tourism. She said the key to her seat will be balancing growth with a sensibly pragmatic mindset. Because, as she said, the tourists aren’t going to stop coming.
“I’ve lived here since 1970, and I’ve seen nothing but growth since 1970,” she said. “The challenge is not whether we grow, but how we grow. Unless we put up a sign at the Florida-Georgia borderline saying ‘no more,’ people are going to move here. They’re our neighbors.”
She said one of her other goals is to eventually establish a Medical City-style hub in her district that would create many new jobs — though she was unsure as to the prospective businesses that would move in right now, so early in the game.
VanderLey maintained, as she had earlier on in the race, that she wasn’t in this for the political points or to climb the ladder — at 58 years old, she isn’t looking to start a brand new career. She says this is about helping her community.
Then she offered two anecdotes from the campaign trail when she got to take a break from campaigning and help people, which she said were the real, more gratifying reason she’d wanted the job in the first place.
In the first instance, she helped to move a school bus zone out of a dark area with high-velocity traffic. The bus stop was originally placed at the corner of a six-lane, high-speed zone near Disney where there were few stop signs to provide safety for the students.
Now, the bus stop is located further into a residential neighborhood thanks to VanderLey — and it’s safer, she said.
Another time, she helped a man whose yard had been flooding for years due to unfinished stormwater piping. She said she helped him go through the proper procedure to fix the problem, and now his yard no longer floods.
But now, on the county commission itself, her responsibilities will be on a larger scale.
“The challenge will be making sure the citizens feel like they have a voice in how to grow the district from here,” she said.