Shaking hands with the crowd as she said hello again to her constituents, Teresa Jacobs greeted Orange County as its new mayor. Alongside her, District 5 Commissioner Ted Edwards returned to a familiar role in the spotlight.
For Edwards, this was a familiar moment. He’d served on the Commission for two terms from 1996-2004 before briefly leaving politics.
Tuesday afternoon after his inauguration to his third term representing Winter Park and much of northeast Orange County, he settled back in to a familiar office.
“It was like coming back home again,” Edwards said. “I had a great day.”
Edwards’ return brought some familiar faces back from his former staff.
“It was hard to believe it’s been six years since I was on the board,” Edwards said. “I had a lot of well-wishers who were on my staff that welcomed me back. It was a very easy transition given my eight years on the board. “
For Jacobs, who took over the county’s top elected position, this is the newest chapter of her story of a continuing rise to power in the area.
“It’s quite an American story for me personally,” Jacobs said at a press conference following her swearing in. The former soccer mom had rapidly transitioned into a local leader and political juggernaut in recent years, culminating in her November 2010 election win to the county’s highest elected office.
“It just shows that anyone who puts their mind to something can accomplish anything,” Jacobs said.
But the fleeting accomplishment of an election win came with some immediate challenges for the incoming mayor, who will have to grapple with a troubled economy in Orange County.
She said she’s already been at work meeting with local leaders since the day she was elected, and is optimistic about the future.
That future, she said, will rely on growing business and growing jobs to help revive the area’s economy.
“We want to create jobs as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s business that creates jobs. The government can be part of the solution or part of the problem.”
But with unemployment as high as it has ever been in 30 years, Jacobs will have her work cut out for her.
She said it’ll be a top priority to reverse that trend.
“We’ve got to get people back to work,” she said. That will only come with increased business in the area, something she said the county could facilitate.
“We’re looking into what barriers there are to business,” she said. “We want to streamline the processes, permitting, to make it easier to open a business here.”
She gave some deference to outgoing Mayor Rich Crotty for his handling of the budget in recent years.
“We’re in a better situation than a lot of governments right now,” she said.
Crotty was optimistic about the future of the county under Jacobs’ leadership.
“I believe Orange County is in good hands,” Crotty said after the ceremony.
At the same ceremony, three more commissioners took the oath of office. For returning commissioners Fred Brummer and Tiffany Moore Russell, this was their second term. For Jennifer Thompson, who will represent parts of east Orange County, this will be her first term in office.