When Florida state lawmakers terminated The Walt Disney Company’s special autonomy, they changed the name of The Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District for a very specific reason. From now on, the new Board of Supervisors will be tasked by the Governor–in this case, Governor Ron DeSantis–to make all decisions that appropriately fall to them based on the best interests of Sunshine State residents as a whole instead of those of the near sole corporate landowner.
That five-person Board met for its first public meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, with the first order of business to set right the previous board’s ongoing issues with the Reedy Creek Fire Department, chiefly among them resolving an impasse with the Firefighter’s Union and providing death benefits to Lesly Dorminy, the widow of firefighter James Dorminy who died in 2017.
“I see our constituency group as everybody who works and plays in the district, those citizens that live around the district and, frankly, all the citizens of the state of Florida,” Board Chairman Martin Garcia said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “… You all didn’t elect us, but the people of Florida elected a governor who then appointed us, and so I see that there’s going to be much broader representation.”
“The new board has shown a willingness to listen and to collaborate already,” said Reedy Creek Firefighters Association President Jon Shirey. “Right now it’s still the early stage of that relationship, but we’re looking forward to it very optimistically and think it’s going to better the district as a whole, better the lives of first responders and retirees.”
Disney Fanatic previously reported that the Disney-appointed Board’s unwillingness to work with the first responders as well as ignore a longstanding resource and staffing issue was part of the firefighters’ decision to put their support behind Gov. DeSantis’ re-election and district takeover measures.
“Anything has got to be better than what we currently have,” remarked Tim Stromsnes, communications director of the Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Local 2117.
Board to Evaluate Dissolving Cities Bay Lake, Lake Buena Vista
The Board of Supervisors opened the meeting under the name Reedy Creek Improvement District, as formally changing the name will take time and require a “comprehensive overhaul.”
Other matters on the table for later meetings include the appointment of the district’s new special counsel (Lawyer A. Kurt Ardaman, with the Fishback Dominick firm, who reportedly helped craft the new district legislation, appears to be the favorite) as well as consider “an ordinance to prevent COVID-19 vaccine or masking mandates in the district,” and possibly taking measures to terminate the “essentially fictitious” cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake.
“If it makes sense, legally, it’s something that I want to evaluate,” Board Member Brian Aungst Jr. said. “It’s not something that I have control over; it’s a legislative decision.”
Recently, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, Josh D’Amaro said he is ready to work with the new group of supervisors, stating, “If that new board understands the value that gets created here and how it positively impacts the Central Florida community, I think they will be aligned with our vision and will carry on the Reedy Creek soul that’s been in place.”
Only time will tell what measures this Board plans to bring to Central Florida for “better” or “worse.”