(Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009)

Buddy Dyer

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Mayor Dyer

Most recently, I’ve gotten into the habit of coming up with the questions fifteen minutes before an interview. Part of me likes this because I feel the exchange is organic and off the cuff. The other part wishes for more time to prepare and becomes anxious that I didn’t. In the case of interviewing the mayor, I felt the latter.

This interview was planned for a long time before it actually happened. Originally, I asked the Mayor to do an interview at one of his political fundraisers over a year before it happened. He had impressed me by his memory. When we were introduced for the second time, he recalled the restaurant where we first met. He may not have remembered my name if I hadn’t said it, but it didn’t matter because he placed me. I was astonished that I existed in his memory.

Up until this time, I had always considered people in politics to be untouchable. I don’t why. I just never imagined that one day I’d sit with the mayor and share a glass of wine, but that’s exactly what happened at my first political fundraiser. Mayor Dyer came over to my table, sat down, tapped my wine glass with his and struck up a conversation. As I started telling him about my thesis project (a collection of waringis.com interviews), he leaned forward appearing interested. It made me feel confident, so I asked him if he’d like to be a part of it. He agreed. I panicked. I wasn’t ready to interview someone of his status yet. I wanted to build my waringis.com audience up first.  So I thanked him and told him I’d be in touch, although I knew I wouldn’t be, at least not for a long time.

About six months later, I saw the Mayor again at the “Walk Because You Can” event, where 100+ people walked around Lake Eola to raise money for a wheelchair accessible van for a new spinal cord injury. He was at the Downtown Farmer’s Market, dedicating the day, November 16, to Spinal Cord Injury Day in Orlando. He did this in my honor, because of my friend, Shelby Norwich, and her thesis project. At the event’s after party, the Mayor showed up unannounced and drank a celebratory glass of wine with us. I remember thinking, “He is the coolest Mayor ever.” I can’t imagine every Mayor is so willing to mingle and make himself available to the people of his city. During the afternoon with the mayor, I had the opportunity to talk to him more about my thesis. Again, he eagerly agreed to do an interview. Still, I didn’t feel ready.

Another six months later, as my thesis project was winding up, I finally called my favor into the Mayor. It had been over a year since our original agreement. If it weren’t for having a deadline, I don’t know that I would have ever committed to interviewing  him because it just feels like it’s something that should be out of my reach. But it’s not. That’s another reason why I love this city. I’m not a developer, or business person, or someone who needs high city connections and yet I’ve had a glass of wine with the mayor of Orlando. My voice counts in this city.

We brought the studio shoot to City Hall the day of this interview. As I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the Mayor, I began doubting myself. “What if it’s a lame interview?” I thought. Or worse, “What if this is a waste of his time?” Once I entered his office, the anxiety vanished. The interview was on.

*Below are a few excerpts found in Jana Waring’s Who’s That? Discovering Orlando One Interview at a Time. To read more about Mayor Dyer and his thoughts about Central Florida, buy the book now!

Jana: What are five things on your mind this morning?
Buddy: Wow. [Laughs] You’re right out of the box with a toughie. Well, let’s see, what have I done this morning so far? It’s 9 o’clock now, at 8 o’clock we did a photo shoot for Travel Agent Magazine. That’d be one of the thoughts I suppose. I’ve been working on passing of the SunRail. That’s always an issue on the top of my mind. I was just doing radio interviews for the corporate 5K run that will be at Lake Eola Park this afternoon. I had to get my youngest son up and off to school this morning. My wife is out of town and so I have sole responsibility of getting him in the shower, getting him dressed and ready to go to school. So that’s number 4, and number 5, well, just how nervous I was to do this interview.

At what point in your life did you decide that you’d like to be Mayor?
About one week before I ran for Mayor. I had been in the state senate for ten years and really enjoyed it. I ran for attorney general when I was told I had to get out of the senate. It was not successful. I lost in the general election to Charlie Christ in what was a tough year for Democrats. I would have liked to have been running this last time when Obama was on top of the ticket verses the year I ran.

All these people in the community came up to me and said, “You need to run. It’s the right time. You’re the right person.” I had never, ever in my life, considered running for mayor of the city. They convinced me to do it. We sat down as a family and decided to—it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

What do you think this city has to offer to its people?
I think Orlando is one of the best cities in America to live. Part because of the physical attribute it has like the lakes and weather and everything else it offers, but more importantly because of the people that live here. Orlando has attracted people that like each other and look out for each other. It’s a great place to raise a family. From the outside world, Orlando is tourism. But it’s much more than that in terms of industry and high-tech industry, medical growth and the Medical City.

*Interview Date: April 16, 2009

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