Jacobs’ Paper Legacy

Photo By Norma Lopez Molina

Here’s the one thing we all should know about Teresa Jacobs after her first year in office: A long, boring report laden with financial speak, charts and tables is a John Grisham thriller to her.

The mayor of Orange County seems to enjoy sifting through the details, the minutiae that big-picture politicians leave to others to pore over. She likes the small stuff, and sweats it, too.

Some months ago when I asked her what she was working on, her face lit up as she talked about finalizing the fiscal 2011-12 county budget. I mean, she was actually pumped about crunching numbers, though she had less money at her disposal because the county’s revenues had fallen from the previous year. Again.

Her big plans last year included seemingly small-time matters like making the county administration’s website more user-friendly and opening an office that solicits public feedback. Jacobs can get so intense talking about “customer service” that you might think she has a weekend job at Macy’s.

I can’t imagine her Orlando counterpart, Buddy Dyer, perking up while talking about… anything. Dyer is all about big-ticket items like commuter rail and buildings, objects as inanimate as he can seem at times. Dyer thinks big thoughts and then assembles the talent and money that can make his visions happen. Dyer’s imprint on Orlando is visible and tangible.

Jacobs, meanwhile, is less the builder and more the hands-on micromanager, fixating on reorganizing county government to cut costs and improve accountability and responsiveness to more than a million residents.

That laser focus of hers drew a bead on Mike Snyder, who recently lost his job as the executive director of the financially distressed Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.
Jacobs came into office saying she had no confidence in Snyder, and for good reason.

Snyder was prominently named in a 2009 grand jury report that claimed the agency he ran was mired in a “culture of corruption.” The authority, the grand jury report said, shook down vendors for political contributions. But if a corruption scandal can’t get you fired, what can? Teresa Jacobs, armed with a 164-page report documenting the expressway authority’s financial decline during Snyder’s reign.

Dyer found out last February how Jacobs rolls. He asked the county for a little more help with the downtown performing arts center so he could get it out of limbo, but what he got was a critical report compliments of Jacobs.

She may have gone too far with that move, which embarrassed Dyer and DPAC’s board. But it did serve notice that the new occupant of the county mayor’s office does her research.
And she isn’t afraid to wield it like a club.

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