Women Making History in Central Florida
It’s Women’s History Month! We’d like to take the opportunity to highlight some Central Florida women making history.
First up is Shelley Wilson Lauten, who is an important figure in Orlando. After holding a number of corporate leadership positions, Shelley served as the president of MyRegion.net, an organization helping to identify the issues and challenges that affect the future of Central Florida. In 2013, along with two partners, she founded triSect, a solutions-oriented organization that brought together business, government, and independent-sector leaders to collaborate successfully on large-scale community efforts. In 2015, Shelley and her husband, a judge, began investigating ways to get homeless individuals into treatment instead of arresting them repeatedly. She is also an organizer of weLEAD, which aims to supply resources and support opportunities that empower women to lead. In 2016, Lauten was selected and is currently serving as the CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness (Rethink Homelessness). Shelley has a clear commitment to making Orlando and Central Florida a better place for all of us. She’s making history!
We’d like to honor Representative Val Demings. Demings was one of seven children and grew up in Jacksonville. When she was in junior high, she was selected to join the school patrol. Little did she know how that might direct her future path! She attended Florida State University and earned a degree in Criminology before returning to Jacksonville as a social worker. After 18 months, in 1983, she applied for a position with the Orlando Police Department. Her work was exemplary, which is why she was appointed as Orlando’s Chief of Police in 2007. She was the first woman (and mother) to hold the position, and Orlando’s Police Department began to focus more on preventing crime by improving community relations instead of reacting to crime with arrests and imprisonment. The result was stunning. As Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer put it, “Under her leadership, there has been the most dramatic decrease in violent crime in the city’s history.” She lowered crime by 40%. What an incredible achievement for our city! Val retired from the position in 2011, and ran for Congress in 2016. She now represents Florida’s 10th District. Val leads by example and is a bold representative for her district. We’re so glad she chose to come to Orlando all those years ago! If you have a moment, check out the 4-minute MAKERS video on YouTube about Val. Such an inspiring woman.
Rebecca Storozuk is the first openly transgender deputy at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Florida. Rebecca had struggled with her identity for her entire life. When she was younger, she threw herself into activities that were considered “masculine” to suppress how she felt. As an adult, she joined the army, and then in 2012, she became an Orange County deputy. She identified as a gay man for a while, thinking that would be easier than transitioning, but she began to accept that she had to live her truth to be happy. She was motivated to transition in 2015 when she heard the story of Christine Garcia, the first officer to transition in the San Diego Police Department. The Pulse shooting in 2016 further motivated her to be more honest with herself and the world. In August of that year, she took the first steps by sitting down with the HR department at the Sheriff’s Office. In February of 2017, she officially changed her name and gender. She works 100 hours of overtime every month because she is saving up for her reassignment surgery. Rebecca says she has mostly found acceptance at work. Sheriff Jerry Demings said that having a trans deputy is an asset because “communities are best served by police agencies with a workforce reflective of the demographics they serve.” Rebecca was honored by the LGBTQ community last year when she was chosen as the Community Grand Marshal of the Come Out With Pride Orlando parade. Through this important first, Rebecca is able to serve the community in a more profound way, as well as educate her colleagues about transgender issues so that they can also, in turn, better serve Orange County. Her bold transition also serves as inspiration for all of us to live our own truth.
Do you know a Central Florida woman who is making history? Please tell us about her! Email rachel@orlandocontentmarking.