Mercado sworn in as Florida’s 1st Puerto Rican woman property appraiser

Read the story in The Orlando Sentinel.

Amy Mercado, the first Puerto Rican woman elected property appraiser — not only in Orange County, but in Florida — took the oath of office surrounded by family Tuesday during a ceremony at which she thanked voters in Spanish for giving her the opportunity to serve.

“The honor and responsibilities do not escape me,” she said.

In a short speech, Mercado fought off tears while thanking her mother and her grandmother, describing both as “super strong and independent Latinas.”

She also praised her father, state Sen. Victor Torres, for a lifetime of community service as a police officer in New York City and a bus driver here, and a “super-Republican uncle,” Hector Rodriguez, for challenging her Democratic views.

She also thanked trail-blazing women of Orange County who helped make her election possible.

Because of COVID-19, the ceremony was staged on the lawn of the Orange County Administration Building with chairs six feet apart and spectators and office-holders wearing facial coverings to protect against spreading the virus.

Four other re-elected constitutional officers also reaffirmed their oaths, and all spoke about the hardships of 2020.

“This [past] year has been very difficult and challenging for us and for everybody in the community,” said Comptroller Phil Diamond, beginning his second four-year term as the county’s money manager and fiscal watchdog. “But our future is much brighter.”

He lauded his staff who worked remotely or in split shifts yet fulfilled their duties to pay the county’s bills and workers.

Diamond said they also wrote 50,000 COVID relief checks to help families struggling with the pandemic’s economic pain.

Clerk of Courts Tiffany Moore Russell, also beginning her second term, said her mission remains unchanged.

“We will continue to increase access to justice for our citizens in this community,” she said.

Tax Collector Scott Randolph, beginning his third four-year term, spoke about the challenge of providing services to the public amid a pandemic blamed for over 750 deaths here since March, when county Mayor Jerry Demings first declared a state-of-emergency.

He said his 300 employees show up daily to face the public despite worries about the virus.

“Whether it’s [helping] a homeowner at risk of losing their property or a truck driver who needs to renew their commercial driver’s license in order to haul essential goods, our workforce served more than 470,000 customers in person since we reopened in May,” he said.

Elections Supervisor Bill Cowles, first elected in 1996, said election workers managed to keep every polling site open.

“Not a single election-supervisor employee got the virus,” he said. “As far as we know, all of our poll-workers: no virus. This community was safe, and we were able to conduct the election safely [and] efficiently this past year. We are set here in Orange County.”

Mercado won the appraiser’s seat by defeating incumbent Democrat Rick Singh in the August primary.

“Now, on to the real work at hand, which is fighting to get out of this pandemic,” she said.

She concluded in Spanish, saying, “Juntos logramos todos,” which translates to, “Together we accomplish everything.”