When Patty Sheehan, encouraged by friends, ran for Orlando City Council the first time in 1996, she narrowly missed a run off by 75 votes.
As the late Betty Carter (former Supervisor of Elections) told her, “The only thing that gets politics out of your blood is embalming fluid.”
She ran again in 2000, knocked on over 5000 doors, and beat the incumbent, serving as City of Orlando’s District 4 Commissioner ever since. District 4 runs from the Millenia Mall, down I-4, encompasses Rosalind East of downtown, most of the historic districts, runs over to Colonialtown, over to East Central Park, and runs through the center of the city of Orlando. It is the only district that has a common boundary with every other district.
She was awarded the Diversity Champion Award by the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in 2013.
A UCF graduate with a bachelor of arts in art, Commissioner Sheehan was the first openly-gay elected official in Central Florida, and passed non-discrimination protections and Domestic Partnership legislation for the LGBT community. She is an urban agriculture advocate, and has championed community gardens and urban chickens and also worked with the Trust for Public Land to acquire the Orlando Urban Trail (OUT).
Commissioner Sheehan enjoys many outdoor activities including painting, gardening, riding her Vespa, and Dragon Boat racing. She is a huge proponent of the arts and culture in Orlando, and is also a local artist who exhibits her “Bad Kitty” paintings in local clubs and shops. She lives in Colonialtown North in a 1928 Bungalow with her puppy Sienna, a diva cat named Nina Simone, 3 urban chickens named Peep, Cheep, and Bleep, and an assortment of tropical fish.
What are some of the issues that are effecting your district today?
I would say that the pressing issues are encouraging better infill development, preserving the charm of our downtown neighborhoods, encouraging small business growth and ensuring public safety.
What are some important things you have been working on as City of Orlando Commissioner?
I love historic preservation and architecture, having served on the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council for 12 years. I championed the purchase of the additional 1.3 acres along Washington Street in Lake Eola Park and also the restoration of the Eola House and the Lake Eola fountain. I support our thriving Main-Street program. And I absolutely adore our Lake Eola swans and supported a program to provide them with proper nutrition and veterinary care. The most difficult thing I work on is sidewalks. There is a reason we are among the top pedestrian fatality cities in America. People freak out whenever we install sidewalks. But it is a safety issue, and we must allow people to walk through our city safely.
What are some of your favorite local Asian restaurants and events?
My favorite Asian Restaurants are Pho 88, Little Saigon, Chan’s, TaKo Cheena, Thai House, and Bikkuri Sushi. My favorite festivals are the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival at the Fairgrounds, and of course, the Dragon Parade Festival in Mills 50, which was a dream come true for me. As the Commissioner who represents a large portion of the Asian business district, I attend many festivals and loved the ceremonial aspects like the lion dance and martial arts, and dragon boats. I thought it would be wonderful to open that up to the general public, and Mills 50, with the help of Agnes Chau, Pauline Ho, Shally Wong, and Gary Lau have made it happen.
What would you say to inspire those who want to make their community a better place?
The only way to make your community a better place is to volunteer and get involved. I started as a volunteer with my neighborhood association and neighborhood watch block captain. There is a saying I hold dear, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” I don’t think you can be an effective leader without being invested in your community. The only way to do that is with sweat equity, by volunteering.