Kissimmee's first female Hispanic mayor speaks
By Brian McBride
Olga Gonzalez made Kissimmee history on Nov. 3 by being the first Hispanic female elected as mayor.
But it was never an achievement that crossed her mind.
“I never thought about it as that. I just thought about it as a person running for a position,” she said. “Most of my life I have been serving the community and I just saw myself as another person running.”
Gonzalez said she never received an endorsement, nor did she have the support of any organizations when she defeated Angela Eady 56.17 to 43.83 percent.
“It was the people that put me there. They knew that I had been working for them.”
Gonzalez, of Puerto Rican descent, was born in Harlem, N.Y. Married for 39 years, she raised 4 children, has 15 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.
After relocated to Osceola County, Gonzalez started a nonprofit organization called Church and Church and Community Assistance Program not only connects young mothers with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Health, but also provides a resource to assist senior citizens, who have diabetes, and provide job partnering.
This nonprofit, which started by donating bags of food weekly to families in need, has evolved to partner with the DCF to aid in the processing of food stamp and Medicaid applications. Soon after, the Church and Community Assistance Program became a subcontractor with one of the highest counts of applications processed in the region.
The organization developed and implemented the "one-stop shop" where families in need can acquire various services, such as health screenings, food stamps, Medicaid, food pantry, clothing bank, government referrals, social services and numerous others. The organization also provided guidance and assistance to young men and women, released from prison, seeking to re-enter the workforce.
Her mission is to expand the humanitarian services to the homeless and the unemployed, with headquarters where individuals can go to apply for aid.
Gonzalez has also been a pioneer in installing small libraries, better known as "Little Free Library." These libraries were designated in low-income areas to promote reading, lower dropout rates, and encourage social interaction among children, youth, and adults where the community can exchange books for free.
As mayor, she hoped to bring attention to the working poor in the city. Oftentimes, residents seeking help from certain organizations make too much money to qualify for aid, Gonzalez said.
“Things happen. Your car breaks down. You need a car to get to work,” she added. You have to use your rent to fix it. What are you going to do. It has a domino effect on a person’s life.”
After Gonzalez was sworn in as mayor on Nov. 17, she got some advice for outgoing Mayor Jose Alvarez. He told Gonzalez to put her trust into City Manager Mike Steigerwald and his staff.
“Olga, lean on them. They will never guide you in the wrong direction,” he said. “I know Olga, you are going to take that baton and continue taking the city and moving it forward.”
Gonzalez, who served the past four years as a city commissioner, said as mayor, she would do her best to listen to residents and do what best for all.
“Together we are going to do marvelous things,” she said.