Bakari Burns, the newly elected Commissioner for District 6 in the City of Orlando, will take office on Monday, January 13. Burns, a political newcomer, will join Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Commissioner Tony Ortiz, and Commissioner Patty Sheehan as all three will be sworn into new terms for the city.
Sam Ings, the soon-to-be former Commissioner for District 6, will leave office the day before on January 12.
To win the election, Burns beat Gary Siplin, an old political hand with close to 12 years of electoral experience. The two went to a run-off on December 3 to determine who would be the new Commissioner for the area. Burns won the run-off by besting Siplin by 1,000 votes.
Before jumping into the election earlier this year, Burns was best known for his work as CEO of the Healthcare Center for the Homeless. The organization has more than 5 health centers across Central Florida with a brand-new center opening in Orlando Commission District 5 over the summer.
Burns also served on varied city boards and his uncle, former Orlando City Commissioner Earnest Page, was a fixture at City Hall for years.
But Burns was still a newcomer and didn’t have the experience or name recognition to fight against Siplin’s political machine. Gary Siplin isn’t the only one with that last name to serve Orlando in an elected capacity. Victoria Siplin, Gary’s wife, is the commissioner for Orange County residents in District 6.
So, in the end, what was it that pushed Burns over the top? Voters were likely ready for a change. Siplin lost his previous two elections. He attempted to return to the Florida Senate in 2014 but was rebuffed by Representative Geraldine Thompson as she emerged victorious.
He tried again in 2016 as he faced Senator Randolph Bracy but lost again. This was likely Siplin’s last try at returning to political office, but it was a valiant effort. Siplin proved that he could still raise money as he pulled in $200,000 but it wasn’t enough in the end. Voters simply wanted someone new.