As a lifetime resident of Central Florida, Mark Byrd’s passion for the place he calls home is evident. This proud Ocoee and Apopka native spent many years advocating for his community and is now advocating to represent it on a higher level.
In the early days of his career in the nursery industry, Byrd realized that he was being regulated and legislated out of business. So he became involved on varying levels with Florida Foliage Association, Florida Nurserymen Grower Landscape Association and Florida Farm Bureau, among other organizations.
“All of this started in an effort to, in an organized way, tell the story of my community, tell the story of agriculture and, in doing so, I’ve had a working relationship with the orange county commission.”
Now, Byrd is looking to represent Orange County Commission – District 2 in the upcoming election, something his grown sons, Nicholas and Seth, encouraged him to do because of his “servant’s heart.” District 2 covers Pine Hills north of Silver Star, Ocoee north of Highway 50 and runs up to the Winter Garden and Apopka county lines. The large, scattered district also covers part of Mt. Dora, Eatonville and Lockhart, and it runs up to the Wekiva River basin.
“I attended church for 34 years in Pine Hills,” Byrd says. “I was born and raised 16 years in Ocoee and lived my entire adult life in Clarcona with an Apopka address. I truly have been all over the district my entire life.”
Byrd considers addressing the needs of his constituents the most important part of the county commissioner role.
“To do that is to stay in touch with your neighbors, your extended neighbors around the district and be in touch with what’s going on in your community,” he says.
His goals include identifying the vital services that residents are paying for and ensuring they receive them in a timely, efficient manner. He also wants to make the Orange County experience a better experience by providing more user-friendly communication as well as ensure the safety of residents. When it comes to the area’s growth, Byrd will work to maintain the rural setting of the district’s many small towns while recognizing that there are areas where growth is more natural.
While he didn’t make a career out of politics, Byrd believes he brings something new to the table.
“You never see anything clearer than the first time you see it,” he says. “Fresh eyes see the obvious. I think that’s why you need a fresh approach and fresh eyes in this district.”
Through his campaigning, Byrd has not only connected with his neighbors, but he also had a rare chance to take a look inside his family home on Cardinal Street in Ocoee, a home he hasn’t seen since he was 16 years old. Memories came rushing back when he saw the room he grew up in, the corner where the Christmas tree always stood and the addition his father built onto the house. It was a reminder of how far he has come and how far he wants to go.