Disney World’s Reedy Creek firefighters endorse DeSantis despite law to abolish district
“He has been the most pro-first responder governor that I have seen in my entire 37 years in Florida,” said Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters President Jon Shirey
ORLANDO, Fla. — Firefighters caught up in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ battle with The Walt Disney Co. are endorsing his reelection campaign.
The Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters joined other unions Tuesday at an endorsement event for DeSantis’ campaign at the Hilton Orlando.
The union’s 200 members face an uncertain future after DeSantis signed legislation abolishing the Reedy Creek Improvement District effective June 1, 2023. That district employs firefighters, paramedics and others who provide vital services to Disney World and neighboring properties.
Jon Shirey, the union’s president, said he trusts DeSantis will take care of Reedy Creek’s firefighters and paramedics. So far no written plan has been released publicly explaining what will happen to their jobs and benefits when the district dissolves.
“He has been the most pro-first responder governor that I have seen in my entire 37 years in Florida,” Shirey said. “We’re pretty confident that no matter how this thing shakes out with Reedy Creek that we’re going to be fine.”
DeSantis clashed with Disney over its opposition to what opponents call the “don’t say gay” law. DeSantis vowed to end the Reedy Creek district, which allows the entertainment giant to effectively self-govern its Florida theme park properties.
Despite that high-profile measure, Shirey said DeSantis has supported a variety of other items that swayed union members, including legislation addressing firefighter occupational cancer and a “hometown heroes” program that provides down-payment assistance to first-time homebuyers.
“Our small issue with Reedy Creek doesn’t supersede the overall good that he’s done for the state,” Shirey said. “And again, we’re confident that when this is all said and done, we’ll be fine.”
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The Florida Professional Firefighters, which represents 27,000 firefighters and emergency medical services personnel across the state, is endorsing DeSantis.
DeSantis touted his record in a speech that garnered cheers from union members clad in yellow t-shirts, highlighting his opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and $1,000 bonuses that went to law enforcement officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and firefighters.
Pandemic relief money from the federal government helped to cover the costs of those bonuses.
“You can count on me to be in your corner,” DeSantis told the firefighters.
The governor attended another event Tuesday in Orlando that recognized Florida’s teacher of the year finalists.
Shirey said he expects to learn more about the future of the Reedy Creek Fire Department when the Florida Legislature convenes in March after the election.
“We have some ideas of what potentially is going to happen but nothing concrete,” he said. “That’ll be up for the legislature to decide this upcoming session.”
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