Val Demings’ parents—her mother a maid and her father a janitor—never graduated from high school, but they instilled in their daughter the message that Demings could “Do more, be more and have more.” After 24 years in law enforcement, Demings was appointed to Chief of Police, becoming Orlando’s first female Police Chief and proving to young girls and women everywhere that they too could do more, be more and have more.
Attending a segregated school until sixth grade, Demings overcame tremendous hardship and discrimination. Growing up black, poor and female, Demings heard her fair share of “no’s.” But for Demings, the “no’s” motivated her all the more: “The more people told me I could not do something, it just made me more and more determined to do just that.”
At the police academy, despite her small stature—5’4 tall and weighing 120lbs—and the fact that she was one of very few women, Demings was still elected class president by her peers. Unstoppable, she graduated at the top of her class and received the Board of Trustees Award for Overall Excellence. Her determination paid off as she rose up the ranks to become Chief of Police. Male officers, unfamiliar with reporting to a female boss, often challenged her authority. Over time, however, she established herself as a force to be reckoned with and received the respect she deserved. “Brains are much more important than brawn in police work.”
In addition to making a name for herself as Chief of Police, Demings also met her husband and “biggest cheerleader” Jerry Demings while in the force. Like Val, Jerry also had a historic career with the Orlando police force, serving as its first African American Police Chief. The two met when they were assigned to the same case, and they have continued to work together, supporting each other’s careers ever since.
Val Demings is now running for Mayor of Orange County, Florida. (We wish her the best of luck!) For more information about her campaign, visit: www.valdemings.com.