Dick Batchelor’s advocacy for children has benefited hundreds of thousands of students in Orange County for more than three decades and bolstered the Central Florida economy by billions of dollars.
Batchelor was born in Fort Bragg, NC, one of seven children. His parents were tenant tobacco farmers before moving to Orlando in 1957, where his father worked in construction and later as a carpenter. After several years living in low-income housing, the Batchelor family moved into a home in the Orlo Vista neighborhood. He graduated from Evans High School in 1966, after which he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam, earning the rank of Corporal.
Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Batchelor earned degrees from Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida. In 1974, he became the youngest person to be elected to the Florida Legislature, where he served eight years, five of which were in leadership roles. He was the recipient of more than 50 awards for his legislative service.
Following his time in the legislature, Batchelor founded a consulting firm and has been deeply involved in the Central Florida community, especially in issues dealing with children. He currently serves on several boards, including the Florida Children’s Hospital Board, Florida Hospital Foundation Board, the First Amendment Foundation, and Central Florida Urban League Board of Directors, Florida Children’s First, and the Florida Tuskogee Airmen Board. Since 1981, he has served as the honorary chairman of the “Dick Batchelor Run for the Children,” an annual 5-K run that raises funds to treat abused children. Batchelor is frequently named one of “The 50 Most Powerful People” by Orlando Magazine.
In 2002, Batchelor founded Change 4 Kids to generate support for a half-penny sales tax to build new schools and renovate older schools in desperate need of repair in Orange County. Six previous referendum attempts had failed, but thanks to Batchelor’s work, the referendum passed with almost 60 percent of the vote. For his efforts, Batchelor was named the 2002 Central Floridian of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel.
In 2014, Batchelor once again spearheaded a successful Change 4 Kids campaign to renew the half-penny sales tax for another 10 years. The sales tax is expected to generate $2 billion to replace or refurbish schools, provide important technology upgrades and make a major economic impact on regional construction.