By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

I love a good debate.

I have probably seen every Presidential debate since Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter squared-off in 1980. I have attended dozens of debates and townhalls and watched hundreds on television and online. Political campaigns are often a singular process where candidates typically run in their own lanes, knock on doors and give speeches without the presence of their opponents, but in a debate, there is no hiding. It’s where the swords clash into one another, and the truth is often discovered.

The Apopka Voice held its first two townhalls last Wednesday and Thursday night for Seats #1 and #2 of the Apopka City Commission. And while I may have seen a lot of debates and townhalls, moderating one is a completely different experience than watching from the audience I must admit.

I will never be critical of a moderator again.

Denise Badger (who was the facilitator both nights) and I would like to commend all eight candidates who participated in the two townhall events – Leroy Bell, Suzanne Kidd, Alicia Koutsoulieris, Gene Knight, Theresa Mott, Alice Nolan, Alexander Smith, and Commissioner Diane Velazquez.

All eight of you conducted yourselves professionally and in my opinion flourished under a rather unusual format. All of you made your points well, explained your approaches to governing effectively, and illustrated your ideological philosophies to the point that any undecided voters in attendance left with enough information from these townhalls to make a decision.

And isn’t that what townhalls/debates are all about?

I think the voters were better served by making this an opportunity for each candidate to go deeper with their ideas, philosophies, and plans if they were to be elected to the Apopka City Commission.

 I asked that none of you attack another candidate during your responses, and you followed the rules and explained your opinions and approach to the Apopka City Commission. That is why I gave you the questions in advance. I wanted the voters of Apopka to see you at your very best, and I think they did.
 Not only did you not criticize your co-candidates, but several times you agreed with them, and even helped them on occasion, which I’m pretty sure they discourage in debate school. But on these two nights, it was a refreshing change from the negative campaigns that are so prominent these days.
 Yes, I have seen a lot of debates in my life, but the townhalls for Seat #1 and Seat #2 on Wednesday and Thursday night were two of my favorites.
 Here are some of the highlights from the Wednesday night townhall for Seat #2:


Diane Velazquez was asked to define her role as a city commissioner:

Apopka City Commissioner Diane Velazquez

“It’s more than just reviewing and deciding on new city projects, proposals, city charter changes, and any other issues the city and its residents may face in the ever-changing future of our city.  Additionally, the role of a city commissioner is to make decisions on facts and taking into consideration the needs of the community at large. When I say, “More than just decision making,” It’s my opinion that commissioners need to be in contact with the community at all times.  A commissioner needs to attend community meetings, attend organizational meetings and gatherings, attend school functions and church services.  I have been invited to many church services in our community and I have attended almost all the services that I was invited to.  Staying in touch with the residents, business people and others that visit and are in contact with our city is a very important part of being a city commissioner.”

Alicia Koutsoulieris was asked to explain why she wanted to be an Apopka City Commissioner even though she was relatively unknown to the community:

Alicia Koutsoulieris 
 “For several years, I’ve worked and volunteered with organizations that help those in need in the community. It’s my responsibility to do my part when and where I can to help.  To serve as a City Commissioner, this would be another opportunity to continue that work in a new capacity.”
Alice Nolan was asked what she would do if the will of the people and the knowledge she gained through research and understanding of an issue didn’t line up? Which direction would she go?

 “My job as a City Commissioner is to inform the citizens on what is coming up to the

Alice Nolan

Council and implement what the citizens want their city to be. I would sit down with citizens to see why they felt different.  Usually, in these situations, someone has more information than the other, in the end, though, my job is to do the will of the people.”

Leroy Bell

Leroy Bell was asked about the budget and the general fund reserve. He explained why he would want to increase the reserve:

 “After doing research and looking at cities outside and in the area I think 25% is about right. And I think to get there we need to go through the budget and cut all the fat out of it. And secondly over time when we get the reserves back together, not to fall into the same rabbit hole again, what I think we should do is put policies in place as to when we can use the reserve so that we don’t go back to where we are today. We don’t have to raise taxes. There is a lot of fat in the budget we can cut, and we can start now. We can go through the budget line by line and I think we’ll be on our way.”


  1. I see the Apopka Voice has failed to post anything about the debate. That is debate for Seat 2 I guess the the dog ate the footage or the editorial. So in my opinion Reggie your complicit in trying to deny Mr. Bell a fair opportunity to have the People her his message. You keep his original interview for more than three weeks.
    Yet you found the time to post a photo shot of the debate for Seat 1 to many excuses on your part. Mr Bell owned that debate. The other three had no clue. Like my other post. You take then down God for bid someone gets to read and honest opinion or comment.

    • Mr. Bell is quoted in this very article as is each Seat #2 candidate. He is also pictured in the article as is every Seat #2 candidate. I’m not sure why you keep posting the exact same message that I’m trying to hinder Mr. Bell’s opportunity to present his message, and I don’t know why you keep posting that I’m deleting your comments. Every single comment you have made is still on the site and on The Apopka Voice Facebook page.

  2. I went to the 3 campaign events for the Apopka City Council Commissioner hopefuls. One thing I did notice after last night’s event at the big church on 441 was, that if appeared to me, that one of the candidates had flip-flopped her position on the subject of annexing South Apopka since the March 1st event at Highland Manor, when she wasn’t in favor of annexing at this time, is what I thought I heard from her…then a total turn around, and change of stance, at the big church event where she was in favor of annexing…..???????? This is what I thought I heard.

  3. I really liked the manner in which Leroy Bell, the candidate for Seat 2 for Apopka City Commissioner, commanded attention to his cause, by standing up from his seat, when it was his time to speak, and walked around to the front of the stage as to command attention from the audience, as I said, and to make his presence larger and more important….. I think his standing was a brilliant move for a debate, rather than to remain seated, at the big church campaign event last night!

  4. I am going to give you my opinion on who I think really shined like a beacon on a lighthouse at last night’s debate, and IMO it was Theresa Mott. She told of a vast array of volunteer and charitable work that she has been engaged in over the years, that I didn’t have a clue, that she had done all of this work, that she had not bragged on herself before, like some people do, over and over….. A Red Cross volunteer, a Salvation Army member, all kinds of work, where she was an officer in clubs, boards she is on, or been on in the past, etc. She did so well in answering the questions too, with clarity, and she has compassion for both the residents of Apopka, and of the residents of South Apopka, that are in the county, and while she looks to the subject of annexation, she doesn’t want to impose hardships on people who are of low income with annexation, taxes, and other impactful local government actions, and she indicates those people need to be heard, and considered carefully. That is one big plus in my book, COMPASSION and CARING! Listen to the people of this community when they speak and tell you their beliefs! Plus at the end of the talks, she told how very much she is excited, anxious, and ready and willing to be your Seat 1 Commissioner on the Apopka City Council, and how she respectfully asks for your vote! Go Theresa!!!!!


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