Decision Apopka 2018
Alice Nolan is full of surprises.
In 2016, she surprised Apopka when in her very first run for office, the 27-year-old took on then-incumbent Sam Ruth and eventual winner Doug Bankson in the Seat #3 City Commission election and received 2,159 votes (22.74%). Nolan did not qualify for the runoff, but she did leave the race with momentum for a potential 2018 run.
Then in 2017, she surprised Apopka again.
Instead of announcing her run for a city commission seat, Nolan issued this statement:
“I am humbled by the family, friends and fellow citizens of Apopka who have publicly come out to say they would support me in my endeavors to run for the City Commission. My love for Apopka, as many have seen, runs deep, and is shown through the many hours of volunteering I do for our community. With much thought and prayer, I have chosen not to run for the Apopka City Commission this term. I feel in my heart that my place in Apopka currently lies in my advocacy for its citizens and continued community service. I encourage anyone to run for office because the chair belongs to the great citizens of Apopka.”
Several Apopkans took Nolan up on her encouragement, and by the end of the year, there were nine candidates running for elected office in Apopka.
But just days into 2018, Nolan has surprised Apopka for the third time.
During the qualifying week for the Apopka city elections, Nolan changed courses again and filed to run for Seat #2 against incumbent Commissioner Diane Velazquez. She attributes the decision to the residents of Apopka.
“I had an overwhelming amount of citizens asking me to run,” Nolan said. “After listening to everyone I decided to give the citizens of Apopka an option of me being their voice. I feel not running would be ignoring them and I want their voice to be heard. I’ve always had a servants heart for my community, and when they asked it wasn’t hard for me to jump in and help out… to be that voice and to help educate, help make the decisions. It’s very natural for me to jump into positions like that for the community.”
Nolan joins Leroy Bell and Alicia Koutsoulieris in challenging Velazquez for the seat, and with her name recognition and unexpected over-performance in 2016, she would have to be considered the top challenger to Velazquez.
Nolan brings with her a common theme from her campaign in 2016 – a passion for Apopka and its residents, and a willingness to connect with them and understand their issues, challenges, and struggles.
“I really enjoy being out there in the community. I like the feel of the one-on-one personal connection you make because they’re my neighbors. There my friends. They’re the people I’m representing, and I don’t want a wall between us…or even a table. I want that personal interaction. I want to know that what we’re doing at City Hall is enhancing their lives.”
She also enjoys the diversity of opinions she is exposed to when she campaigns door-to-door.
“I love that everyone has their own opinions…everyone has ideas. It’s what makes everything so great is that we’re different. I’ve been introduced to different cultures by going door-to-door in the campaign. Sometimes you get caught up in your own group and you don’t see outside of it. Sometimes you see other ideas when you look outside your own group. Good ideas that you didn’t have before. All of the commissioners and mayor should immerse themselves in the community because you can get caught up in your own small group. But there are other ideas from other parts of the community and from other groups.”
What is different in the 2018 version of Nolan’s campaign is her focus and concern about the City budget – particularly in its general fund reserves.
“When you are dealing with the people’s money, it’s always an issue,” she said. “I want to make sure budget management stays a top priority, especially the reserves. A lot of people are worried about that, and I want to make sure we tackle that. I think there needs to be enough reserves for a potential catastrophe. Back in the early 2,000’s a microburst (similar to a tornado in intensity) hit Apopka, and there was a lot of damage done. But Apopka didn’t blink an eye because we had it in reserves to make the repairs and move on. We need to have a rainy day fund.”
Nolan is cautious about specific fixes to increase the reserves but believes it’s not a short-term project and does not think that a tax increase would help.
“I think that at this point it’s (the reserve) so depleted that it’s not an overnight fix. You can’t just raise taxes to the point that’s going to fix it. I think what you do is go through the budget and see where you can fix it in there. You should always try to find a route that is best for the citizens. Raising taxes isn’t always best. A lot of people can’t afford more money taken out of their pocket. So you need to look at as many options as possible.”
“I don’t think we have huge problems,” she said. “A lot of small ones. Everything is fixable. In Apopka, we don’t have anything that’s so huge we cant handle it. And that is great. Created problems do not create unity. That’s not going to fix anything. And in the grand scheme of things, I think we have a few small key issues that need to be taken care of, but I don’t think there’s anything so dire that it can’t be fixed. Apopka has a great foundation. We have great bones.”
Nolan wants to be a part of those fixes, and she is relying on a trait she inherited from an iconic family relative.
“One of the greatest people I’ve ever known was my grandmother,” Nolan said. “She was what people call a real spitfire. When something was on her mind to get something done, it got done. Nothing stopped her. And I think I’m a lot like her in that way. If I feel like if something is right…someone’s voice isn’t being heard and it’s the right thing to do, it’s going to get done. I won’t let go until it’s right.”
It’s that sort of persistence, and passion for Apopka and its residents that bring Nolan back to her second City Commission campaign before the age of 30.