Decision Apopka 2018

Opinion/Analysis

By Reggie Connell/Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice

Diane Velazquez ran a good runoff campaign. After a narrow loss to challenger Alice Nolan in the March 13th general election, the incumbent Apopka City Commissioner for Seat #2 got up from the political mat, dusted herself off, and made all the right moves and said all the right things. She attended nearly every event in the Apopka community. She made statements on social media making it clear she could work well with Mayor-Elect Bryan Nelson. She made an impassioned closing statement to approximately 400 Errol residents at a special City Council meeting that drew big applause. She did the things a candidate does to rebound from a disappointing result and return a month later ready to compete again.

Apopka City Commissioner Diane Velazquez

But in the end, the handwriting was on the wall.

This runoff, like the general election results, was a mandate. In many ways, it mirrored the mayoral election in which Nelson defeated Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer with 63.4% of the votes.

Nolan rode the momentum of her narrow victory the previous month to defeat Velazquez in the runoff election and claim a spot on the City Council. But this time with no other candidates in the Seat #2 field, the results were far more one-sided

Nolan received 1,702 votes (58.95%), compared to Velazquez with 1,185 (41.05%). Although it was less than half the votes cast in the record-breaking general election only a month ago, the 2,889 voters that did cast a ballot spoke with the same voice as the 6,493 voters on March 13th.

Commissioner-Elect Alice Nolan

Despite the lowest turnout in an Apopka municipal election since 2012, the message was clear that they wanted to change course, and they wanted to give Nelson a City Council that would support his approach.

Nolan, the 29-year-old sixth-generation Apopka resident that joined the Seat #2 City Commission race during the last week of qualifying, was humbled by the thought of representing the city as a commissioner.

“I first want to thank everyone who came out to vote, who supported their candidate by volunteering or donating. And I want to thank every family member for their patience and understanding during this campaign. It is an honor and great responsibility to serve my hometown, and to help bring everyone together to work for a future for generations to come. I look forward to working with the citizens to bring positive changes, working together as a community, and dedicate our time to grow Apopka while keeping true to our history. I thank Diane for her service to our community and the words of encouragement she said to me as we transition. Again, thank you Apopka for giving me the opportunity to work for you. Apopka, Let’s Work Together.”

Velazquez described the moment she congratulated Nolan.

“At 7 pm, at the Northwest Recreation Complex Voting Precinct, I walked over to congratulate the newly elected commissioner Alice Nolan. We talked and hugged. I wish Ms. Nolan success in her new journey serving our city. Thank you to all the voters who participated in this election cycle.”

Later in response to a post on social media, Velazquez described the highlights of her term in office.

“These past four years have been a journey I could never have imagined. I loved what I was doing. The best part of it was going out into the community, into the schools, attending church services, supporting all the local events, patronizing our local businesses, welcoming new ones, and getting to know the families and everyone who called Apopka their home. My life has been enriched by this experience, serving the City of Apopka. With the newly elected Mayor Bryan Nelson and two newly-elected Commissioners Smith and Nolan, I wish them success, as they are now charged with serving the Apopka residents for the next four years. It was with a heart full of love and dedication that I served. Thank you, Apopka.”

Showing grace under pressure and adversity is not a quality that can be taught. It is not a political tactic that can be employed when the time calls for it. It has to come from within. Throughout her term, Velazquez has always displayed this grace.

Thank you, Commissioner Velazquez, for your lifetime of public service to the residents of New York City, and especially to the residents of Apopka. Your time in office will not be forgotten.

And congratulations to Commissioner-Elect Nolan. You ran a positive, energy-filled campaign and Apopka looks forward to your service on the City Council.

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