Decision Apopka 2018
Apopka City Commission Candidate Feature: Seat #2 Commissioner Diane Velazquez
Commissioner Diane Velazquez has a heart for Apopka. She has been a consistent voice for unity in the city as well as on the City Council. If there is an event in Apopka, she is most likely in attendance.
In 2014, Velazquez burst onto the Apopka political scene with a surprising victory over 18-year incumbent Marilyn Ustler-McQueen with 55% of the vote. Her margin of victory was the largest in that election cycle – outperforming both Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and Commissioner Sam Ruth, who were both eventual winners in runoffs.
And after becoming a commissioner, she immediately began to define its role.
“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.”
Velazquez is challenged by Leroy Bell, Alicia Koutsoulieris, and Alice Nolan for her re-election to the Apopka City Commission Seat #2, and in this race, she is drawing on her experiences both as an Apopka resident and in her previous career.
Velazquez is a retired New York City Police detective who achieved the rank of Detective 2nd Grade, serving as a medical insurance fraud investigator for the agency. During her career, she attended and successfully completed several investigative courses within the agency. She also attended weekend college courses at Nassau Community College, in Long Island.
She has been actively involved in the community since moving to Apopka in April of 2005. She is married to Ed Velazquez, who is also a retired law enforcement officer and a Vietnam veteran. One of Velazquez’s two sons, Samuel, is a police officer and also served overseas with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. Velazquez has also served as a volunteer in school and sporting events for her two young grandchildren.
She is proud of her role on the City Council and her public service to the community, but perhaps her most cherished moment was her effort to obtain an artifact of one of the original Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, which was in assistance for Apopka Boy Scout Christian Lamphere’s Eagle Scout project. In just a few months, she was awarded one of the last remaining artifacts. Her husband Ed drove to New York City to bring it to Apopka, where it was unveiled to the public as part of Lamphere’s 9/11 Memorial at City Hall on September 11, 2016.
“It changed my life and it changed my husband’s life,” said Velazquez, referring to 9/11. “We can never forget the events that happened that day. This project has brought our community together for a very special remembrance of September 11th and galvanized a patriotic spirit in everyone involved. To see how bright our future is, you just need to see how this community came together to make a boy scout’s dream come true. When confronted with obstacles, he found a way around them. He challenged all of us. He challenged me. His persistence has given us strength. And we have to remain a united community.”
She was also excited to play a role in bringing Apopka Fire Station #5 online in 2018.
“For me, this is such a crowning glory,” she said at its grand opening. “I have been involved with the fire department from the very beginning. And to see it come to fruition… to actually see it become a reality is very emotional for me. I absolutely love our first responders. As a retired and former first responder, I understand what it is to serve and so to get this fire station finished is a blessing. I thank each and every one of you who served here.”
Velazquez is also an advocate for the economic development in Apopka.
“As I have stated many times before, Apopka is a growing community. Its location makes it a favorable and attractive place for families that want to settle here. Not only are they setting roots in Apopka, but businesses are following the growth trend. This trend will affect Apopka and Central Florida as a whole for many years to come.”
No matter the outcome, Velazquez will continue to be in service to the community, and a champion of unity in Apopka.