Candidate Feature – Bill Arrowsmith (Incumbent Seat #4)
Bill Arrowsmith is an institution in Apopka. He believes experience is an asset, not a liability. He worked with former Mayor John Land for decades, fiercely defends his accomplishments and reveres his friendship and memory. He talks about legacies and values building a reserve in the City’s budget more than building a costly vision.
He is the 39-year incumbent of Seat #4 running against first-time candidates Kyle Becker and Young Kim, and its possible this will be his last campaign. In fact he almost didn’t run this time.
“There are certain people who have attended every city council meeting for the last couple of years. If they had stepped up and said they were running, I probably wouldn’t have run. But we (he and his wife Janine) talked about it in November in detail,” he said. “We received a lot of encouragement from the community. I think that’s the reason we did it again. I just had a lot of encouragement to run. We knew it would be a lot of work, and we know there’s a lot of people working against us, but a lot of people are working for us too.”
And he sees a seat on the City Council as an honor you earn, not one you win.
“Part of my makeup is to be as involved as I can be, to help this city. To just hand this seat over to someone with zero experience in office, and zero experience in the community? That’s like wasting 40 years as far as I’m concerned. I want to leave the legacy in someone’s hands that’s educated in the community. I feel strongly that if you’re going to get involved in public service, you should start with community service. Attend City Council meetings. It just gives you better footing. Unfortunately when you have people who decide to do that, to jump in without that experience, well it’s unfortunate.”
Despite being criticized for being on the City Council for 39 years, he still points to his experience as a valuable tool in governing Apopka.
“My experience is the value I can add. Just from past experiences of what not to do and what to do again. That’s my biggest advantage. When it comes to everything, I feel like I can take my experience from the past and apply it. By the virtue of being there so long it gives me the opportunity to draw from – good and bad. And I’m not afraid to admit to my mistakes in the past as far as decisions we made – and you try not to repeat those mistakes.”
“It’s (the City budget) not as strong as it has been in the past. We’re spending reserves. In the past we had a history of building strong reserves and we operated within the budget. I don’t have a comfortable feeling with our financial report. We had a 14-year relationship with the past Financial Director. He won awards. He was outstanding, and did a great job with the budget. Now you ask a question and you have three different people looking in different directions to see whose going to come up with an answer.”
It is in part because of what he believes are budget inefficiencies and his observations on the campaign trail that leads Arrowsmith to think that if Mayor Joe Kilsheimer were running this term, he might not survive.
“When you knock on doors, you hear a lot of things. They ask me ‘how do you get along with this new mayor?’ I tell them we don’t share the same philosophy. And then they say ‘I’m going to vote for you’ 100% of the time. I think if he (Kilsheimer) were running for re-election today, from the number of responses I have gotten, he would be in trouble.”
Arrowsmith attended the Visioning Apopka workshops, but warns each of these ideas comes with a price tag.
“The visioning process told me about the same thing as I’ve always heard. We did one in 2010. There’s a booklet from our visioning process back then. Well, let’s look at that 2010 visioning process and see if we can expand on that or implement it before we spend $125,000 on this group. These visionaries come in with all their elevations and their drawings and all kind of stuff and it looks wonderful, but who’s going to pay for it? It will be interesting to see what the end result is and it will be more interesting to see how they will fund it.”
“I’m 95% sure I won’t be running again. I’d like to take the next four years to groom my successor.”
Despite this campaign possibly being his last, he has enjoyed talking to the voters.
“It’s been a challenge. We spent a lot of hours knocking on doors. It updates your perspective. It enlightens you. We’ve had a lot of good experiences. A lot of very favorable comments from people. We probably have 500 yard signs in people’s yards. It’s been from the voter’s standpoint a very positive experience. And we’ve said from the beginning we would run a positive campaign. And we’ve had a lot of abuse thrown at us. My opponent has nothing positive to say, so he has no choice but to go negative. But we just keep going forward.”