CANDIDATE FEATURE – KYLE BECKER (Challenger for Seat #4)
Kyle Becker is an action figure. He is a verb in a world full of nouns. Most politicians want to sit at a table, discuss differences, and hear their constituent’s viewpoints and dreams for the future. Becker would rather act.
“We need to get past the noise and get to the root of the problem,” he said. “I want to get something done.”
According to his campaign website, Becker spent the majority of the past 15 years as a senior level business analyst working primarily in the financial services industry. He works with key stakeholders for the organizations he serves to understand their business needs. He analyzes those needs and helps deliver solutions to drive growth and efficiency for that business. It is the skill set Becker achieved in this profession that he believes will make him a valuable asset on the Apopka City Commission.
And his assessment of Apopka’s economic development sounds a lot like a business analyst.
“Our household median income in Apopka is $13,000 higher than the state average, yet our retail sales are only half of what Winter Garden, Sanford and Altamonte Springs bring in. Our food and hospitality sales are one third of theirs. So we have the money to spend, but our residents are just spending it elsewhere. We’re failing on both fronts. We’re missing the mark in so many ways in our city. I always want to have a mindset of things could be better. And there’s just so much room for improvement. Service delivery. A better website. A better way to interact with the business community in terms of trying to drive economic development.”
The idea of beating a 39-year incumbent might seem daunting to most, but Becker has slowly built a case for the upset. He points to two straight months of strong fundraising and a victory in The Apopka Voice’s City Commission poll two weeks ago. Becker received 213 votes to Arrowsmith’s 182.
“The poll shows that there is a large group in Apopka who thinks there needs to be some new ideas and fresh blood in office. And it shows Bill that it’s going to be a good competition until the end.”
He also sees it on the campaign trail.
At first I was apprehensive to go door-to-door, but now it’s almost therapeutic because my message is so well received. I almost never get any pushback. I think the people are really hungry for a change.”
If you are going to beat a 39-year incumbent, you’re going to have to illustrate contrast. Becker does not shy away from critiquing Arrowsmith. And while he acknowledges his opponent’s experience, he questions the effectiveness of his time in office.
“Experience is good on the surface, but what does that mean? I like golf. I’ve played for 20 years, but I’m not good. I won’t break 100. So I’m experienced at golf, but not effective. Experience isn’t everything.”
He goes on to reference an endorsement Arrowsmith received over 20 years ago.
“In 1993 the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Bill because his experience would benefit Apopka with improvements in downtown revitalization, traffic and road concerns and crime. 23 years later, are any of those better? If you ask the people of Apopka if those three things are still an issue, it would be a resounding yes. That’s the thing; experience may not get you forward. And I just have a fundamental disagreement with a person being in office for that long.”
He also differs with Arrowsmith when it comes to budget and vision.
“I don’t think Bill is on board with the visioning process. When they went around the room (at The Visioning Apopka Community Consensus Meeting) and asked people to give a one-word answer to describe the visioning process, Bill’s answer was “costly”. And I think that’s the mentality that some have. We’re all taxpayers. It’s not like I’m going to get on the council and have an open checkbook and spend money all over the place. But if we don’t get past the money part of it up front, if our first conversation is always ‘how much is it going to cost’ we will never do anything.”
Becker is an advocate for Apopka having an economic development team in place as long as they are proficient.
“I think there is value in making it a part of what the city offers. I think other cities have adopted that, embraced this idea of economic committees or departments and it has served them well. What things cost is really not as important as the value of what you’re getting. So if your return is higher than what you are investing in, then there’s value in doing it. And I just don’t think Bill wants to do that.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge Becker has faced in this election is separating himself from being labeled a rubber stamp for the current administration. Becker embraces the idea of alignment on the City Council, but also points out his independent thinking.
“Strategically I would align with the Mayor and with Sam (Commissioner Ruth). Tactically I may not. I’m running on my own merits. There’s going to be times where I disagree and I’ll vote accordingly. Are there going to be tactical differences? Absolutely. And I want to have healthy debate. Not political debate. I think friction sharpens the point. I don’t see how it’s a negative to say there would be alignment on the council. But I think for myself. And there will be times when I vote with the majority, but I have no fear of casting a no vote.”
Becker is a driven, qualified candidate who looks forward in his thinking and can focus on the task at hand. And right now, that focus is on Seat #4 of the Apopka City Commission.
“I want to win this seat and I want to deliver on what I’m describing. My biggest disappointment in myself would be if I don’t accomplish the things I’m trying to accomplish as City Commissioner.”