Mayor Joe Kilsheimer surprised the City Council with his suggestion of appointing himself and Commissioner Diane Velazquez to the Board of The Lake Apopka Natural Gas District (LANGD) during his “Mayor’s Report” at the previous meeting of The City Council. It appears that none of the commissioners nor City Attorney Cliff Shepard were made aware.
But none were more surprised than Commissioner Billie Dean.
Dean, a 21-year Apopka Commissioner and The Vice Mayor, is a current LANGD Board member along with former Commissioner Bill Arrowsmith. During the Mayor’s Report it became clear Kilsheimer intended to replace them both. And while Dean was somewhat silent during the Council discussion, he isn’t any longer.
He released this scathing email to The Apopka Voice in response to Kilsheimer:
“As everyone is aware, I presently sit on the board and there was absolutely no professional consideration granted to my service as Secretary on the board and my experience, nor my education. I hold a Bachelors’ and a Masters’ degree in Agriculture and Administration and Supervision. Further, I am insulted that this important item was not placed on the agenda for all to see… but rather placed on the mayor’s report, thus surprising, I hope the entire council, and city staff, legal included and the citizens of our city.”
Arrowsmith agrees that Dean should remain on the LANGD Board.
“Commissioner Dean has two years of experience now,” he said. “And Mrs. (Commissioner Diane) Velazquez would have nothing to add. Leaving him (Dean) on is the right thing to do.”
According to Velazquez, Shepard advised her not to comment on the LANGD matter.
“At the advice from City Attorney, I cannot comment on this matter, RE: LANGD” she said in a text message to The Apopka Voice.
“I presently sit on the board and there was absolutely no professional consideration granted to my service as Secretary on the board and my experience, nor my education.”
-Commissioner Billie Dean
As of 5pm today, Shepard did not respond to a voicemail left at his office, but he too was caught unaware by Kilsheimer’s agenda addition.
“I wish I had known a procedural question was going to come up tonight,” he said during the City Council meeting. “I didn’t see it on the agenda or I would have already had an answer for you.”
Commissioner Doug Bankson is reserving his comments for the next City Council meeting, but was clearly surprised by the topic.
“I haven’t seen these last two items… have they been added?” Bankson asked during the meeting. “I’d feel more comfortable having it discussed.”
Becker confirmed he was also unaware of Kilsheimer’s desire to be on the LANGD board.
“That was the first I heard of it,” he stated.
He went on to say he would prefer to have time to review any issues that come before the City Council.
“If decisions are required of me, I want to have all the information at hand,” he said. “Being an analyst, I’m more of a preparer. I like to research a subject. I like to prepare a little bit more.”
He welcomes the discussion at the upcoming City Council meeting however.
“The issues are still there. The problem hasn’t been solved. There are still things to work out. I want to make sure that whomever sits on that Board has the best interests of Apopka in mind. I want whatever gets done at LANGD to be transparent. Some boards are ceremonial. On this Board, I want whoever represents Apopka to have an active voice.”
At debates, and in interviews during the campaign process, Becker has been that voice on LANGD issues, but he says he isn’t shooting for an appointment to the Board.
“That’s not where I’m coming from at all. I just got on the City Commission. I have enough on my schedule.”
An email to Kilsheimer this morning went unanswered as of 5pm this afternoon. However he had plenty to say during the City Council discussion.
“The absolute truth is I’ve raised some issues, as everyone kind of knows. Because of my professional background, I have a great deal of experience in utility issues, and so I feel like I have the expertise. And I also have specific knowledge on how LANGD operates. And I also have specific input from businesses in Northwest Orange County, and not just nurseries, who are concerned at how LANGD conducts its business and how that affects their business.”
Dean also thinks he has that knowledge and experience to remain on the Board.
“I unequivocally wish to continue my service on the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District board,” Dean said.