The Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce’s April Morning Mingle/Breakfast & Learn series: Featuring Apopka City Commissioner Alexander H. Smith
By Reggie Connell/Publisher and Managing Editor of The Apopka Voice
The Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce continued its impressive lists of guests at this month’s Morning Mingle-Breakfast & Learn series, sponsored and hosted by AdventHealth Apopka.
Robert Agrusa, the Chamber president, has transformed the event into an opportunity for members to meet leaders from a wide range of areas that include business as well as government and politics. In 2019, the list includes Clark Jackson, the senior manager of the US Chamber of Commerce, Vicki Simmons, the tax director for Moore, Stephens and Lovelace CPA’s, that audit the books of the City of Apopka and other municipalities in Florida, and District 7 Orange County School Board member Melissa Byrd.
”The Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce has been focused on leading, connecting and serving the businesses and community leaders of the Apopka area, through educational and engaging opportunities such as our monthly Morning Mingles – Breakfast and Learn,” said Agrusa. “By helping our members build positive relationships with our federal, state, and locally elected officials, we hope to foster an environment of collaboration that helps us address the issues of tomorrow.”
This week, the Chamber turned to local politics with an invitation to Alexander H. Smith, the Apopka City Commissioner from Seat #1. Smith, who has been on the Council a little over a year now, spent his morning with chamber members speaking candidly about his life and his hopes, dreams, and plans for Apopka.
And in that year, his priorities have not changed.
“My hot buttons for Apopka are recreation for the youth, affordable housing, infrastructure, and education,” he said, pivoting to affordable housing during the first question taken by one of the 50-plus members in attendance.
“I see developers coming into Apopka and building homes, but people who want to live here can’t afford them. A college graduate making $40,000-50,000 per year can’t afford these homes. So it’s because of that we lose talented members of the community who leave here and never come back. We need to keep the talent of Apopka in Apopka. So we need to do something about affordable housing and maintain the caliber of people we have. It’s time to make partnerships and make this happen. We have to collaborate with builders because people deserve affordable housing. Other cities are doing it, so we have to look at what they’re doing and copy that model.”
“When I was campaigning I wanted a swimming pool in Apopka. I think we need one. We have two high schools here and they have to pay for the swim teams to practice at a pool that’s not in the city. That’s ridiculous. We need to have a swimming pool in our community.”
Despite his frustration and desire to bring a pool to the city, Smith does see improvement made.
“The Alonzo Williams Park has been renovated. That provides some recreational activity, but it’s not enough. We need to work with the county to enhance the recreational opportunities for our students. And I see it as a major issue. And we are working towards that. We’re doing more renovation o the Fran Carlton Center, and Kit Land Nelson Park as well. We have a great sports complex (Northwest Recreation Facility), but there’s no way for some of the students to get there after school. They can’t drive, so it’s not accessible. So we need to look at doing something else at the parks around the city.”
“We thank Commissioner Smith for his leadership and willingness to serve our community,” said Agrusa. “And we look forward to continuing our partnership with the City of Apopka moving forward.”
According to Agrusa, the next Morning Mingle on May 14th will feature a disaster preparedness expert ahead of Hurricane Season, which begins on June 1st. Then in June Jennifer Sullivan, who currently serves as a member of the Florida House of Representatives representing the 31st District (which includes Apopka) will be the featured guest to give the Chamber an update on what happened in the 2019 Florida Legislature.