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Apopka Historical Society responds to critical remarks at City Council meeting



During the November 1st Apopka City Council meeting, several members of the Apopka Area Concerned Citizens Council (AACCC), and other Apopka residents used the public comments period to express their displeasure over the Apopka Historical Society's decision to not re-stock the book “The Pennings of Perrine Slim: Stories of Northwest Orange County Florida”.

On Friday, November 3rd, The Apopka Chief published an account of the meeting, which included a description of the public comments, as well as a response by Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer defending the Apopka Historical Society's actions.

On Sunday Cheryl Kilsheimer, President of the Apopka Historical Society, emailed a statement to The Apopka Voice in response to the allegations and to The Apopka Chief's article. The statement is endorsed by the vast majority of the Apopka Historical Society Board, and their names are listed at the end of the response.

Here is Cheryl Kilsheimer's statement:

"The article in The Apopka Chief, “Mayor defends criticism of his wife’s actions as group president” saddens me beyond belief. Clearly what happened at the November 1 City Council meeting was a politically motivated, manufactured stunt to hurt my husband by using me. And The Apopka Chief bought it: hook, line and sinker.

Here’s the real story: The Apopka Chief chose to do no fact checking or investigating of the claims of a group the Apopka Area Concerned Citizens Council (AACCC) to ascertain the truth. The Chief printed one side’s version of a story. Had The Chief made a simple phone call to either myself or any other board member, it could have avoided putting the community through the turmoil of such a public spectacle.

Why would The Chief publish such blatant untruths? It’s clear: The Apopka Chief intends to “carry the water” for Joe’s opponent and they will use anyone or anything – no matter how sacred to our community - to achieve their goal.

As the President of the Apopka Historical Society, I can state that the following are the unequivocal facts of what recently happened at the Museum.

  • The first paragraph of the Chief’s article states the book was “banned.” This is completely untrue. The book is indeed at the museum and has been. As a matter of fact, we have it displayed prominently along with information about where the book can be purchased. Also, the book appears on the museum website with a direct link to the publisher – Olmstead Publishing
  • In regards, to Ms. Olmstead, there was never a “disagreement.” The museum board – at several meetings – talked about her disruptive behavior. Collectively, board members decided that it was easier to not deal with her.
  • Earlier in September, Ms. Belle Gilliam ordered a case of books from Phyllis Olmstead. Ms. Gilliam did not seek the permission from the board. Gilliam’s son-in-law delivered them to the museum. The board considered the invoiced delivery of the books and decided it was best to send the books back to Phyllis Olmstead.
  • The board also asked me to go and speak to Ms. Gilliam in order to explain its decision. Our board members wanted to ensure that we were being considerate and transparent to Ms. Gilliam.
  • Along with another board member, I went to speak to Ms. Gilliam. To our surprise, Phyllis Olmstead, the proprietor of Olmstead Publishing and Ms. Gilliam’s daughter, Ms. Beverly Byrd and her husband were also there. There was no demand, no yelling or getting in anyone’s face by either myself or the other board member. This was intended to be a nice visit and we had no intention of upsetting Belle.
  • It pains me personally that anyone would mischaracterize our intentions or the visit itself as an attempt to attack an elderly woman. This version of events reported in The Apopka Chief is absurd. If The Apopka Chief had done any simple fact-checking at all they would have known that what they were reporting was a malicious lie.
  • Leroy Bell is not a member of the museum. As long as I’ve been associated with the museum, to my knowledge, he has never been in the museum until he showed up three or four weeks ago. I was in the office talking to a board member. He, his wife and another person walked in and were greeted by one of our volunteers. Mr. Bell went on a rant demanding to know where the “pictures” were. The volunteer simply explained that we are still re-doing our displays. She was flustered by his behavior and quickly came in to get our museum employee.
  • The employee went out to talk to Mr. Bell and Mr. Bell acted in the same belligerent manner. The employee came into the office and said someone wanted to talk to me. I asked why, and was told that he wanted to know where all the pictures of black people were. I went out and asked how I could help. Mr. Bell continued with the same loud accusatory behavior.
  • I attempted to explain to Mr. Bell that we are still renovating the museum. I also said we have taken many pictures down and not just pictures of black people. Bell got frustrated at this point and stormed out of the museum. But this was not before his wife called me a “bitch,” and Mr. Bell threatened me by saying: “You will get yours.”

The Apopka Chief also took it upon themselves to include another lie about Ed Velazquez. Mr. Velazquez is a retired Vietnam Army Veteran, a member of the Elks and a board member on the Apopka Historical Society. Neither he nor any other board member has ever turned away a volunteer because of the color of their skin. There is simply no factual backing for that statement and The Apopka Chief therefore owes him an apology.

In regards to Ms. Beverly Byrd alleging that the museum has an “arrangement” with Orange County School Board Member Christine Moore, this is another lie. If The Apopka Chief would have done any fact-checking at all, they would have learned the books by Ms. Moore were purchased by a Museum board member and donated to the museum.

I have to respond to Ms. Byrd’s rude and uncalled-for behavior at the recent Apopka City Council meeting. I have never and would never treat your mother disrespectfully. But I ask: Why would you treat my husband, the Mayor of Apopka with such disregard? With all due respect, you don’t even know him. I assure you Ms. Byrd, many people have won elections for which I favored the other side, but I would never disrespect the office or the person who puts themselves, their family and friends through the process of running for election. If this is customary of a “southern gal from Apopka,” then I feel sorry for Apopka.

This is an attack on my character which is unfounded. I’ve donated my time, my personal money and have persuaded my friends to donate their time for our museum. I cherish it and my ability to give back to our community through it.

If The Apopka Chief had made one phone call, or sent one email or inquiry of any kind to anyone with knowledge of the truth, this article would not have been written and this political stunt would have been seen for what it is.

In closing, I have long been concerned that The Apopka Chief was writing articles that contained a great degree of bias. Now I realize The Apopka Chief’s articles are worse than biased. They are woefully uninformed and devoid of facts.

Lastly, I share with my fellow Museum Board Members a concern that the museum has been used as a pawn in this vicious, politically motivated attack that brings with it racial overtones that are unnecessary and unfounded. The Museum is about our collective history in Apopka and politics has no place in its walls and we would hope that it not be used to further anyone’s political agenda."

Respectfully submitted,

Cheryl Kilsheimer

Reviewed and endorsed by the following Apopka Historical Society Board members:

Dianne Faircloth

Barbara McLeod

Betty Ann Huntsman

Jack Douglas

Ed Velazquez

Trudy Weiss

Hilda and Larry Leudenburg

Terri Morrell

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Cheryl Kilsheimer and the Apopka Historical Society Board, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Apopka Voice.

Apopka Historical Society


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