Alexander Smith has seen a lot of history in Apopka. In 2018, he would like to make a little himself.
Smith is running for the Apopka City Commission Seat #1 currently held by six-term incumbent Commissioner Billie Dean. The two men have quite a history together.
In 1970, Smith went to his first Apopka City Council meeting. Dean, Smith's teacher at the time, took him to see Alonzo Williams Jr., the first black Commissioner in Apopka history. It was his first year on the City Council. Williams held that seat for 24 years until Dean succeeded him as the second black commissioner in Apopka history in 1994.
By the end of his sixth term in 2018, Dean will match Williams' 24 years in office. Dean, 81, is undecided on running for a seventh term, but if he chooses to retire, Smith could succeed Dean and continue that legacy.
He began his campaign to do just that last night at Taverna's Restaurant in Rock Springs Ridge with a meet-and-greet attended by his family, friends, neighbors, and supporters. He greeted them all, gave brief remarks, and took questions from the group. Dean and his wife Isadora were also at the event.
Smith, 61, moved to Apopka in 1964 with his family and graduated from Apopka High School. He is a recently retired educator after being employed by Orange County Public Schools. After retirement, he became the Associate Pastor at New Life Missionary Baptist Church in Apopka. He is married to Linda C. Smith, has five children, and 12 grandchildren.
He makes it clear that his roots in Apopka would assure that his election as a city commissioner would make it the community's seat, but he would like to see more participation by the Apopka citizens in the process.
"It's not about me," he said. "Everyone has their agenda. I hear people in the audience at City Council meetings whispering to each other 'what about what the people think?' I want to be the people's voice on City Council. My goal is to represent all of Apopka. As one person I cannot do it all myself. I would like to see more interest and better attendance at City Council meetings and community events."
According to Smith, his faith will play a role in his campaign and as a city commissioner if he is elected. He also says that politics will not change his core beliefs.
"I'll remain constant to my Christian values," he said. "My grandfather told me your word is the only thing you have. If you lose it, you have nothing. I will always hold true to my word. Being a politician will not change my integrity."
After a career that spanned 39 years as a teacher, Smith still has a passion for improving the lives of children.
"I want to bring more opportunities to youth in Apopka, such as recreational activities, internship programs, and mentor programs. We need more parks evenly distributed throughout the city, not in just one place. Youth is my passion. Young people are our future. But if we don't prepare them for the future, we won't have a future."
Smith said he is not against the "central park" concept that is being considered by the current City Council, but that he would also want smaller parks throughout all of Apopka.
Smith is a resident of Rock Springs Ridge, but he lived many years in South Apopka. His church is in South Apopka, and he remembers a time when Apopka tried to annex the community. He believes that if annexation of South Apopka came up again, things could be different.
"When we tried to annex South Apopka, no one visited that community and presented them with the advantages of being a part of the city. I think if they would, they would have seen the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages."
At a young age, Smith proved to be a rare breed in knowing what he wanted to do despite a majority of his peers having differing opinions.
"When I was 18, everyone was saying 'I can't wait to graduate and get out of Apopka'", he said. "I had a different viewpoint. I couldn't wait to graduate and help the people of Apopka. I knew after that first City Council meeting I wanted to be a city commissioner."
Smith returns to the campaign trail on May 17th with a fundraising event at Something Fishy Restaurant in Apopka from 5-8 PM.