Candidate Feature - Commissioner Sam Ruth (Incumbent Seat #3)
Sam Ruth is a fighter. His many years of coaching and playing sports has given him a competitor’s heart. He speaks in a booming voice with a plainspoken manner and an outspoken attitude. He has the look and presence of a pugilist from another era, but the mindset to look forward into Apopka's future. Ruth is the incumbent Commissioner of Seat #3 and he is running against Pastor Doug Bankson and Alice Nolan.
He ran for the City Commission three times before winning a seat in 2014, and because of this he sees his mission as a messenger of the people.
“I love Apopka. I love its people. I spent 26 years coaching at Apopka High School. Both football and baseball. I was a part of a lot of great teams. State champions. Now I’m in a new arena – the political arena. I want people to know I will champion their message because their message is the most valuable thing that I have. That’s my job, that’s my sole purpose... to be their messenger. I can do what their four minutes (speaking at a City Council meeting) can’t do – I can vote.”
He has lived in Apopka almost all of his life, but it’s the last two years he speaks of with pride.
“22 months ago we were doing crime statistics by hand. We were on Novel-Dos. We’ve upgraded the entire IT Department. It was a 30-year old system that we brought into the 21st century. And we had a City Council that was willing to finance this new IT department.”
“Our new department heads are better than the ones we had. I think the City Attorney we have today is better than the one we had. I think the City Administrator is better. I think our Finance Director is as good or equal to the previous director. I think our Police Chief is going to raise the APD to a level it’s never been. We have a Parks and Recreation Director that we didn’t have before. We have a Grants Writer we didn’t have. We have a Public Information Officer. That’s by far one of the best investments we’ve made. We had no presence with the media before this. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done in the last two years. We’ve tackled some pretty big issues and I challenge anyone to say we’re not better off than we were 24 months ago."
He also sees the future of Apopka as undecided but exciting, and he wants to help shape the vision to come, and champion its advance.
“We don’t have an identity anymore. We were the foliage capitol of the world... we no longer have that identity. But we’ve got these vast tracks of land ready to be developed. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do. But however we re-define ourselves, I want to make sure we have a message and a champion to defend it.”
He sees the City Center project as a possible beginning to Apopka re-defining itself, but he has reservations about the deal with the developer.
"When we have this meeting with Taurus (Taurus Southern Investments, LLC), I’ll ask the tough questions, he said.”
He references “deal-breakers” that if not answered will cause Ruth to cast a “no” vote on the project. These deal-breakers are related to traffic improvements on roads within the project – McGee Avenue, 6th Street, 436 and 441. It also proposes Martin's Pond extending to 436. All of this will need to be addressed before Ruth signs off on it.
“I’m for the project, but these obstacles must be overcome.”
Another concern Ruth has is the “swiss-cheese” makeup of City versus County residents. He wants to take a different approach towards bringing these “non-Apopka” residents into Apopka – inviting them.
“We are about 40,000 in population in Apopka, but if you go into the un-incorporated areas we are more like 80,000. Half the people don’t know if they’re in the city or the county. I want to bridge that relationship. I want to have a greeting committee go out and invite these neighborhoods into Apopka. And that doesn’t cost anything. We can go neighborhood-to-neighborhood. Door-to-door.”
Ruth also wants to champion Apopka businesses when he took the lead on making it easier for them to win contracts from The City of Apopka.
“On some of these big ticket items, instead of sending a million dollars to Orlando or Jacksonville, why can’t we make it so these deals stay in Apopka?”
According to Ruth, he was the catalyst on a Preferred Apopka Vendor program that allows Apopka businesses to bid 3% higher and still win contracts against "out of city" competitors.
“And now when we write a $750,000 contract, it goes over here to Mullinax (Ford). I just think it’s a win/win for our businesses and the City. We set the preferred vendor list and Mullinax won the bid. They employee 150 people. And they will also get the service contracts for these city vehicles. Allowing them to do that allows them to employee more people.”