Editor's Note: Over the course of a week, The Apopka Voice Managing Editor Reggie Connell sat down with several elected officials and candidates for office in Apopka. The third feature from those interviews is Nadia Anderson, a candidate for Seat #3 on the Apopka City Commission.
In the lead-up to the 2024 Apopka Municipal Election, the race for Seat #3 on the Apopka City Commission is gaining momentum, with three first-time candidates already in the race. Among them is Nadia Anderson, who believes her lack of running for office is an advantage rather than a drawback.
"Do I have any government experience in regard to a city council member? No, I do not," said Anderson. "But neither did any of the others that have served have the experience beforehand. I do feel that most of the people that are on board... I have more experience than they had going on their board. So, I do feel that I have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, and I'm ready for the challenge. I think that I am the voice that Apopka needs."
Anderson does have a diverse background, from her time in the federal government working in security on the Fort Greely Air Force Base in Alaska to her social services role at the Department of Children and Families in Orange County and as a probation officer for the Department of Juvenile Justice before moving into real estate.
Anderson owns Prestige Property Consultants here in Apopka. And it's her expertise in business that she believes gives her the experience to be effective on the City Council.
"I'm a business owner. I understand how to operate a business. And not only do I understand how to operate the business, but I also understand government," she said. "I used to work in all the different agencies in government. So, not only do I have experience in the government sector, but I also have experience in the private sector. In addition to that, I am a franchise owner. So I understand how to develop franchises, I understand business, I understand how to work with developers, and I have a lot of experience."
Anderson highlighted her reluctance to engage in the "ugly side" of politics - personal attacks and character assassinations. Instead, she wants to focus on what truly matters, the issues that could propel Apopka forward.
"I don't like attacking people's pasts," she said. "I don't like bringing up things that have absolutely nothing to do with how to move the government. So, one of the reasons why I stayed away from it initially was because I do feel that, a lot of times, what's important is not discussed. We look at other things that aren't important."
Over the past year, Anderson observed the City Council meetings and didn't like what she saw. She watched the debates and arguments from the dais and believes it deterred potential developers from investing in Apopka.
"I've been watching and listening to the different seats at the City Council meetings. I've had different developers come to me over the years who want to invest in Apopka but won't because they felt like we weren't together... that we were bickering... we're arguing. There is no type of collegial governance at all. And that was a major issue for me."
With her experience in understanding people and her commitment to neutrality, Anderson says she could bring a fresh perspective, fostering a sense of collegial governance and unity.
"I'm able to bring more of a neutral vote and a neutral opinion to the city of Apopka."
Anderson said that her commitment to fairness and doing what was right, regardless of popular opinion, a lack of ties, or preconceived notions, would make her a commissioner who could make decisions solely based on what was best for the citizens of Apopka.
"I'm not currently on a board right now. I don't have any biases. I've been looking at the data. I can look at what's best for the citizens of Apopka. And I can solely vote on that. Nothing else. Just being very, very diverse and being around other government agencies. The way things are done in Apopka and how things have progressed in Apopka are not positive, We're looked upon negatively when it comes to our government and Apopka... and I feel that I can definitely bring that balance."
The Apopka City Center has moved at a glacial pace since the contract was signed with Taurus Southern Investments in 2016. There are many theories on why it's moved so slowly. Anderson attributes the sluggish progress to the internal strife within the City Council. She emphasizes the need for unity and collaboration to expedite development projects.
"I think that it's because the Council bickers and argues about different things... so I believe we can't get it together within our City Council because of the back-and-forth bickering. I think the project would have already been completely finished by now."
Despite Taurus being in charge of the project, Anderson still thinks a Council working together could have moved the project along faster.
"I think everything results back to the Council. Making sure that we're working together. One way or the other, there are different things going back and forth, and they have to go in front of the Council to move things forward, and then we have to go back and redo things. And I think the City Council, some of the members, do have some responsibilities to that."
But Anderson's vision does extend beyond resolving internal conflicts. She advocates for a comprehensive growth plan involving a committee and an outside agency to ensure sustainable development.
"With the growth in Apopka, I feel that the infrastructure, the roads, the public transportation, I feel like it's not adequate," she said. "I'm not really sure if there is a 5-10-20-year growth plan... but there needs to be a committee put together to make sure we have a growth plan. I know most big cities have that type of plan. I think there needs to be a committee put together to hire an independent company to come in and do that, and I also believe in political unity to get the community involved because I think this is our community... that's one of the biggest challenges. Even though growth is good, I want to make sure that we're able to sustain that growth."
Workforce housing is at the core of Anderson's platform. She emphasizes the importance of incentivizing developers and tapping into federal funds to bridge the affordability gap. She suggests tapping into federal funds and being creative to bridge the gap for those who couldn't afford to live in Apopka.
"Workforce housing is really important to me. I understand developers have to make money when they're developing. And I understand that when someone goes out and purchases their own land, they should be able to decide what price range they want those houses to be. But I think we should be looking at synergizing our local government to incentivize developers to build workforce housing."
On public safety, Anderson highlights the need for well-equipped fire and police departments, stressing the importance of budgeting for growth.
"I want to be clear about public safety. Because Apopka is growing, I feel that we want our fire department to have enough staff and the necessary training and equipment. I used to work closely with firefighters and police officers. My brother used to be a police officer... so that's really important to me, and also making sure that we always budget enough so that the police department always has enough officers... that's important to me, as well."
Anderson is new to electoral politics but expressed her commitment to running a clean campaign, focusing on her qualifications and vision rather than resorting to personal attacks.
"I know this probably sounds so naive or wishful thinking, but my goal is to run a very clean campaign," she said. "I don't believe in bashing people. I don't believe in putting water on someone's fire to light my flame."