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New members named to The Lake Apopka Natural Gas District Board


In what is expected to be the first of many 3-2 votes, The Apopka City Council approved Mayor Joe Kilsheimer’s two new appointments to The Lake Apopka Natural Gas District Board (LANGD) – Commissioner Diane Velazquez and himself. Kilsheimer and Velazquez replace former Commissioner Bill Arrowsmith who served since 2012, and Commissioner Billie Dean who served since 2014.

But neither of them left the Board quietly.

Commissioner Billie Dean:" I wish to remain on the LANGD Board." Commissioner Billie Dean[/caption]

“I wish to continue my service on LANGD where I serve as secretary,” said Dean. “There was absolutely no professional consideration granted to my service or my experience or education. I am insulted that this important item was not placed on the May 4th agenda. Rather it was placed on the Mayor’s Report…thus surprising me, the Council and City Staff.”

Kilsheimer pushed back with over 50 years of precedent, and insults he endured in 2014.

“Dating back to 1959, we were able to find records of more than 21 appointments to the LANGD. And on every single occasion, it was the prerogative of Mayor Land and Mayor Hurst. It is under the charter of The City of Apopka that I am entitled to make appointments to LANGD. Commissioner Dean, I’m sorry you were insulted, but I too was insulted two years ago when I was left off the Board of LANGD. It was stated to me prior to that last meeting that Mayor Land wished to appoint Commissioner Arrowsmith and yourself and I went along, because supposedly I would be appointed to the Wekiva Basin Board by the Governor. And Mayor Land said he would recommend me. Well, I’ve never been appointed for whatever reason.”

This did not impress Dean, who called on Kilsheimer and Velazquez to prove their qualifications to sit on the LANGD Board.

“I have experience,” said Dean. “The person you are trying to get on the board has none whatsoever. And you don’t either.”

“I am deeply familiar with municipal utilities across the state of Florida.” answered Kilsheimer. “I was part of the effort in Winter Park to create an electric utility. I was part of the effort of a former client to negotiate the sale of electricity from their facility in Lake County to The City of Winter Park. I’ve done public relations work for The Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC). I worked in Tallahassee on issues relating to public utilities. I’ve got a lot of deep experience when it comes to municipal utilities.”

He went on to describe his concerns with the LANGD.

“I know for example that the OUC puts in 45-million-dollars to Orlando’s budget. Clearwater Natural Gas puts 19-million-dollars into the City of Clearwater’s budget. LANGD hasn’t put in anything. Now I know they say they’re paying off bonds, but they’ve been in existence since 1959, and the idea that since 1959 they’ve been issuing bonds and re-issuing bonds and never making a payment to their shareholders…I question that. LANGD clearly states it will be operated for the benefit of its member cities. And I have questions about that. I have questions about why LANGD operates the way it does. It does not appear to be responsive to the business owners of NW Orange County, and so I think it is entirely under my prerogative as mayor to make an appointment of myself and Commissioner Velazquez. To the Board and ask that Council approve it.”

Commissioner Velazquez reading from a letter outlining her qualifications as well as responding to Arrowsmith’s comment in The Apopka Voice’s article from last week in which he said ‘she would have nothing to add’.

“I bring to this council decades of experience working and serving the public with over 21 years law enforcement experience which covers many levels of internal and external community issues. I sit on the Board of The Apopka Chamber of Commerce, The Orange County Public School Hispanic Advisory Board, the Board of Orange Technical College, and the board of the Tri-County League of Cities. I sit here proud to be a commissioner for the City of Apopka. The reference made “I have nothing to add” is insulting, demeaning and disrespectful without merit.

Personal opinions do not need to be a part of appointments. It is unacceptable to me as well as being inappropriate. I ask for it to cease. I bring to the table decades of both professional and personal experiences as well as knowledge and leadership.”

Commissioners Kyle Becker and Doug Bankson also differed in their approach to this issue. Becker cited a fresh perspective to the change, while Bankson wanted to blend a new member (Kilsheimer) with an experienced one (Dean).

 Commissioner Diane Velazquez Commissioner Diane Velazquez

“It’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes and new perspective and I can’t really harp on the experience issue because I didn’t have any experience when I sat in this chair two meetings ago,” said Becker. “So it’s very simple, it’s a constant fresh perspective, and new eyes on the board.”

“I do believe Commissioner Velazquez has qualifications to serve on a board as anyone who sits here should have. But looking at this I’m asking myself are there more qualifications that she would have that Commissioner Dean would not have? And that’s where I lean with experience as I would with anyone, “My expression would be to find a balance in that I think that would ease some of the personal issues.”

Kilsheimer ended the discussion by supporting his nominee Velazquez.

“I’m not denigrating Commissioner Dean by any stretch. But I do have deep respect for Commissioner Velazquez…not only for her knowledge and tenacity, but her ability to separate fact from fiction.”

In the end, Becker, Kilsheimer and Velazquez voted in favor, while Bankson and Dean opposed. The next LANGD Board meeting is this morning at 10AM.






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