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The Electoral College, City Charters, and the Road to the 2026 Apopka Mayoral Election


I love the Electoral College.

That's a statement you don't read or hear every day, but it's not for the reasons you might think. The President of the United States should be elected by a majority of the nation's voters, no matter where they happen to live. And while the Electoral College may have made sense in the 18th and 19th centuries, it's not a true measurement of the nation's voters today.

But it sure is exciting on election night!

I won't dwell on this because it's not the point I'm trying to make. But if you want to comment on why I'm wrong, I will respond either on Facebook or our site under this article.

Last Wednesday, the Apopka City Council took the first step in transitioning its form of government from a Strong Mayor to a City Manager/Council. Essentially, instead of the mayor being the CEO of Apopka, a city manager would control the day-to-day operations with a Council of five equal members and the mayor having equal power to the other four commissioners.

Denise and I talked about the two formats a few months ago, and I told her I favored a strong mayor, especially if a visionary type of leader is in office. Then, we discussed the benefits of a City Manager-Council format and the merits of running a city that way, and it was difficult to deny it's a more consistent way to run a city.

Commissioner Kyle Becker also laid it out well in his presentation last Wednesday:

The merits of a City Manager-Council form of government:

  • Skilled Professional: A City Manager is a hired professional executive with proven experience in large organizational structures and/or other like-sized municipalities, with a strategic focus and ability to develop and motivate staff
  • Consistency: A professional who leads with business & management principles, with a full understanding of local, state & federal laws; not driven by election cycles; further insulates staff from Council and uncertainty the elected positions introduce, anchors politics at the dais/chambers
  • Ability to Pivot: If the selected City Manager does not sufficiently perform his / her duties, the Council, and by extension, the residents of Apopka, do not have to wait 4 years for another election to replace a weak leader; the City Council would simply seek out a new qualified City Manager.
  • Benchmarking & Precedence: Only 12% of the over 400 municipalities in Florida have a strong mayor form of government; out of the 69 municipalities in Orange, Lake, Osceola, Seminole, Volusia, and Brevard counties, only 6 have strong mayor forms, and 4 of those 6 have populations under 3,000 residents.

The points Becker makes in his presentation are well taken, but there is also something to be said for an effective mayor who respects and collaborates with the Council and staff in formulating their plans for a city. 

Besides, it's far more exciting to follow and report on a mayoral election when the person who wins has actual power and not a ceremonial title. And the race for Apopka Mayor in 2026, assuming it's still a Strong Mayor format, could involve as many as five credible candidates - three of whom I would describe as visionaries. 

And speaking of a possible future mayoral candidate; here's what Commissioner Alexander Smith said about changing to a City Manager-Council format:

"There are always advantages and disadvantages," Smith said. "Commissioner Becker presented some benefits, but he didn't present anything as far as disadvantages. And the other thing is that the comments were directed at the person who's currently sitting in the seat (Mayor Nelson). So what happens if we get another person? Are we going to come back and change the charter again so we have a strong [mayor] form of government? I might decide to run for mayor one day... so are we going to change it again? I just don't see... you've got to show both sides. So now with its benefits, it's also disadvantages as well. So we need to see both sides."

Two things... 

First, Becker is advocating for one form of government. It's not his role to present both sides. The rebuttal should come from Mayor Bryan Nelson, Smith, or possibly City Attorney Cliff Shepard could lay out both sides for the current Council to decide.

Second... was that Smith's unofficial entry into the 2026 Apopka Mayoral election? I'll get to those five would-be after the 2024 election cycle is over.

However, Becker's presentation did not end with the merits of a change in governmental format. He also looked at Nelson's track record and what Apopka can expect if Nelson remains on as Apopka's CEO. Becker left nothing out in this withering presentation on Nelson's shortcomings while in office:

  • No Strategic Planning and lack of key master plans; rudimentary performance reviews and assessments after nearly 6 years on the job.
  • Censure Resolution: The current Mayor was publicly censured for lying to his fellow Council members; when public trust is broken, it’s time to change course
  •  Handling of Southwick Commons:Set in motion a project that was counter to the spirit of the developer’s agreement; after the court’s decision against the city, the Mayor decided to unilaterally represent a city position to try to kill the project without Council awareness
  • Unprofessional Hiring Tactics: The handling of Mr. Joe Abel’s offer and subsequent reneging of that offer by the Mayor was egregiously unprofessional
  • Handling of Mr. Austin Duran’s Line of Duty DeathCombative nature and challenging the acceptance of third-party findings aimed to help improve our fire department
  • Staff Turnover & Manner of Termination: Certain terminations were executed by resources, not in their direct chain of command and/or without HR involvement
  • Unfulfilled Department Head Positions: The HR Director position was left unfilled for 10 months; the Economic Development Director now for 12 months; the City Administrator still to be determined
  • Unfulfilled Promises at State of the City: Announcements that never came to fruition, made for political gain
  • Handling of Rock Springs Ridge: Led residents to believe the City should be a tri-party deal broker in a matter between private entities, leading to constant misinformation, resident frustration, and infighting
  • Employee Dissatisfaction, especially with direct leadership, as captured in the Employee Engagement Survey
  • Complete Disregard of No-Confidence Votes for key leadership positions within the City where trust was lost by the majority of Council members
  • Nay Votes with No Justificationmost recent example of the Investment Policy, would rather provide quotes to the media versus discuss in a public hearing
  • The politicization of the Mayoral Salary for an artificially low salary so as not to attract qualified candidates; improperly abstained from the vote to increase salary closer to market rate
  • Procedural Missteps caused the Council to re-approve the 23-24 budget, which will cause the CRA Board and Council to re-hear the Station Street proposal

Nelson had little to say at the meeting but later offered his opinion to a local news station. He did not commit to supporting or opposing the change during an interview with WFTV Channel 9 and said hiring a city manager would not automatically allow council members to fire employees other than the manager.

"They (think they) can go willy-nilly and fire everyone around town, but they can't," he said. "Last (Wednesday) night was basically political theatre, and it's just unfortunate."

He told Channel 9 that 'a strong mayor government gave cities more leverage over developers since winning his approval as the CEO also meant a developer earned one of three needed votes'.

That's not the greatest reason I've ever heard to keep a Strong Mayor format. It seems developers aren't having a hard time getting the approval of this CEO, and either way, it would still take three votes to approve.

While this administration's performance may be a good example of why a City Manager-Council format may be a better fit for Apopka than a Strong Mayor format, I'm still holding out for a "strong mayor" to prove the merits of a Strong Mayor format.

And just as I'm looking forward to the 2024 Presidential election night and the race for 270 electoral votes, even though I think the popular vote is the better format, I look forward to the 2026 Apopka Mayoral election and the list of exciting candidates I believe might run, even though the safer bet is a City Manager-Council format. 

Apopka City Council, Opinion, Strong Mayor Form of Government, City Manager/Town Council form of Government, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Apopka, Apopka City Charter Review


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