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The Apopka Voice Digital Forum

What should be added, deleted, or edited from the Apopka City Charter? The candidates for city commission weigh in


In an age where online media often speaks louder than traditional forms of campaigning, The Apopka Voice has taken the reins of local democracy by hosting a digital forum for the 2024 Apopka City Commission candidates.

Here's how it works...

Each day this week, The Apopka Voice will ask the candidates one question pertaining to the biggest issues facing Apopka. All five candidates are given the opportunity to answer. The Apopka Voice will publish their responses each day.

Readers can compare and contrast each answer and decide which candidates best share their values and vision for Apopka. You can also ask questions under the article on our news site or Facebook page.

In an era where the online realm is increasingly the epicenter of civic engagement, this initiative seeks to bridge the gap between candidates and constituents, fostering an interactive and transparent dialogue that transcends the boundaries of traditional campaigning.

It's like a debate, town hall, and interview all wrapped into one.

The first question put before the candidates is about the upcoming Apopka City Charter:

"The first Apopka City Charter Review meeting/workshop is scheduled for January 10th. Several issues will be discussed in the process, but what would you like to add, delete, or edit from the current charter if you were on commission?"

The first Apopka City Charter meeting is scheduled for January 10th.

For many reasons, a charter review is long overdue. In the dynamic landscape of city governance, the periodic review of a city's Charter stands as a cornerstone for progress and adaptability. A city charter is a foundational document outlining the municipal government's structure, powers, and functions. Conducting a charter review is a strategic and proactive approach to ensure that the city's governance framework remains aligned with the evolving needs of its residents. 

Here is what the candidates think about the charter review:

Ryan Tucker, candidate for Seat #3:

"The City of Apopka’s population has nearly quadrupled since the current charter was adopted 30 years ago. The challenges that a city of nearly 60k people face compared to that of 15k are significantly different and would naturally require adjustments.

The primary area that I see the charter lacking is the explanation of duties for both the Mayor and Council. The roles and duties of the mayor are drastically understated and need further explanation. As is with any job, it is vital that clarity and definition in role and duties is necessary to provide accountability and follow-up. The City Council needs an exhaustive job description for the mayor added to the current charter to ensure that all requirements are being met satisfactorily.

As is with the description of role and duties for the mayor, there also needs to be additional, and exhaustive, verbiage added regarding the City Council. I have been asked in multiple meetings thus far about what I view the role of a council member to be, I have answered with what my perception is based on what I see and understand, but it would be helpful for the residents to have a defined role that they can reference. Again, just as with the mayor, we cannot hold someone accountable for something that has not been clearly defined for them. Clear expectations allow us to measure the performance of our officials and I think that is necessary for both the individuals serving in these roles as well as the residents of the city.

I do know there are conversations that will take place around our current form of government and the need for some changes in the amount of power the mayor holds in comparison to the council and if a new role of City Manager needs to be added. I think this issue leads back to my original statement about our population growth: the way our city was run 30 years ago, with a fraction of the current population, is now how we can expect to run it now. Something I saw in my job weekly is “what got us here, won’t get us there.” 

Nadia Anderson, candidate for Seat #3

"The Apopka City Charter Review Committee will be hosting its first Community meeting of several to gather input from the community regarding changes to the City Charter. If I were elected on the Apopka City Council, I would want to hear from the other commissioners, city officials and the constituents before I make any recommendations to the charter.  I think it would be premature on my part to make any revisions without proper input from stakeholders. In the charter review process, I think it's extremely important to make sure the charter includes enhancing transparency measures, refining language for clarity, and exploring avenues for community input. I look forward to engaging with the community and others while contributing positively to the city's development and addressing any and all current challenges."

Darryl Richardson, candidate for Seat #3

It has been quite a long time since the city charter was amended, I believe 2015 was the last year.  I can provide you with some general considerations that I might explore when considering modifications to the city charter. Please note that any proposed changes should be thoroughly discussed, researched, and, if necessary, involve public input. Here are some areas that I might consider for modification:

Government Structure - Evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the current government structure. Since Apopka has operated under a Strong Mayor form of government, due to the city’s size this form of government may not be best suited for Apopka moving forward. Other cities have changed their structure to afford the commissioners more decision-making ability to make positive changes. This is something that should be brought to the voters to decide. I might also Consider changes to the number of commissioners, term lengths, or the mayor's role. By modifying the structure of the current city government, we might assess the balance of power between the mayor and the commissioners.

Financial Management - Assess the city's budgetary process and financial controls. Ensure that the city has proper checks and balances to ensure there is adequate accountability. We should also take a closer review of how financial matters are managed and consider mechanisms to ensure transparency in financial matters.

Charter Review Process - Establish a regular review process for the city charter to ensure it remains current and responsive to community needs. The charter review should not be a 10 year process in between reviews. Regular reviews should be done to keep up with the progressive growth of the city. As the city continues to grow the charter will need to be amended to manage that growth. I might support creating a charter review commission with representation from diverse community stakeholders.

Ethics and Accountability - Strengthen ethics provisions for elected officials and city employees. Enhance mechanisms for accountability and oversight of city operations.

Emergency Management - Evaluate the city's emergency management provisions in light of lessons learned from recent emergencies. Ensure that the city charter provides clear guidance on emergency powers and procedures.

Technology and Innovation - Incorporate provisions that allow the city to adapt to technological advancements. Consider the use of technology to enhance government services and communication with residents.

It's important to involve the community in the charter modification process through public hearings, town hall meetings, and other forms of engagement. The charter should be amended when the voting public needs a positive change to the charter. This is not something City Commissioners or the Mayor should do without involving the public. Additionally, seeking legal advice and collaborating with experts in governance can help ensure that proposed changes align with the law and best practices."

Commissioner Nick Nesta, incumbent candidate for Seat #4

"There's been references that maybe we'll skim through sections of the charter and maybe not touch it at all and move on. For me, if we're going to do this, we're going line by line, we're touching every word, we're touching every sentence, especially now that we had some verbiage being questioned on just one word. I'm taking a deep dive into every single one, and that's how we should properly do it. We haven't done it in decades. So, let's make sure we're doing it correctly. I don't have anything specific other than I want to hear a lot of public input. What does the public want? How are they seeing our city grow? And that's what I want to hear... and then, we'll apply that to the changes within the charter. 

Strong Mayor vs. City Administrator form of government: Nothing's off the table. I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. I think it always depends on who's sitting in that seat. It can change your opinion in one way or the other. So it's what actually progresses our city. What makes our city grow correctly without losing is its historical significance. So it's combining both of those together."

Eric Mock, candidate for Seat #4

"While the Apopka City Charter is not lengthy, there is one item that has been mentioned more than others, changing the form of government from a strong mayor-council to a city administrator-council.

Taking the current form of a strong mayor as written in the charter, it is clear as to the delegation of responsibilities and who is responsible for making those decisions.  The ratification/voting of approval or disapproval is the responsibility of the council.  I do believe either way, the charter needs to be clarified with the most common language possible, making clear what is ratification and providing updated/improved language relating to Sec. 2.06, council-employee relationship.  The current charter is clear in stating “no city commissioner shall in any manner dictate the appointment or removal of any city employee, nor shall a city commissioner give orders to any employee other than orders by action of the city council to the city clerk and/or city attorney.”

Considering the most recent removal of the city attorney, I’d be willing to bet the conversation revolved around this section.  Seeing that the council did remove by vote the last city attorney, it would be wise to carefully and with legal input clearly state what can and cannot be done to remove a city employee.  Section 2.06 clearly states “in any manner,” “any city employee,” does this mean you can request a termination during a city council meeting ?  Or does it mean you cannot ?

Back to possible change in government form, we currently elect our city mayor and have for many years.  Voters decide who the mayor should be.  We just completed a vote for mayor and completed a recall vote for mayor.  The voters of Apopka decided.  If voters decided to change from strong mayor to city administrator, what are the specifics of how would this be done?  Will it be a simple majority vote of the city council?  Or will voters elect the city administrator?  

If you took the current city charter and replaced the responsibilities of the mayor over to the city administrator, what real difference would you have from the current form of government?  Unless….. you change how the city administrator can be elected.  If the city administrator is elected by a simple majority vote of the council, this would be a significant change.   Yes, voters elect commissioners, but the question is, do voters want to turn over electing whomever to run the city to the commissioners?

As we’ve already seen, the council has voted to remove a city employee, do we as Apopkans want to allow commissioners to remove the city administrator?  One wrong decision and we are now turning over the person who leads the city?  Whether anyone agrees, this past year’s conduct of the council has made it more difficult to recruit top-notch candidates for critical positions.  

I’ll reserve my final comments and decision once I’ve reviewed what the charter review committee’s final report is, but for now, I’d vote to retain the current form of government regardless of who is mayor.  It is the voters of Apopka’s decision that will ultimately decide."

Tomorrow's Question:

The Apopka City Center has languished for years. As a commissioner, what would you do to get it moving forward?
Apopka City Commission, Apopka Elections 2023, Apopka, The Apopka Voice Digital Forum


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