From staff reports
Six days and counting.
The Apopka City Commission Seat #2 election is exactly one week away, and while a record number of voters have already cast ballots, many are still researching the candidates or undecided.
On Friday, October 16, The Apopka Voice sent eight questions to all four candidates, inviting them to respond within a week if they wanted to participate. Three candidates (Yesenia Baron, Nick Nesta, and Diane Velazquez) returned our survey, while one (Gene Knight) did not. The questions included topics such as priorities, challenges, and hopes for Apopka, economic development, and the potential annexation of South Apopka.
In this series, we are publishing the responses to those eight questions by featuring two per day.
In part two, we asked the candidates their views on annexing South Apopka, and how they would increase inclusion, engagement and civic participation of minorities in Apopka and make the underserved voices within Apopka heard and represented.
Assuming the residents of South Apopka want to be annexed into the City of Apopka, would you be in favor?
Yesenia Baron: Favors annexation – “It is time we unite as one Apopka and beautify our city, to become whole”
“I have asked several residents and organizational leaders about their opinion on this matter. Communication is key to our success. As a City Council member, I do not want to assume what our citizens need; however, I want to understand their perspective by allowing the community to state their thoughts, concerns, and needs. I am in favor of annexing South Apopka. It is time we unite as one Apopka and beautify our city, to become whole. This will require a collaborated effort between our citizens, the city, county, and state officials. We cannot buffer in the past; we must move forward for the betterment of the City of Apopka and its citizens.”
Nick Nesta: “Annexing for annexation’s sake will not fix any deficiencies/blight on any community”
“Affordable city services to residents are why many citizens come to Apopka. Annexing of any kind would be beneficial for those citizens as we have top-rated fire/police and staff as compared to other municipalities in the area. Annexing for annexation’s sake will not fix any deficiencies/blight on any community. We must take a deep dive into the residents’ true needs and support their needs from there. Open lines of communication with the residents in this area must occur in order to truly understand how we can help this part of our vibrant community.”
Diane Velazquez: “City and County representatives must provide the residents with the information that will impact their choice”
“As the commissioner representing the residents of South Apopka, I will support whatever decision is made by the residents of incorporated Apopka. However, before any decision can be made, our City and County representatives must provide the residents with the information that will impact their choice.”
What will you do, if elected, to increase the inclusion, engagement, and civic participation of minorities in Apopka and make sure the underserved voices are heard and represented?
Velazquez: Continues a long-standing practice of attending community, religious and cultural events
“I will continue my long-standing practice of attending community, religious and cultural events for all groups in the city. My presence shows my support for these communities and recognition of their inclusion as valued members of Apopka. I will continue to volunteer at the local schools reading and mentoring students. I will support and get involved with the City of Apopka Youth Council, representing diverse community backgrounds. As always, I encourage our community residents to tune in and follow public meetings. I will also provide them with my personal contact email and cell number so they can contact me.”
Baron: “I will give a voice to those that have no voice, as I have done throughout my career”
“It is time that the voices of the two minority communities in Apopka be heard. As part of that voice, I have begun to open dialogue with key community leaders. As part of my platform, I have stated that I will give a voice to those that have no voice, as I have done throughout my career. As commissioner, I plan to have Spanish and Creole translation available at our City Council meetings, using headphones for those that require it. This will allow inclusion and engagement to our Spanish and Creole-speaking citizens to open further interest in participation. Communication is vital. Having a voice and a seat at our city meetings will begin inclusion to our citizens. The Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce is spearheading its Diversity and Inclusion committee. This committee’s mission is focused on building an economic environment where diversity and inclusion is embraced. This showcases our minority-owned business that, as a city, we can support. In addition, encouraging these communities to have local events, such as a food and heritage fair, will help build a collaboration of perspective and understanding of cultural differences. I would also like to designate ambassadors, who are engaged leaders from the community, to help disseminate information to ensure that the line of communication is open and accurate. This will help dispel rumors within the community.”
Nesta: “Create mentoring programs, connect generations and celebrate diversity”
“As one of my key pillars, Community Partnerships, I would create mentoring opportunities, connect generations, and celebrate diversity. As a civic leader, I believe it is key to be proactive in getting the community engaged. We cannot just sit around, waiting for someone to come to us with a need. We must be outreaching and proactive in understanding the needs of all parts of the community – not merely showing up to an event and taking pictures, but truly engaging every part of this community. I plan on continuing to connect with organizations like the Hope CommUnity Center, Farmworker Association of Florida, and Florida Immigrant Coalition to create a real plan for minorities in Apopka. As an elected official, my role is to serve the community in such a compassionate way that no voice feels underserved anymore.”
In part three of the series, which will be published tomorrow, the candidates answered the following questions related to hope and handling difficult issues:
- What is your #1 hope for Apopka that you would love to make a reality if elected, and how are you best suited to help move it forward?
- As a representative for all Apopka residents, how would you make a decision on a contentious issue where there are vastly opposing views?