From staff reports
Four days and counting.
The Apopka City Commission Seat #2 election is less than a week away, and while a record number of voters have already cast ballots, many are still researching the candidates or undecided.
On Friday, October 16th, 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 four, we asked the candidates about economic development and competing with nearby cities, and gave them an opportunity to make their closing argument. Here is the conclusion of the four part series:
How much of the budget would you be willing to invest in developing the City of Apopka (businesses, infrastructure, amenities, environment, etc) in order to compete with other nearby, fast-growing municipalities?
Yesenia Baron: “Pay for current infrastructure projects while saving for amenities and future issues”
“Fiscal Responsibility. We must pay for current infrastructure projects first while saving for amenities and future issues. As a City, we should not feel the need to compete with neighboring municipalities. Apopka has its own charm and character. What is needed is to decide what is best for Apopka, correct its issues, and develop our economic partnership. Plan for the future of Apopka, now. As a resident and former business owner in the City of Apopka, one of the vital public policy issues that the City is facing is the sustainability of locally owned and operated businesses. Although the City of Apopka is the second largest city in Orange County, most of the residents commute out of the city for employment, leaving local businesses with limited patronage during the day. Upon a resident’s commute home in the evening, families are left with a decision of a “quick and easy” meal option because of busy schedules or extracurricular activities, leaving again, local businesses competing with fast food locations for their patronage. A focal consideration to developing or modifying current policy regarding entrepreneurship within the City needs to be addressed by providing a healthy and friendly atmosphere that will develop sustainability and assurance to the residents. As this environment is developed, the opportunity to attract large corporations seeking to branch out to the City would increase, leading sustained workforce to the City, resulting in my message of Work here, Live here and Play here environment for our current and future residents. We deserve to keep our hard-working money within our City, and by being strategic with our plans to keep our charm and character, the City of Apopka will become even more significant in our own right.”
Nick Nesta: “Continue to market our eco-tourism and tournament industry to help our local small businesses”
“I feel the current budget covers many of these items. I also feel that we are a unique city with unique qualities, and we should be taking advantage of the resources available to us. Other local municipalities do not have the eco-tourism and option to host massive tournaments that we uniquely have. We must not compare ourselves to other cities as we are different, and for good reason. We must continue to market our eco-tourism and tournament industry to help our local small businesses. When our small businesses excel, we will see an increase in employment, an increase in housing, and, ultimately, increase our tax revenue. Once we truly promote what assets we already have available to us, we will have the income to invest in businesses, infrastructure, and additional amenities.”
Diane Velazquez: “Invest in a full-time Economic Development Director whose sole responsibility is to recruit additional businesses to Apopka”
“To compete with neighboring fast-growing municipalities, Apopka must recognize the need to invest in a full-time Economic Development Director whose sole responsibility is to recruit additional businesses to Apopka. At the Budget process, a discussion to consider the benefits of hiring an Economic Development Director would be appropriate.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not voted, or are undecided as to who they will vote for in the Apopka City Commission Seat #2 election?
Velazquez: “Experience as a former Apopka City Commissioner will give me a better understanding when making decisions for Apopka”
“I respectfully ask for your Vote for Seat 2 on the Apopka City Council because I think that my experience as a former Apopka City Commissioner and as an appointed commissioner on the Planning & Zoning Board will give me a better understanding of the policies and procedures that take place when making decisions that affect all that live, work and visit Apopka. I am a dedicated person who will handle the commissioner’s responsibility in an honorable, fair, and transparent way.”
Baron: “I can guide our city to a future filled with prosperity, great lifestyles, and community spirit while keeping small-town charm and character.”
“As a resident of Apopka for eight years, being intricately woven into the community through volunteer work, owning a small business, and an ambassador to the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce, I bring a fresh perspective to our city. I have the same vision and hope that our residents have been vocalizing. As commissioner, I want to focus on keeping our hard-working income here locally. It’s important for the future of our city. We can leverage the amenities we have left to create my message of a Live here, Work here, and Play here environment. The future of Apopka is too important. I can help guide our city to a wonderful future filled with prosperity, great lifestyles, and community spirit while keeping our small-town charm and character. Our community is comprised of enriched history, beautiful cultures, and amazing people. As commissioner, I want to continue showcasing what makes Apopka great, our community working together for a great tomorrow. Let’s Be Committed to the Future of Apopka, Together!”
Nesta: “We cannot exclusively lean on what we’ve done in the past, but must look towards new and unique ways to progress our city”
“I am for Apopka. I have lived here since 1994. I went to elementary, middle, and high school in Apopka as well as UCF for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. I started my business here in 2013, the same year I met my wife. I hope to raise my future children here. I need this city to succeed for every part of this community. This will only work through open communication, community partnerships, fiscally responsible spending, sustainable growth, and a pandemic contingency plan. My wife is a teacher for over a decade, and I uniquely understand what educators and students are experiencing throughout this pandemic. I understand how to help educators as they navigate these times. We must be innovative as we move this city forward. We cannot exclusively lean on what we’ve done in the past but must look towards new and unique ways to progress our city. I humbly ask for your vote on November 3rd.”