From staff reports

Five 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 three, we asked the candidates what their biggest hope for Apopka was, and how they would make a decision on a contentious issue where there are vastly opposing views. And in these two questions, we found the biggest differences among them.


What is your number one hope for Apopka that you would love to make a reality if elected, and how are you best suited to help move it forward?

Yesenia “Jesi” Baron

Yesenia Baron: Clean and beautify the West Orange Trail in South Apopka

“The most tangible hope I have for Apopka is to focus on the cleaning and beautification of the West Orange Trail in South Apopka. Other community leaders and I have identified this area as a visual and symbolic connection between South Apopka and Apopka and the surrounding municipalities. I am best suited to help move this forward as I am a facilitator. This will take a collaborated effort between the community, local organizations, the City, and County. My goal is to build relationships and communication, opening doors to perspective and understanding.”

Nick Nesta

Nick Nesta: Reopen Errol Estate and Rock Springs Ridge golf courses

“To have both Errol Estate and Rock Springs Ridge open their golf courses back up. It is a massive undertaking to help the residents in both communities deal with their specific situations surrounding their specific neighborhoods. As a real estate broker for over a decade, I have the experience and education to advocate for the residents in these communities to have what they want most: the golf courses to open again. Rock Springs Ridge has been experiencing this issue for over 10 years and no City Council member now or in the past has taken on the issue to help the residents. This is why we must have someone in Seat 2 of the City Council that understands day one what is needed for each community and is willing to stand up for the residents. Beyond the needs of those communities’ residents, reopening the golf courses would be a major economic boost for the entire City of Apopka. We can no longer afford to remain stagnant on this pressing issue.”

Diane Velazquez

Diane Velazquez: Keep schools open, and COVID-19 testing for Apopka

“With 13 months left in this term, as we continue to live with the restrictions of COVID-19, my hope for Apopka is to see our schools remain open and have more students return to in-class learning. I will work with the County to get COVID-19 testing available here in Apopka. I would like to have the City host local family events during the upcoming holidays while continuing to encourage wearing masks and social distancing.”


As a representative for all Apopka residents, how would you make a decision on a contentious issue where there are vastly opposing views?

Diane Velazquez

Velazquez: Listen, learn the facts, research the subject and address concerns while keeping safety and stability in mind

“As the commissioner representing the residents of Apopka, I will listen to their concerns and learn the facts; do the research to help me arrive at a decision or solution to address their concerns, keeping in mind the safety and stability of the entire community.”


Yesenia “Jesi” Baron

Baron: Keep citizens informed, be proactive in listening, and make the decision that benefits Apopka as a whole community

“There will always be opposing views on issues. We need to keep our citizens informed of upcoming discussions and plans. If allowed, I plan to write a small column in our Apopka Chief, Apopka Voice, and other media outlets within our City that would help disseminate information on current forums, discussions, city planning meetings, and events. I will also make myself available to all our citizens to include our African-American, Black, and Hispanic Community by hosting small meet and greets at the various small businesses within our City. If our citizens are informed, our citizens are empowered. Everyone has a perspective to bring on issues. As a commissioner, it is our job to understand a citizen’s perspective and to grasp their circumstances that could be driving their views. We should be able to be proactive in our listening and not be reactive. Once the perspective and understanding have been heard from both sides, the decision should be based on what will benefit Apopka, positively impacting the City as a whole community.”

Nick Nesta

Nesta: Put issues through a filter, listen to their needs, problem-solve and come up with dynamic solutions

“There are many issues that Apopka is currently dealing with that are contentious. As an elected official, I would put all issues through many filters, including how it affects all my constituents’ living standards, how would it fiscally affect the City and residents, and how would this affect our community long term. As a real estate broker for 10+ years, Apopka’s citizens have trusted me with their biggest assets and hard-earned dollars. This is a duty I do not take lightly; it is one that has taught me how to really listen to the needs of those I serve, problem-solve, and come up with dynamic solutions to satisfy all. Should I be elected, I will continue to listen to Apopka’s residents and work in tandem to provide meaningful solutions.”

In part four, the final part of the series published tomorrow, the candidates answer the last two questions and make their closing arguments as to why they are the best candidate.

  • 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? 
  • What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?


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