From Staff Reports
Voting day for the Apopka City Commission Seat #2 Special Election Runoff between Yesenia Baron and Diane Velazquez is Tuesday, December 8, 2020 from 7am to 7pm, at your designated voting location.
To verify your voting location, visit Orange County Supervisor of Elections Check My Info page. The two locations in Apopka are:
- Apopka Community Center (519 S. Central Avenue, Apopka, FL 32703)
- Northwest Recreation Complex Administrative Office (3710 Jason Dwelley Parkway, Apopka, FL 32712)
Yesenia “Jesi” Baron
According to the bio Baron sent to The Apopka Voice, she moved to Apopka in 2012 but was born and raised in Miami, the daughter of Cuban immigrants. She graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice and then her Master of Science in organizational management from St. Thomas University.
She started her professional career at the Department of Business and Professional Regulations as an investigative specialist. In 1997, she graduated from the police academy and rose to become a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Baron retired in 2012 and is now a Regional Liaison for the National Criminal Justice Training Center, AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program. She is also an appointed member of the Community Action Board for Orange County District 2.
Baron is married to Edwin Baron and has four children.
In 2014, Velazquez burst onto the Apopka political scene with a surprising victory over 18-year incumbent Marilyn Ustler-McQueen with 55% of the vote. Her margin of victory was the largest in that election cycle – outperforming both Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and Commissioner Sam Ruth, who were both eventual winners in runoffs. However when running for re-election in 2018, Velazquez lost Seat #2 to Nolan in a 2018 runoff.
Velazquez is retired from the New York City Police Department who achieved the rank of Detective 2nd Grade, serving as a medical insurance fraud investigator. During her career, she attended and successfully completed several investigative courses within the agency. She also attended weekend college courses at Nassau Community College in Long Island.
She has been actively involved in the community since moving to Apopka in April of 2005. She is married to Ed Velazquez, who is also a retired law enforcement officer and a Vietnam veteran, and has two children.
Leading up to the November 3 General Election, The Apopka Voice interviewed each of the candidates running for City Commission Seat #2 in a four-part series entitled The race for City Commission Seat #2.
Here are the questions and summarized positions as reported from Baron and Velazquez. For their full answers and quotes, check out the full articles following each of section.
SERIES: The race for City Commission Seat# 2
PART 1: The candidates have common ground but also differences in priorities
Q: If elected to the Apopka City Council, what would your top three priorities be, and what metric would you use to know if they were accomplished or not?
Baron: Open communication between city, county and state; attain state and federal grants; and South Apopka beautification
Velazquez: Budget workshops; keep Rock Springs Ridge and Errol Estate residents informed; cushion the impact of COVID-19
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) facing the City of Apopka, and how would you go about helping the City to overcome it?
Baron: Employee retention; recruiting anchor businesses
Velazquez: Find ways to fund infrastructure and recreational opportunities
Full article, published October 27, 2020:
PART 2: Candidates for Seat #2 take on inclusion and annexation of South Apopka
Q: Assuming the residents of South Apopka want to be annexed into the City of Apopka, would you be in favor?
Baron: Favors annexation – “It is time we unite as one Apopka and beautify our city, to become whole”
Velazquez: “City and County representatives must provide the residents with the information that will impact their choice”
Q: 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?
Baron: “I will give a voice to those that have no voice, as I have done throughout my career”
Velazquez: Continues a long-standing practice of attending community, religious and cultural events
Full article published October 28, 2020:
PART 3: The hopes for Apopka differ among Seat #2 candidates
Q: 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?
Baron: Clean and beautify the West Orange Trail in South Apopka
Velazquez: Keep schools open, and COVID-19 testing for Apopka
Q: As a representative for all Apopka residents, how would you make a decision on a contentious issue where there are vastly opposing views?
Baron: Keep citizens informed, be proactive in listening, and make the decision that benefits Apopka as a whole community
Velazquez: Listen, learn the facts, research the subject and address concerns while keeping safety and stability in mind
Full article published October 29, 2020:
PART 4: The race for the Apopka City Commission Seat #2: Candidates give their closing statements
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.
Q: 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?
Baron: “Pay for current infrastructure projects while saving for amenities and future issues”
Velazquez: “Invest in a full-time Economic Development Director whose sole responsibility is to recruit additional businesses to Apopka”
Q: 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?
Baron: “I can guide our city to a future filled with prosperity, great lifestyles, and community spirit while keeping small-town charm and character.”
Velazquez: “Experience as a former Apopka City Commissioner will give me a better understanding when making decisions for Apopka”
Full article published October 29, 2020:
Additional articles covering Baron & Velazquez:
Aside from the interview series above, The Apopka Voice wrote and published three additional articles on the candidates running for City Commission Seat #2. In case you missed these articles, here they are:
October 23, 2020: Apopka candidates for City Commission Seat 2 gave heart and thought on key issues at virtual forum. This report covered the Candidate Forum hosted by the Hope CommUnity Center (HCC), Farmworkers Association of Florida, and Florida Immigrant Coalition on October 21, 2020.
November 3, 2020: Breaking News: Baron, Velazquez heading to runoff. This article reported on the results of the Special Election for Seat #2 held on November 3, 2020.
November 27, 2020: Apopka Firefighters Association endorses candidate for the first time, City Council Seat #2. This article reported on the endorsements received by both candidates from prominent people and organizations.