I’m really happy to bring you the next segment of our interview series. The next candidate we’re talking to has actually already been through an election night this year and it was one of the most talked about municipal races in the region.
Apopka City Commissioner Joe Kilsheimer ran against long time incumbent Mayor John Land on Tuesday, and came just a couple points short of defeating the 60 year office holder. Campaigning on a message of transformation and growth, he now moves into a runoff that will take place on April 8th, and the whole area will be watching.
Kilsheimer took a few moments to answer some questions for us this week, and here is what he had to say.
FT: Mr. Kilsheimer, Thanks for taking the time to interview. Before we head into the issues, the Apopka Mayor race sort of stole the show from most of the other elections on that night. What was going through your mind as the night went on and when the results came in?
Joe Kilsheimer: First of all, I would like to thank you, Frank, for giving me the this opportunity to address your readers. Regarding my thoughts on Election Day: I was thrilled. It was so exciting to see Apopka voters turn out in record numbers to make their voices heard about their hopes and dreams for our community. I was also very excited for our team of volunteers, who were there in the polling place and able to see their hard work pay off. We’ve campaigned hard over the past two months, knocking on doors throughout Apopka. To see that turnout translate into those results was just great.
FT: You’ve talked about transforming downtown and have used other successful cities in the areas as examples. In your vision, does that transformation take place on 436 right through downtown, like a Winter Garden or Sanford? What is your ideal location in Apopka?
Joe Kilsheimer: The model for successful downtown redevelopment is based on creating reasons for people to visit a given area without having to be necessarily about shopping or dining. That’s the model that Winter Garden followed when the city brought the West Orange Bike Trail through downtown Winter Garden. That’s the model that the city of Tavares is following with the development of a seaplane base in its downtown business district and that’s the model Altamonte Springs followed in creating the pedestrian walkway around Crane’s Roost, which created a market for the Uptown Altamonte development. In Apopka, we have to pick a focal point and create reasons for people to be there. My view is that our best prospects for that lie in the opportunity for passenger rail service, a project often called the Orange Blossom Express. Rail service from downtown Orlando to Mount Dora, Eustis and Tavares will create a need for a train stop in Apopka, and we just happen to have an ideal location on a road appropriately named Station Street. Rail service will create pedestrian traffic and a market that business owners can pursue.
FT:. Sunrail is coming and I feel like Apopka is really missing out on that project, by being so far from the route. What are your thoughts on that, and your transportation plan for the city in general?
Joe Kilsheimer: Clearly, from my answer above, I think passenger rail service is part of our future. If we can establish passenger rail service, we will need to realign bus routes in Apopka and Northwest Orange County to make it easier for people to reach the train station. As for other modes of transportation, I’d like to explore how we can make Apopka friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians. In the not-too-distant future, Apopka can be an integral part of the Coast-to-Coast Connector, a bike-trail project being promoted by Sen. Andy Gardiner. Creating more ways to get people out of cars and onto safe trails and sidewalks will help make Apopka an even nicer place to live.
FT:. You’ve talked about bringing high wage jobs to the area. I know it’s tough in an interview like this to give me the full pitch, but if I’m a growing business, why should I choose Apopka to expand?
Joe Kilsheimer: For growing businesses, Apopka’s chief assets today are a great and improving transportation network; an ample supply of developable land; a robust municipal infrastructure and a market of eager consumers who are interested in spending money locally rather than outside our city limits. As mayor, I will take the lead in forging new partnerships between our community and our local schools, both public and private. As a community, we need to be focused on improving student outcomes. Over the long run, that will improve perception of Apopka, by both residents and visitors. It also will give corporate executives another reason to consider Apopka as a source of skilled workers.
FT: I always like to end my interviews on a fun and positive note. This might be the toughest question you get throughout the entire campaign.
Mustangs or Blue Darters?
Joe Kilsheimer: Oh boy! Both my son and daughter graduated from Apopka High School and so I have the Blue Darter fight song ingrained in my head. At the same time, I am very impressed with the level of achievement that Wekiva High School has attained under the leadership of its principal, Dr. Elise Gruber. It’s great that we have two outstanding high schools here in Apopka.
I’d like to thank Mr. Kilsheimer again. And of course an interview invitation to Mayor Land is extended as well.
If you live in Apopka, make sure to have your voice heard and vote on April 8th. It’s going to be an exciting night!