Apopka will soon have a new mayor as incumbent Joe Kilsheimer was bludgeoned by Bryan Nelson, current Orange County Commissioner for District 2. In the hotly contested race, Kilsheimer didn’t keep it close. Nelson garnered over 61% of the vote while Kilsheimer was able to gather just 38%.
Nelson is well-known in Apopka. He represented the city in the state legislature and on the county commission. Now he gets to become mayor of his beloved town and remain there until he decides he wants to leave.
But looking back at the poll numbers, Kilsheimer struggled in every category. He lost to Nelson in early voting, absentee ballots, and on Election Day. In fact, Kilsheimer received just 17 early votes and didn’t crack 800 votes on Election Day.
Nelson’s victory is nothing short of a repudiation of Kilsheimer’s administration in Apopka. To counter Kilsheimer’s line that the city is doing better under his stewardship, Nelson said that things couldn’t be worse. He vowed to reduce the mayor’s salary and to get the city’s finances in order.
Couple that with Nelson’s name recognition and Kilsheimer’s chances of re-election were slim. He also struggled to connect with African-Americans in the area and had a tense relationship with Apopka Commissioner Billie Dean, the longest-serving and most respected commissioner on the board.
Of course, it’s easy to find flaws during defeat. Kilsheimer’s administration and campaign will be picked apart over the next few days as Nelson prepares to take the reins. He will likely be remembered as the candidate who replaced John Land, the man who led Apopka for more than 40 years as mayor but couldn’t hold on to the seat that he said needed change.
In the end, he turned into the leader who people believed needed to be replaced.
Nelson will be sworn in as mayor on April 24, 2018.