Apopka county voters decided on Tuesday that it was finally time for a change.
The 93-year-old Mayor, John Land, has lost to his running-mate, Joe Kilsheimer, 56, who campaigned on the need for younger, more energetic leadership in a city that had fallen short of its potential. Land first became mayor of Apopka in 1949.
The new mayor, Kilsheimer, a former city commissioner, captured 54 percent of the vote to Land’s 46 percent in the most expensive election in Apopka’s history. The mayor spent nearly $100,000 to Kilsheimer’s $40,000.
Land’s political career is most certainly over even after claiming Florida’s longest-serving and the nation’s oldest mayor; he is forced to step down.
Land served as chief executive of Orange County’s second-largest city for all but three of those 65 years in service, but his opponent, who ran an aggressive campaign, relentlessly canvassed voters door to door pounding home the message that Apopka needed a new direction.
Land told supporters at Highland Manor, ‘I love Apopka still, but I’ll probably have a broken heart,’ after his loss.
The mayor said he was “too old to cry” but hurt too much to laugh.
He then emotionally described his days as a soldier serving under General George Patton during World War II.
“I think about old General Patton, I served in his Army,” Land said. “He had a saying: ‘I wouldn’t give two hoots in hell for someone who lost and laughed about it.’ That’s how I feel.”
Kilsheimer, who was celebrating with supporters at Errol Estate Golf & Country Club near his home, said the election was historic for Apopka and its citizens.
“For the first time in our city’s history, both the old and new residents of Apopka are looking to have a say in how our city is run,” Kilsheimer said.
He also admitted that the results did not surprise him.
“We were always confident about our prospects for winning. We knew what people in Apopka were telling us. They were looking for a new direction,” he said.
Land’s wife, Betty, and his children surrounded him after the news of his defeat, as he thanked his supporters.
“All the young people here … who worked on the campaign, it’s been an honor to serve,” he said. “I appreciate that.”
Someone in the crowd burst into tears while someone else shouted, “Come back in four years!”
“Never say never,” Land said.
Image via YouTube