By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Voters in a central Florida town will decide on Tuesday whether to re-elect their 93-year-old mayor for a record 20th term in office.
Mayor John Land of Apopka, population 41,000, is facing opposition for the first time in a decade after finishing second in a four-way mayoral election in March. No candidate won more than 50 percent of that vote, resulting in run-off election being held on Tuesday.
Land has lost only once since he was first elected in 1949. In 1967 he failed to overcome criticism he had served long enough as mayor after 18 years in office. His opponents in this election again campaigned for a change in leadership.
Research by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, which covers Apopka, indicated Land is both the oldest U.S. mayor and Florida’s longest-serving mayor.
His opponent in the runoff election is longtime resident and former newspaper reporter Joe Kilsheimer who lead in March with 2,354 votes, or 48 percent of total votes cast. Land won 1,905 votes, or 38 percent of the total.
Land first won office after discharge from the Army following World War II. He said he was paid $1 a month to manage what was then an agriculture community of 2,254 people on a $31,000 budget. He oversaw the initial paving of local roads and the installation of the first sewer system.
Today, Apopka, located 18 miles northwest of Orlando, is Orange County’s second largest city with a budget of more than $66 million.
The city drew international attention in 2001 when the Apopka National Little League played in the Little League World Series, losing 2-1 against Kitasuna Little League of Tokyo before a crowd that included then-President George Bush.
Land’s mayoral salary reached $153,000 annually in 2007 as the recession hit. Starting in 2008, he waived his salary and started working for free, according to the city personnel office.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Alden Bentley)
[Image via Mayor John Land official Facebook page]