If you were born in or moved to Land’s Land, you are truly blessed
By Richard Corbeil – The Apopka Chief – Founded in 1923
NOVEMBER 28 – Columnist note: The column below was written in January 2002. It is dedicated to the memory of a man whose life’s work was a major influence on the lives of thousands of Apopkans, both natives and arrivals, the late Mayor John H. Land, who passed away on Saturday, November 22. He will always live in our hearts and spirits. The column was titled, “’Apopkas’ don’t just happen – they take decades of moral leadership”.
JANUARY 25, 2002 – This a very special day here, in my adopted town of Apopka. Several hundred citizens will be honoring Mayor John H. Land at a banquet tonight, celebrating his 50 years of service in that office.
My wife, Marilyn, and I, and our son Jason came to the Apopka area in 1984, when Apopka had a population of around 6,000. Actually, we lived in Sweetwater on the Orange County side of the line for the first two years, with just an Apopka mailing address. Apopka proper was “somewhere over there to the west a few miles.”
Despite some upheavals in our lives and greatly reduced financial circumstances, all three of us had undergone a spiritual transition and found a unique tranquility in the Apopka area and its depth of faith-oriented people.
Our home in Sweetwater, and two years later, within the Apopka city limits in the Sheeler Oaks area, became a place for Bible studies, ministry and prayer meetings with many of the community’s wonderful couples and individuals.
I first met Mayor Land in the campaign of 1988, toward the end of the second year residing in the city.
Coming from my hometown of Peabody, Mass., in the Boston area, let’s just say that politicians were not my favorite people. Famed columnist and national radio broadcaster Walter Winchell had once commented that, “there was more politics in Peabody, Massachusetts, than in the rest of the U.S. combined.”
Answering the doorbell one day in 1988, I was confronted by a neatly dressed, slim, gray-haired man with a wonderfully warm smile, who introduced himself as John Land, Mayor of Apopka.
I must confess, with my tenure at The Apopka Chief still almost a year away from that meeting with Mayor Land, I had no interest in local politics and was not aware of the campaign, but I found it intriguing that the incumbent mayor would be canvassing for votes door-to-door.
In Peabody (1984 population 49,000), mayoral incumbents did not solicit votes in this manner. But, after a lifetime of Kennedys, Dukakises and Barney Franks, the sincerity, honesty and genuine caring nature of John Land came through to me in a warm wave of recognition of the individual who, for decades, had been faithfully preparing our new hometown for us. My family has voted for John Land ever since.
What Apopkans are celebrating tonight is that same careful, prayerful stewardship that has prepared this community for full, decent and God-loving lives by the now 26,500 residents.
Some of the first duties in my early days with The Chief included covering Apopka High sports, which re-birthed in me the feeling and appreciation for small-town spirit and competitive pride.
Blue Darter football, basketball and baseball were my beat for three years and I came to realize, as I observed Mayor Land’s attendance at many of the contests, that the Warren Sapps, Jeremi Rudolphs and Rodney Brewers, and many other superstars from this tiny city, were only prime examples of a massive crop of quality fruit that has been grown here in Land’s Land.
The old saying about leadership and “water seeking its own level” is exemplified in Apopka, as one notes the quality of leadership in education and city departments, as well as state representation and city commissioners. All take their lead from and exemplify the character of the dedicated leader they are blessed with in John Land.
I say blessed, because this type of leadership and example are not by chance or happenstance. A loving God prepares certain individuals for roles such as Mayor Land’s, but few have the courage and morality to remain faithful to those entrusted to them.
A prime Biblical example of this would be God’s instructions to the prophet Samuel to anoint both Saul, and later David, as Israel’s king. One succumbed, as so many do, to the pitfalls of pride, position and power, the other became a blessing to God, His people, and eventually, to the entire world.
This past year, the richness of Mayor Land’s next crop was beautifully demonstrated in the National Champion titles of the Pop Warner Football, Little League Baseball and Apopka High’s State Football Championship. For a town this size to reach these athletic heights, all within the same year, is truly miraculous.
Do I believe that John Land has a Divine anointing to be a blessing to the present and future families of Apopka? Amen to that!
When the time arrives for that office to held by another, I hope we all have the wisdom to drop to our knees and pray for another John Land, as he certainly prayed for us, for so long.
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