‘Apopkas’ just don’t happen .. they take decades of moral leadership
By Richard Corbeil – The Apopka Chief – Founded in 1923
APRIL 18 – Columnist Note: I wrote this column, including the headline, on January 25, 2002. When I retrieved it after last week’s election, and read it again, the events seemed just like yesterday. Needless to say, my admiration for Mayor Land has only grown stronger in the last 14 years. God bless you, Mayor. My deepest thanks for your incomparable service of the past 30 years, since my arrival here. And, my prayers and best wishes to Mayor-elect Joe Kilsheimer.
January 26, 2002 – This is 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 youngest son Jason, came to the Apopka area in 1984, when the city, 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 in our lives and greatly reduced financial circumstances, all three of us has 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 city limits of Apopka 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 of residing within the city limits. 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 radio broadcaster Walter Winchell had once commented that, “there is more politics in Peabody, Massachusetts, than the rest of the U.S. combined”.
Answering the doorbell one day in 1988, I was confronted by a neatly dressed, slim, grey-haired man with a wonderfully warm smile, who introduced himself as John Land, Mayor of Apopka.
I must confess, that 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 or term expiration dates, 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, at least in that era, did not solicit votes door-to-door.
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-fearing lives by the now 26,500 residents.
Some of my first duties in my early days with The Chief included covering Apopka High sports, which re-birthed in me the feeling of 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, Rodney Brewers and many other superstars from this tiny city, were only 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 leaders in education and city departments, as well as state representatives and city commissioners. All take their lead from, and exemplify the character of the dedicated leader they are blessed with in Mayor Land.
I say blessed, because this type of leadership and example are not by chance or happenstance. A loving caring 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 him. A prime example of this would be God’s instruction to the prophet Samuel to anoint both Saul then 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 two national titles of Pop Warner Football, Little League Baseball and Apopka High’s State Football Championship. For a town this size to reach these heights within a single year was 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 comes for that office to be held by another, I hope we all have the wisdom to drop to our knees and pray for another John Land, as he has certainly prayed for us, for so long.
“The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the LORD, and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 37:23.