The November 7th election ushered in a three political newcomers to the Longwood City Commission… what does that mean for Longwood?
By Jacob Engels
Over the next few years, Longwood residents are likely to see a huge push to revitalize the area, something the sleepy city has needed for quite some time.
The fire department is infamous because of regular flooding, the police department has been unable to fill vacancies due to poor compensation and work environment, and it has become one of the least desirable places to do business in Seminole County.
Voters understood that on November 7th, and elected three political newcomers. Two ran against the status quo being pushed by longtime incumbents, and another battled it out against another first time candidate.
Overall, the election was marked by dirty politicking that brought out-of-town special interests and political operatives into Longwood to pollute the minds of residents.
The allegations leveled against Matt Morgan, Richard Drummond, and Abby Shoemaker ranged from flat-out lies, to bizarre conspiracies about them wanting to bring “Vegas style” gambling to Longwood.
And as voters digested those fake horror stories, they were reminded of the very real problems facing Longwood, voting in all political newcomers by substantial margins.
For the first time in a longtime, the majority of the City Commission is made up of political outsiders.
Mayor Ben Paris, who was elected in 2014, often clashed with defeated incumbents Mark Weller and John Maingot. He has been pushing for more innovation, transparency, and ethics in Longwood since he was elected.
The onetime Longwood parks and rec employee made history becoming Longwood’s “Millenial Mayor” earlier this month, after being selected by his peers for the post.
With Mr. Paris now presiding as Mayor, with a clear mandate for change from the residents of Longwood… here is the “Long View For Longwood.” If the new commission can work towards these things, Longwood will flourish.
*Attract More Vibrant Businesses: Featuring a quaint/walk-able downtown/historic/governmental corridor, there is a lot of potential. With several current and upcoming vacancies in commercial space, the City Commission should aggressively court business looking to expand or relocate. They should use Connolly’s Irish Pub, Zanzibar Coffee, and Wild Hare Kitchen as templates for potential new businesses. A food joint that was open as late or even later than the pub would provide tasty eats for bar patrons, in a safely walk-able distance. A record store a la Orlando’s Park Ave CDs would also do well here.
*Battle of the Bands: The Longwood Community Center would be a perfect venue to allow local musicians to compete. Promote it heavily to Central Florida middle and high schools, whose competition would be held before 5pm. Allow college aged and above to compete from 7-9pm. This would bring hundreds of people to the downtown area. It could be hosted during the annual Longwood Arts Festival.
*Treat First Responders Fairly, Raise Wages + Improve Facilities: The dilapidated fire department and lack of interest in vacancies in the police department is hurting Longwood more than anything else. Newly elected Commissioner and former WWE world champion wrestler Matt Morgan made this a rallying cry during his campaign, where he knocked off a well-funded incumbent by huge margins. If movement on finding a new facility for the fire department and an updated plan on recruiting new police talent is not seen in the first 6 months by the City Commission, Longwood is in big trouble.
*Clean House Among City Employees: Immediate and thorough reviews of city employees should occur, and anyone who was involved in neglecting the police and fire department need to provide a proposal to the City Commission, arguing why they should keep their jobs. This should go top-down, no corner of city government should be shielded from this review. By doing this, residents will be shown that the City Commission walks the walk, staying true to their campaign promises.
The people of Longwood deserve a City Commission that is willing to do these things, and evaluate any ideas presented to by local residents wishing to help Longwood work diligently towards a brighter future.
Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, and Fox News to name a few. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.