ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A 93-year-old Florida man believed to be the country’s oldest mayor is seeking re-election for a 20th term in office.
“I‘m not going to rest on my laurels,” John Land told Reuters on Friday after filing campaign paperwork to seek another four-year term as mayor of Apopka in the city’s March 11 election.
Research by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, which covers Apopka, indicated that Land is both the oldest U.S. mayor and Florida’s longest-serving mayor.
Land first won office in 1949 after discharge from the Army following World War Two. He said he was paid $1 a month to manage 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 W. Bush.
Land’s mayoral salary reached $153,000 in 2007 as the recession hit. Starting in 2008, he waived his salary and started working for free, according to the city personnel office.
Over the past 64 years, Land lost only one election - in 1967 after serving as mayor for 18 years.
“The big campaign was ‘18’s enough.’ That’s about all they had,” Land said.
Four years later, he was re-elected, and never lost again.
Land said he has run unopposed since 2002, but is facing challengers for the 2014 election. Although many old-timers who supported his campaign in past elections are gone, and many newcomers have arrived, Land said he hopes they will recognize his service to the community.
“I hope they see someone really dedicated, somebody who loves the city, somebody who loves the constituents, wants to do the best he can for them,” he said.
While much younger people enjoy a well-earned retirement, Land said quitting does not appeal to him.
“I feel good. The doctor’s cleared me, did all the blood tests. So what else should I do?” Land said. “I’ve got to get a 12-step program to get out.”
Editing by Kevin Gray and Leslie Adler