For Mitchell Stollberg-Appleyard, it’s about putting words into action.
A gay man and longtime political activist, Stollberg-Appleyard is campaigning for a seat on the Oakland Park Commission.
“I have been a voice for Oakland Park for many years,” Stollberg-Appleyard told SFGN in an exclusive interview. “Now I feel it’s time to have a role in making policy, not just voicing them. I want to keep Oakland Park moving forward.”
Since 1997, Stollberg-Appleyard has been involved in the North Andrews Neighborhood Association, the largest neighborhood association in the city with more than 4,000 homes and businesses. North Andrews Gardens was annexed into the city of Oakland Park in 2010, the same year the U.S. Census Bureau determined the city had a population of little over 41,000 people.
“We were promised five firefighters, a fire truck and an EMS vehicle,” Stollberg-Appleyard said of the annexation. “We now have, in 2016, three firefighters and one fire truck. If a resident has a heart attack in the North Andrews area, Fire Rescue might be able to get to them but not transport them to the hospital.”
Education is another concern for Stollberg-Appleyard.
“Our schools are crumbling around our students,” he said. “They are breathing in mildew and mold. Roofs are leaking. Rust is coming out of the bathroom faucets. This is not how a child should be going to school.”
The format for the Oakland Park election is somewhat unusual. With no district boundaries, candidates compete on an at-large basis for commission seats. Three of the five commission seats are to be filled with nine candidates actively campaigning.
The election is non-partisan although Stollberg-Appleyard identifies as a Democrat and attended the party's national convention in Philadelphia as a Bernie Sanders delegate. He serves on the board of the Dolphin Democratic LGBTA Caucus and as a precinct committeeman for the Broward Democratic Party.
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Stollberg-Appleyard came out in his early 20s, motivated, he said, to fight for gay rights by Anita Bryant’s actions in Miami. Decades later, he represents a new era of gay candidates who enjoy equal rights.
Mitchell Stollberg married his partner Richard Appleyard in New Hampshire in 2013. The men have been together since 1985.
“I am the only openly gay married candidate who use’s his husband’s last name as part of my own,” Stollberg-Appleyard said.
Election day is Nov. 8.