John Mobilian made history Tuesday night by defeating fellow Villager Fred Collins for the District 2 seat on the Fruitland Park Commission.
The Village of Pine Hills resident and retired Federal Express pilot tallied 643 votes (62.07 percent), while Collins received 393 votes (37.93 percent).
Mobilian will join District 1’s Patrick DeGrave as the first-ever Villagers to serve on the government body when they are sworn in Thursday night at the Fruitland Park Commission meeting. DeGrave was unopposed in his bid to replace outgoing Commissioner Rick Ranize, while Mobilian takes the seat that’s been held by Commissioner Ray Lewis the past four years.
Mobilian describes himself as a fiscal conservative and said he hopes to bring that same philosophy to the Fruitland Park Commission. During his campaign, he said it was important for Villages residents to elect someone who would have their best interests at heart.
“We all worked hard for everything we have and don’t throw our money away,” he said. “We don’t want our government to throw it away, either.”
Throughout his campaign, Mobilian touted the fact that Villagers who live in both Fruitland Park and Lake County are the “highest taxed residents” in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. He and his wife, Mary Ann, who served as his campaign manager, played a big role in getting a large turnout of Villagers at two recent Fruitland Park Commission meetings, where questions were raised about everything from the city’s millage rate to the 2019 budget to spending on the new library.
After the first of the two meetings – both were held at the Community Methodist Church because of the size of the audiences – Mobilian offered praise for both his fellow residents and the commissioners.
“They had some really pointed questions to ask and I think the commissioners did a pretty good job of trying to answer some of the questions,” he said. “They came to us in our campaign and asked us to help them organize and get the word out so people could make it to the budget hearing. I think it was pretty successful.”
Going forward, Mobilian, who also served four years in the Air Force, said he’s in favor of budgeting more money for hiring police officers and increasing benefits for city workers. He called those two things “critical” given the growth rate of the city because of the new homes in the Villages of Pine Hills and Pine Ridge.
“I would also want to ensure that other public services are sufficient to take care of the growth explosion, such as the water/sewer management,” he said, adding that he believes Fruitland Park’s current capacities have been strained. “What I would not want to see happen is that a long ‘wish list’ is not implemented to absorb the large influx of capital and therefore maintain higher budget costs and related millage rates.”
Mobilian said he’s always been “passionate” about politics, and now that he’s retired, he has the time to act on his dream of serving others.
“I discovered that the City of Fruitland Park was actually the fastest-growing city from 2016-17, according to the Census Bureau, but we didn’t have any representation on the commission,” he said. “Since I believe that we should all do our part to serve our communities, I decided I would be honored to represent District 2.”
Collins, who has many years of experience in corporate management and civil and highway engineering, had vowed to make sure residents had “the best police and fire protection possible” while maintaining cost effectiveness. The Village of Pine Ridge resident also had promised that while he would be a huge advocate for Villagers, he planned to do everything in his power to make sure that proposed projects benefitted the entire city.
Mobilian and Collins both advanced to the general election after handily defeating August Kellerman in the Aug. 28 primary election. In that hotly contested battle, Mobilian garnered 268 votes (47.77 percent), Collins tallied 229 (40.82 percent) and Kellerman received just 64 votes (11.41 percent).
DeGrave, who lives at 3233 Delk Drive and technically will become the first Villager ever to serve on the commission, spent 39 years in local government, first as a Mount Pleasant, Wis., police officer/sergeant for 16½ years and then in six local governments in Wisconsin and Illinois for 22½ years. He has four college degrees and has been an adjunct faculty member at Concordia University in Wisconsin for the past 24 years, now exclusively in the online program since retiring to Florida.
Both Ranize and Lewis were elected in November 2014 at the same time voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to divide the city into five districts. Since neither one of them lived in the districts they represented, they weren’t eligible to run for the posts again in this year’s general election.