Adrienne Perry was elected to the Longwood city commission in 1989, winning her district with 77% of the vote. She served two terms, running unopposed in 1991. After the start of her second term, she was elected by fellow commissioners as mayor in November 1991.
Perry was born in 1943 and moved to Longwood in the 70s. She lived along Rangeline Road, which she remembered as being in the country. Her home was one of the first after the citrus groves were sold off by the Stum family. Perry earned a doctorate in education from the University of Florida, with her master’s degree from Columbia University. She was a long-time teacher, education advocate, and director of student education at Stetson University. Her husband was an attorney.
With her election in 1989, she was only the second elected black official in Seminole County. She was the first black mayor in Seminole County. She was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 1992 and County Commission in 1994, but she lost in the general election both times. She served Longwood with distinction during her two terms, in an era of a series of blunders and scandals in the small town.
Adrienne’s election from a town with very few African Americans within the city limit (especially then) is quite remarkable. The margin of victory was impressive, even considering her opponent was caught up in a scandal at the time. Adrienne noted that she heeded advice not to put her photo with campaign materials; however, the newspaper outed her blackness shortly anyway. She stated that people were surprised but thankfully still colored in her circle.
In 1990 the mayor of Longwood, a white man, was arrested for drunk driving. Upon his arrest by a black officer, he made some comments toward the officer (which were caught on videotape) that were racist in tone. His fellow councilmen showed the tape at a meeting and unanimously asked him to resign–he declined.
In many ways, the city commission voting Adrienne as mayor (3-1 vote) in 1991 was a statement. The time had come to turn the page and racism was not to be accepted in Longwood any longer. That’s not to say it completely went away obviously. But it was a solid start!