Alumni Profile: Longwood mayor’s political activism began at Seminole State

Monday, April 1, 2019
Written by: Lauren Leetun for Seminole State

Ben Paris mayor of Longwood (courtesy city of Longwood)

After moving from California to Florida in 1995, Ben Paris quickly found his footing in what he considers his hometown of Longwood. While attending Lyman High School, Paris and a few of his friends faced the usual dilemma toward the end of their high school years… to go to college or not to go to college? The guys all settled on attending Seminole State College of Florida to earn some prerequisite credits, and it’s a decision that Paris says really changed the trajectory of his career.

While attending Seminole State in 2003 and 2004, Paris became involved in the College’s Leadership Institute, an interactive program focused on student skill development and growth. It was during his time spent in this leadership program – an outstanding experience Paris credits Student Life Assistant Director Mauricio Garcia with helping to facilitate – that he started to get the itch to volunteer in politics. At the time, Seminole State had a College Democrats program, but no one was leading a College Republicans program, so Paris decided to start an on-campus chapter. It was around this time, too, that Paris started volunteering on political campaigns for former Seminole County Commissioner Mike McLean. This time marked what he considers the earliest days of his political activism. 

When asked about his college experience, he stated that the affordability of the College as well as the small, intimate class settings were two of the factors that originally attracted him to – and kept him at – Seminole State College. While earning his associate degree from Seminole State, Paris focused on coursework that he knew would help him in a future political career. Two courses that stick out in his mind in particular were public speaking and a drama class. It was during these courses that Paris says he learned how to interact on stage and clearly project his messages. He laughs a little as he recalls the pre-show exercises that he learned in his drama course that he still uses today before any media interviews or speaking engagements. He recalls two professors who were particularly influential during his years at Seminole State, Professor Bobby Koelble, a guitar and music teacher, and Professor John DiDonna, who taught drama, acting, and public speaking. DiDonna also served as the faculty sponsor for the Young Republicans when Paris started the Seminole State chapter. 

“While attending Seminole State College, I really found my voice for communication, and I attribute that to the professors who were plugged in to ensuring my success,” stated Paris. “It was at Seminole State that I started to understand my strengths and weaknesses as it relates to interpersonal skills, and I learned how to identify the audiences that I was speaking to so I could hit on the points they needed to hear.” 

After earning his associate degree from Seminole State in 2003, Paris went on to graduate from DeVry University with a bachelor’s degree in technical management. He naturally gravitated toward this field of study because it combines two of his strongest interests, statistical analysis and data management, which he says he often leans back on as he’s assessing voting districts and public sentiment heading into election cycles. 

Longwood Mayor Ben Paris rides in the Christmas parade with his wife, Morgan.

As he was finishing his coursework at DeVry, Paris began asking around to try to find a job within the city of Longwood. His first job with the city involved changing the garbage bags for city employees every night. He eventually went on to work for the city’s Public Works and Water departments before deciding he’d like to run for City Commission in 2014. At the young age of 31, Paris was elected to the Longwood City Commission, and he was appointed mayor in 2017. To date, Paris serves as the youngest mayor currently elected in Central Florida. In addition to his role as mayor of Longwood, he also serves as vice president of operations for the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

When he’s not busy in City Commission meetings or assisting with ribbon-cuttings on behalf of the chamber, Paris can be found practicing martial arts, hosting a podcast with several of his friends, or seeking out survival-style camping and hiking adventures with his wife, Morgan. 

About the Seminole State College Alumni Association

Seminole State College Alumni Association: The Seminole State College Alumni Association provides benefits and services for alumni as they continue their lifelong connection with Seminole State College of Florida, providing opportunities for them to network with one another, interact with the student body and support the College. To learn more, visit the Alumni Association website.