He was once a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar but now Matt Morgan has made the amazing transformation into the mayor of Longwood in Seminole County.
Morgan was elected to the city commission in 2017 during a changing of the guard for the city of 16,000 in the heart of Seminole County. How did he get there? A lot of door knocking. What would you do if a seven foot, 300-pound man was standing at your door? Morgan admits he had to realize his size could be intimidating despite the fact that he is a giant teddy bear of a man.
“I did think about that and so I purposely would knock on the door and then stand about two feet away or so from the door because I do forget at times that I am seven feet and I am so hulking in comparison to others. You don’t really think about it,” Morgan told Florida Daily.
This year, his fellow commissioners picked him to be mayor. While the title is mostly ceremonial since the city has a city manager form of government, it meant a great deal to Morgan.
“I’m not going to lie,” Morgan told Florida Daily. “I got teary-eyed and it took everything in my power not to bawl like a little baby up there.”
Morgan spent years wrestling for various outfits, including a two-year stint with the WWE and five years with Total Nonstop Action (TNA). He learned a key trait about being a politician from his pro wrestling days: tough skin. Now that he is the mayor, Morgan says he’s ready for the criticism.“Right now it’s raining outside, and I’m going to get blamed for that,” Morgan told Florida Daily.
Being a bad guy–or “heel” as they are called in wrestling–helped Morgan develop the ability to look past the criticism.
“That means do anything I could to make them boo me and cheer my opponent. When you leave the arena and you get into your car and people are throwing milkshakes at your rental car as you drive away, or popping your tires before you get in your car and things of that nature,” Morgan said. “One, you know you did your job. Two, you learn to develop thick skin and go ‘listen this is entertainment, this is part of the show’ of you going out there. People are going to yell bad things at you.”
Much of the Longwood old guard still yells at him,but Morgan said is going to try and push the city forward into the 21st century.
“I lead with my heart and its very, very obvious. I think everybody gets that message,” Morgan said.
Change can be difficult. It took a new commission for Morgan to convince his city to broadcast its meetings on Facebook Live. The move has dramatically increased interest in city meetings. Longwood also became the first city to approve medical marijuana dispensaries Though Casselberry got one open first.
Morgan said he was just trying to enact the will of the people by approving the dispensary.
“If they have a prescription, and they want to go pick up their medicine, I just don’t think it is fair that all of us get to go to Walgreens and CVS and they’ve got to drive 43 minutes in traffic in pain,” Morgan said.
Morgan said Longwood has a bright future.
“We’ve got a city right now that is very proud to be from Longwood. We have our kids now are finally emotionally invested in our city. They brag that they are from here,” Morgan said.
The new mayor uses the hashtag “#Strongwood” in all of his tweets to signify that the city wins together and loses together but always remains strong.
The former wrestling star also coined the word “polticiany,” saying he understands why people think that when he calls himself a public servant–but he honestly means it.
“I’m literally their seven foot, 300-pound megaphone,” Morgan told Florida Daily. “I am their conduit.”
That conduit faces tough decisions in the city, the biggest being what will replace the dog track that is the city’s oldest current business when greyhounds stop racing at the end of 2020. Morgan’s plan is to be a positive influence for the next generation and keep making his home city #Strongwood.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.