Gigi Simmons didn’t just want to be a single mother without an education. She wasn’t going to be a statistic.
At 33 years old, she graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in sociology. She raised two sons while she put herself through school after she realized she was a number in a system. Simmons is currently two credits away from earning a master’s in public administration at USF.
“She realized that there are people that can predict the outcome of where people like her and her sons will end up. It was an eye opener,” said Simmons’ campaign manager, Kristen Young.
Young said Simmons, now 45, has tried to make the best of a bad situation — in her life and community. She is running for City Commission District 1 to continue the change she has started to make in the area.
Before she became the president of Porters Community Neighborhood Crime Watch in 2011, crime rates in the area adjacent to Depot Park were at an all-time high. A year later, rates went down, and she was named a “Neighborhood Hero” by Gainesville Police. Simmons told the Gainesville Sun the crime rates were cut by more than half when she became president.
“It’s not something that I’ve done, it’s something we’ve done as a community,” she said.
Simmons has faced her own criminal charges. She was convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card, driving with a suspended license and theft in the 1990s and 2000s, according to court records. In 1993, she was charged with assault during a burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.
Young said Simmons has since changed her life for the better. Simmons started her own company, Simmons Tax Services, and has served on city boards.
“She shows that everyone can have a second chance,” Young said.