In the four months that have ticked by since Mayor Ed Braddy was sworn into office, he has overseen accomplishments and setbacks for the city of Gainesville.
Braddy, who said he feels the pressure the city places on him to keep things running smoothly, said he felt confident his first quarter in office has been productive.
“We’re already doing a lot of things well — about as well as can be expected,” he said. “It’s a great privilege and a good feeling, but I know there’s a lot of weight being placed on the office to really turn the city and get it moving in the right direction.”
Though the City Commission is a nonpartisan body, Braddy, a Republican mayor working with a majority of Democratic commissioners, said he thinks the cooperation of the commission has probably surprised residents who predicted major clashes would ensue.
“The challenges the city faces are real and serious, so it’s not expected that we’re all going to hold hands and roast marshmallows together. These are difficult times,” he said. “Sometimes you see votes that are 7-0, or 6-1, but a number of times, we’ve seen 4-3 votes that suggest we are trying to work together on what are, admittedly, difficult issues.”
Standing in the category of unhappy residents is Robert Prather, chair of the Alachua County Democratic Party.
He said Braddy’s time as mayor will most likely not continue past this term.
“Mayor Braddy … has been largely ineffective in gathering support,” he said.
Prather cited push-back against city staff, environmental causes and neighborhood protection issues among arenas he said Braddy caused dissention in.
“The one bright spot in his tenure as mayor so far is that his caustic attitude and unwillingness to compromise will ensure these are his final few years in office,” he said.
While the commission remains split on issues such as GRU rate hikes and the biomass plant, one of the accomplishments the commission has embraced is the small-business forum that was organized in May, Braddy said.
Kamal Latham, vice president of public policy for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, said the forum was designed to produce recommendations to make growing small businesses easier and create dialogue between the city and small business efforts.
“It was a very significant impact that we would say Mayor Braddy had,” Latham said. “It was his idea to have the forum, and he was very instrumental in moving it forward, “ he said.
Latham said the forum was one of the biggest public policy accomplishments for the chamber this year because it’s “very tangible, very real and has an impact,” he said.
Braddy also said he’s striving to help residents change the way they view city government.
“My long-term goal is to slowly but steadily turn the ship from a command-and-control mentality in terms of how the city develops,” he said. “I want us to move towards an active role where we pretty much channel their aspirations and the city will grow that way.”
Braddy’s girlfriend of six years, Charmaine Spence, said although he has a myriad of issues to deal with, she can tell Braddy loves what he’s doing.
“It’s something he really enjoys doing because he believes in running a city smoothly,” she said. “He’s ready for the challenges, and he doesn’t try to make everybody happy.”
A version of this story ran on page 8 on 10/1/2013 under the headline "Braddy feels pressure to run city smoothly in first quarter"