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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Candidates express hopes, concerns for city at forum

Despite the economic malaise that has grabbed hold of everyday life, Gainesville is still a great place to call home, commission candidates from two separate races said at a forum Tuesday.

The forum, which was held at Santa Fe College and sponsored by the Leadership Gainesville Alumni Association, provided an opportunity for candidates, fresh off a preliminary election round, to present their takes on current issues as well as their personal philosophies.

Speaking in front of a crowd of about 40 people, the candidates painted a picture of Gainesville as a community that people and families should want to settle in, not flee.

District 3 candidate Susan Bottcher described the city as “a place where shopkeepers look you in the eye” and neighbors know your name. District 2 candidate and current Commissioner Lauren Poe portrayed  Gainesville as a place where, despite rough economic times, things were coming together. 

Just how the city goes about doing that, however, is a matter of interpretation. Poe and Bottcher believe that the city, for the most part, is heading in the right direction.

“We did something that no municipality or local government can claim; we lowered your taxes last year,” Poe said.

Other candidates, such as Todd Chase and Rob Zeller, contending for seats in District 2 and 3 respectively, believe that a culture of government inefficiency and loads of red tape have hindered the city’s appeal to local businesses, a critical key, they believe, to the city’s growth.

“I think serving the people has gotten lost,” Zeller said afterward. “I think government is serving themselves.”

Although they expressed their differences on numerous issues, notably the fire assessment fee and overall budget concerns, forum moderator Richard Drake remarked how each candidate could provide leadership if elected.

“It’s about having a broader eye for the common good,” Bottcher said.

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