Yvonne Hinson-Rawls saw Gainesville residents unable to find jobs. She saw graduates unable to stay in town with their ideas. She saw children unable to succeed in school.
Retired educator Hinson-Rawls, 64, is one of three candidates for the District 1 seat of the Gainesville City Commission. The election is Jan. 31.
"I saw a need," she said. "I had to go. I couldn't just sit by and do nothing."
Hinson-Rawls said her three biggest concerns for the city are creating jobs, attracting businesses and developing programs to help parents effectively raise their children.
To reduce unemployment, she said, she would create a job-training center in partnership with local industries. The center would train people to fill job openings at city businesses. This would connect workers with local businesses that need them, she said, and attract businesses to the city.
Hinson-Rawls said investing in green technologies and alternative energy, which goes along with her environmental preservation platform, would also bring in businesses.
To keep talent and ideas from leaving Gainesville, Hinson-Rawls said she would encourage students and innovators to take advantage of the new Florida Innovation Hub at UF, an incubator for science- and technology-based start-up companies.
"Why isn't Gatorade bottled here?" she asked. "We're inventing here, we've innovating here, we need to keep it here."
For Gainesville's families, she wants to focus on youth programs where children can play sports and learn dance, art and music. These programs make kids more well-rounded and self-confident, she said, and they give parents a safe place to leave their children.
"If this is something parents want," she said, "then it's something we need to provide for them."
Born and raised in her district, Hinson-Rawls lived in Long Island, Miami and Atlanta before moving back to Gainesville about six years ago.
"I may be the only candidate with real ties to this community who wants a better life for this community," she said.
She graduated from UF with a bachelor's degree in 1971 and a master's in 1972, both in special education. She then worked with children in special education in New York.
After five years, she moved to Miami where she continued working in the school system. She became the principal of a high-tech magnet school in a low-income neighborhood a few years before Hurricane Andrew hit.
She took advantage of an outpouring of government aid to rebuild her school and meet with leaders of the community to transform the neighborhood into a more commercial area with middle-class homes.
After retiring, Hinson-Rawls started her own company, Childstart Learning Solutions. The business provided tutoring for students in low-performing schools in Louisiana, Georgia and Florida, including Alachua County.
Because of her experience running a school and a business, Hinson-Rawls said she has managed million-dollar budgets. She said she knows how to find money being wasted and make sure citizens' tax dollars are well-spent.
To fund the programs she has in mind, Hinson-Rawls said she would prefer to refocus existing programs without changing their staff, facilities or budgets.
She said her goals of lowering unemployment, attracting businesses, educating students and parents, reducing crime and preserving the environment are all connected.
"Everybody needs to share in the prosperity of Gainesville," she said.
Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, 64, is one of three candidates running for the District 1 seat of the Gainesville City Commission.