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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
<p>Ray Washington, 56, is one of three people running for the District 1 seat of the Gainesville City Commission.</p>

Ray Washington, 56, is one of three people running for the District 1 seat of the Gainesville City Commission.

Thirty minutes before the noon deadline to run for the Gainesville City Commission, Ray Washington walked into the Supervisor of Elections office, smartphone in hand.

He checked his email one last time to see if there was a response from District 1 candidate Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, whom Washington had contacted about a controversial biomass contract.

There was no response from Hinson-Rawls. The other candidate, Armando Grundy, had already refused to declare his position on the matter.

Washington filed his paperwork 14 minutes before the deadline.

Washington, 56, is one of three people running for the District 1 seat on the Gainesville City Commission. Elections are Jan. 31.

He opposes a Gainesville Regional Utility biomass contract, which he said will raise utility rates. He said this issue will especially affect low-income residents living in District 1, some of whom cannot afford to pay higher bills.

Should Washington be elected and garner support from three other commissioners, he said, the commission could vote to rework the GRU contract.

The city commission voted on the contract in 2009. The contract does not currently have a back-out clause that would allow it to be canceled.

"I don't want to live in a city where my district where I live - not as a politician, just where I live - is going to be forced into this terrible economic catastrophe," he said.

Although his focus is rate hikes, Washington's platform also includes working to make neighborhoods safer, making the city government more transparent and expanding opportunities for young people.

Washington is no stranger to Gainesville. Although he was born in Georgia, he has lived in the Gainesville area since 1978.

Washington has lived in District 1 - in the same house in the Colclough Hill neighborhood - for 19 years.

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He's a former Gainesville Sun reporter but is currently an attorney specializing in environmental, family and criminal law. He also does due process and pro bono work.

He briefly attended Vanderbilt University before transferring to Duke University. After three years at Duke and a summer session at UF, Washington graduated from Duke with an English degree. He later went to law school at UF.

Some of Washington's best memories of Gainesville include canoeing on the Suwannee and Ichetucknee rivers during the summer of 1974.

Washington has a wife, Elizabeth, and three sons.

Washington likes soul and Mexican foods but hates rutabagas. He loves Bruce Springsteen's music.

David Washington, his 23-year-old son, said his dad has a "corny, but funny" sense of humor.

He said his dad is committed to making Gainesville better. His dad's meticulousness would make him a good commissioner, he said.

"He will not turn any project in or do anything unless he knows that it's done 100 percent and what it was intended to be at the outset," he said.

He remembers walking over to City Hall after school as a child to sit with his father in the meetings.

"It was just his passion," he said. "I hope Gainesville sees what I see in him and is lucky enough to be represented by him."

Ray Washington, 56, is one of three people running for the District 1 seat of the Gainesville City Commission.

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