At 10 years old, his love for politics developed while ironing clothes for school and watching ‘92 presidential candidates on "Good Morning America," per dad's orders. Even though he wanted to watch cartoons, it stuck.
"Bill Clinton inspired me. He said, ‘we need change.' I was just awestruck."
Armando Grundy is one of three candidates running for Gainesville City Commission, District 1. He's half black and half Hispanic. He's 32. His parents divorced when he was 4, and he grew up in Harrisburg, Penn. with a mom who worked two jobs — one at the U.S. Department of Treasury, and one at Sears — to pay for Christmas presents.
"It was a pain that didn't go away for many years," Grundy said about the divorce. "It destroyed me as a kid."
At age 10, he moved to Jacksonville to be with his dad, who he said taught him to be a man by making him do chores and forcing him to stay abreast of current events.
Dad couldn't pay for college, so Grundy joined the Army to get the G.I. bill and pay for school. He served his country from ‘97 to ‘05. He never went to war.
He enrolled in St. Leo University and is one semester away from a bachelor's in political science and international studies, with a minor in urban planning and leadership, he said.
He said he might go to law school one day, but for now, he's focused on the race.
"What I do understand is that in order to lead others, you need to be a servant," he said. "I've been a servant. I've served my country."
He said this kind of experience, like his upbringing, prepared him for a life of public service.
He lives in east Gainesville and doesn't own a car.
"I have three modes of transportation," he said, "Nike, Reebok and RTS."
As for his campaign, the No. 1 issue is "jobs, jobs, jobs." He wants to make it easier for businesses to open in east Gainesville by streamlining the permit process. He calls the biomass plant a non-issue because the ground has already been laid for the project, and he thinks it's hijacking the real issues of the campaign.
"Folks in District 1 are unemployed or underemployed," he said. "That's why it's at the top of my platform."
He said he's been advocating for District 1 since ‘07, when he went to a city council meeting and observed current commissioner Scherwin Henry in action. He was so impressed with the man that in 2008 he asked Henry to mentor him. Henry agreed.
"I've been the only candidate consistently involved in the process," he said, citing his work to improve access by RTS to east Gainesville residents.
He said he was instrumental in extending the route times for east Gainesville from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
"Transportation planning is my specialty," he said.
In addition, he wants to reduce Gainesville crime by promoting crime-watch organizations and supporting after school programs.
Previously, Grundy lost an election for District 3 in 2008.
"I'm running because I'm the only candidate in this race who has been working to better the district," he said. "I understand it will be District 1 to elect me, but I'll be a change that represents all people."
Armando Grundy, 32, is one of three candidates running for Gainesville City Commission, District 1.