This is part of a series of articles that profile candidates running for state and local offices.
Gainesville doesn’t seem like the place for someone who went to the University of Georgia, Clemson and the University of Tennessee.
But Mike Byerly said he’s used his degrees from rival schools to bolster the Gator Nation for the past 12 years as the District 1 representative for the Alachua County Commission.
As a commissioner, he supported an increased bus service, assistance programs for low-income residents and land preservation.
If elected for another term Nov. 6, Byerly said he hopes to invest more in transportation, infrastructure and land conservation.
The self-described environmentalist said he got into politics when he began to see the rest of the state develop in a way that destroyed natural resources.
“I was concerned about the way I saw the community growing and developing,” Byerly said, “seeing people sort of thoughtlessly destroying things in Alachua County that make it a really beautiful place.”
He also puts emphasis on transportation, including public transit, bike lanes and pedestrian areas.
As an avid bicyclist, he pushed for bike lanes near downtown and campus.
He also envisions an update to the Regional Transit System. He and the Gainesville City Commission support transforming the transit into a Bus Rapid Transit system, which is expected to speed up transportation through bus-only lanes and priority for buses at traffic lights.
However, the county changed its votes and moved to let the tax money go only to roads and other construction projects. He said his vision for Alachua County spreads further than that, which is why he no longer supports the ballot measure.
“The way the County Commission has structured it, people living in Gainesville aren’t getting a very good deal,” Byerly said. “They will pay the bulk of the actual tax, but by a 2-1 margin the money is going to be spent outside of the City of Gainesville.”
Aside from roads and buses, Byerly said he is especially proud of the county’s partnership with UF, Santa Fe College and local businesses, especially with Florida Innovation Hub at UF and Innovation Square.
But the innovation initiatives aren’t the only reasons Byerly expects to see more people migrate to Alachua County.
He said county investments in land conservation, recreation areas and alternative methods of transportation have created a diverse community for a county this size.
“All these things are the kind of things that people with talent and ability are attracted to, and it’s obviously paying off,” Byerly said.
While he hopes the innovation economy will bring more people and businesses to the county, Byerly said his main objective is still to make sure the county grows in a responsible way.
“Growth is going to happen, we know that,” Byerly said. “But with that comes some thought and planning. We can grow and develop while preserving the best of what we have as a community.”
Contact Shelby Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
County Commissioner Mike Byerly sits in his office at an Alachua County Commission meeting Tuesday. Byerly is a 12-year commission incumbent.