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Friday, September 24, 2021
<p>Jean Calderwood, a County Commission candidate, plans to shift the commission’s focus to rural areas, which are often ignored, she said.</p>

Jean Calderwood, a County Commission candidate, plans to shift the commission’s focus to rural areas, which are often ignored, she said.

Jean Calderwood knows the City of Alachua the way some people know their families.

She loves to talk about the quirks that make her town original — each light pole on Main Street was adopted and decorated, there are horse-friendly public parks and a thriving Hare Krishna community.

The city’s success, as Calderwood sees it, stems from a balance among the government, businesses and residents.

She said she’ll bring a fresh, county-inclusive perspective to the County Commission.

She said the county has long-kept its focus on Gainesville, though there are several other communities to consider. She said she’ll help the county balance the environment with development and local government with private business.

“We are a good example that you can achieve a balance between economic development, protecting natural resources and preserving the historic aspects of your community,” she said. “There’s no reason why we can’t do that in the county.”

She also said she’d increase funding for rural areas, including for recreation.

Though Alachua has invested in parks, only 20 to 30 percent of the children who use them are from the city. The rest come from surrounding communities like High Springs and Lacrosse, which don’t have the money to build parks.

She also has a lot to say about county roads.

“The county has neglected responsibility for roads and has put the burden back on the cities to fix roads the county is responsible for,” Calderwood said.

Another one of Calderwood’s goals is attracting more businesses and people to the area.

Some of Alachua’s newest engines for economic development are major retail distribution centers west of the city such as Walmart and Dollar General.

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Though the centers produce jobs and pay taxes to Alachua County, the City of Alachua faced an uphill battle with the county to let the companies stay.

After a few lawsuits and lots of criticism, the city approved the plans for the centers after requiring that the centers leave green areas and brush to act as a buffer to the wilderness.

Calderwood said she tried to blend businesses with the area’s natural beauty.

She points to Alachua Progress Park, a center for startups and biotechnical companies. Near the back of the buildings is a sprawling park with horse trails.

This balance of development and nature is similar to what Calderwood would like to see in the county: a blend of local government, private businesses and volunteers.

Though she hasn’t worked extensively with UF, she hopes to nurture a relationship between the university and county government.

“We need to harness the value of the Gator Nation and combine it with the rest of Alachua County,” Calderwood said.

Contact Shelby Webb at swebb@alligator.org.

Jean Calderwood, a County Commission candidate, plans to shift the commission’s focus to rural areas, which are often ignored, she said.

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