Editor’s note: This is second part of a series that profiles candidates running in the 2013 District 4 City Commission race.
Every Friday for the past 25 years, W. E. “Mac” McEachern has been meeting with friends at breakfast restaurants around Gainesville.
“We call ourselves the old curmudgeons,” he said as his friends finished up their meals Feb. 22 at the 43rd Street Deli & Breakfast House deli, many of them wearing “McEachern for District Four” campaign T-shirts.
McEachern, 81, is running for District 4 city commissioner for Tuesday’s city elections on a platform of honesty and conservatism, he said.
In his time as a Gainesville resident, McEachern served nine years on the Gainesville-Alachua Regional Airport Authority, six years as a city commissioner and one term as mayor.
Now, he’s back in politics — almost 25 years later — because he feels the current City Commission has brought the city “to the point of fiscal collapse.”
One of McEachern’s main concerns centers on a biomass plant under construction off U.S. Highway 441.
Because of the plant, a fuel adjustment fee of 5.1 cents per kilowatt-hour has been added to Gainesville Regional Utility electric bills, he said.
The city is saying that residents will see the benefit of the plant down the road, but “students won’t be here down the road,” McEachern said.
“We have to have somebody look at it from a practical point of view,” he said. “My administration is going to get the money back to the people now.”
McEachern also said there are bus transportation and housing issues in the city.
To McEachern, the Regional Transit System works well for UF and Santa Fe College students, but he wants to improve the bus system in low-income areas around the city.
While McEachern was a commissioner from 1981 to 1987, the Commission passed an ordinance that prohibited more than three unrelated people from living in the same house in certain areas and turned vacant lots around the city into single-family homes.
McEachern said he wants to preserve neighborhoods by enforcing noise pollution violations at bars and eliminating pressure on single-family homes to be demolished and apartments built in their places.
Annie Orlando, who’s known McEachern for almost 25 years, said she believes he’s the best candidate for the job.
“He’s got a lot of integrity,” she said. “He’s a very honest man.”
Orlando said she supports McEachern’s plan to improve the relationship between the City Commission and residents.
“Mac is going to change all of that,” she said.
Contact Kathryn Varn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
W.E. “Mac” McEachern, 81, stands on the corner of Southeast Second Place and Southeast First Street on Feb. 12. McEachern is running for District 4 city commissioner.