Mark Venzke has turned his energy to utilities reform.
The 56-year-old Gainesville resident who ran for mayor last spring is now making his bid for City Commission At-Large Seat 2, and his platform focuses on revamping Gainesville Regional Utilities operations.
He wants to add a paid board of directors comprised of experts to oversee city utilities, he said, because it would relieve city commissioners of dealing with issues they may not have time for or fully understand.
Venzke is also calling for a higher level of accountability in city government.
“What we need and what I publicly call for is full protection for any whistleblowers who want to talk to the city commissioners or managers,” he said.
Venzke said if elected, he would push the commission to pursue an investigation of management practices and decisions surrounding the biomass energy project.
“That contract was negotiated irregularly and has many provisions that are highly disadvantageous to Gainesville and GRU ratepayers,” he said.
Overall, Venzke said he believes there is “much good” in Gainesville, and he is invested in bringing a higher level of organization to local government.
“The issues are so important … and the effects are so far-reaching, and they get so little quality attention that I feel I cannot ignore them,” he said.
Levi Colson Sr., one of Venzke’s neighbors, said he supports Venzke’s efforts to revitalize the community. He said Venzke would be a voice for “the homeless, the helpless, the poor people.”
“He’s been helping the whole neighborhood out,” he said. “It would be real good if he were part of the commission.”
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 3/10/2014]