Southern rock music, cold beer and local politics drew dozens to Gainesville mayor hopeful Lauren Poe’s first fundraiser Friday evening at First Magnitude Brewery.
The former city commissioner is one of two candidates currently running in the 2016 mayoral race, according to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections website. The other candidate is Donald Shepherd Sr.
Poe’s platform focuses on children, quality of life and transportation in Gainesville.
"They all tie into equity, and I think one of the real challenges we have here in Gainesville is equity," the Santa Fe College economics and history professor said as a band from his church played southern rock music and supporters mingled.
During his speech, Poe outlined three initiatives: helping at-risk children, creating safer and more efficient transportation and making Gainesville a great place to live.
"You shouldn’t have to have a lot of money to have a high quality of life," he said. "We need to invest into things like park recreation (and) cultural affairs ... because what that does is it gives people a great environment to live in, a great community to live in, regardless of their income."
While he discussed these initiatives with supporters during the fundraiser, Poe neglected to mention Gainesville Regional Utility rates even as the current mayor and other city officials struggle to lower rates.
Jim Konish, a civic activist, blames Poe because he was one of the city commissioners who approved a biomass contract with Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, which contributed to GRU’s high rates.
"The problem with Lauren Poe is ... we would be back to the same old politics that led to all the problems we’re in," the Gainesville resident said.
"Going back to Poe would be going back to all the failed policies that we’re just slowly beginning to address," Konish continued.
Before his speech, however, Poe did mention his hope for cooperation between the city government and GRU customers to consume less energy.
"I think it’s unrealistic for anybody to say that they’re going to lower rates," he said. "The people that have said that in recent years have not done it."
Some of Poe’s former students who attended the fundraiser believe Poe can follow through with his initiatives.
"He had such a passion for American history and American government and I know that he knows what he’s talking about," said India Jackson, a 27-year-old UCF alumna who dual-enrolled at Santa Fe.
"I know that as a teacher, he believes in inspiring the youth and really connecting with the youth in a way that I always felt like I could just have a conversation with him."
Jackson, who had Poe as a teacher and professor while studying at Fort Clarke Middle School and Santa Fe, also said Poe can be a voice for the people.
"I believe when he says he’s going to make a change, that he’s going to go through with it and that he knows how to implement and change government from where it is now to where it needs to be," she said.
Gainesville mayoral candidate Lauren Poe mingles at his first fundraiser on Oct. 9, 2015, at First Magnitude Brewery. During his speech, Poe said he plans to focus on children, quality of life and transportation.