Editor’s Note: Donald Shepherd, Gainesville’s third mayoral candidate, declined an interview with the Alligator.
Lauren Poe wants to improve life for Gainesville’s low-income residents.
The 45-year-old mayoral candidate said he hopes to make Gainesville’s housing affordable for all residents, add bus routes to east Gainesville and create after-school and summer children’s programs.
Poe came to Gainesville after fifth grade when his father became the band director at UF. In 1993, he graduated from UF with a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in education in 1998.
He served as city commissioner from 2008 to 2015. After losing re-election in 2011 for his District 2 commissioner seat, Poe came back as a city-wide commissioner in 2012.
The Santa Fe College professor said he comes from a family of teachers. He hopes programs for children will improve graduation rates and decrease crime.
“When you’re a teacher, you see the sad and devastating effects of inequality,” he said. “I firmly believe it does take a village to raise a child, and Gainesville’s our village.”
He said his favorite thing about Gainesville is the diversity of its residents. As a city commissioner, he participated in 352ArtsRoadmap, which asked residents how the city could support the arts.
But he said Gainesville’s largest problem is inequality. Gainesville has some of the highest rates of economic segregation in the state and nation.
“We have a huge gap in income inequality,” he said. “While this city works very well for some people, perhaps students, perhaps middle- or upper-income folks, it is leaving the rest of our residents behind.”
He said as mayor he would work to overcome this by addressing housing segregation.
“One of the greatest blights to any community is when you pack poverty into concentrated areas,” he said.
He said expanding public transportation and focusing on safety will decrease Gainesville’s poverty. He said about 420 people died on Alachua County’s roads in the last 10 years, and he wants to bring that number to zero by 2025.
“We can eliminate those deaths,” he said. “It’s completely within our abilities.”
He also wants to add an across-town express bus route, which would have fewer stops than a normal route, he said. It would run from East Gainesville through the UF Health Shands medical complexes and to Archer Road to get residents to their jobs faster.
Hadley Hartman, an economics professor at Santa Fe, has worked in an office next to Poe for 14 years. He said Poe has the experience needed to be mayor.
He said when Poe was a commissioner, he worked to pass legislation to benefit Gainesville.
Hartman said Poe will unify Gainesville.
“I think he sincerely cares about Gainesville and the people here and the future,” he said.
- Katelyn Newberg
Mayor Ed Braddy is running for re-election.
Braddy, who was elected in 2013, said he’s worked to bring together students and the city, creating two joint City Commission meetings during which UF’s Student Government and the commission discussed underage drinking, adding bike lanes in the city streets, Gainesville Regional Utilities bills and the concealed carry of weapons.
Braddy said he’s also reached out to UF Health Senior Care and Uber to create Freedom in Motion, a transportation service for seniors in Gainesville.
Braddy said he helped secure $15,000 for the program. No numbers have been recorded because the program just completed a trial run in a few Gainesville neighborhoods, but Braddy said the service has been expanded citywide.
Braddy said he’s worked with Charlie Lane, UF’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, to increase the number of street lights around the city.
The project installed street lights along Southwest Ninth Road and Southwest Ninth Avenue, which cost about $1 million to $1.4 million, according to Alligator archives.
“We felt like it was a benefit not only for the students, but also the community, too,” Lane said.
At the 2016 State of the City Address, Braddy said his top priority is to lower Gainesville Regional Utilities bills.
“It took us a long time to get into this mess, but we’re slowly getting out of it,” he said, adding that the city has lowered fuel adjustment charges, lowered the amount of electricity or gas a customer uses, and sold power to Alachua County and Winter Park.
Braddy said his success as sitting mayor is a result of facilitating partnerships between organizations in Gainesville.
“I put ideas together, but I think the real role of a mayor who really wants to represent the entire city and not a narrow constituency is to be able to bring diverse groups of people together,” he said.
Lane, who worked closely with Braddy on the street lights project, said he sees Braddy at city and university functions.
“Ed tried to demonstrate his support for UF by participating (in UF’s events),” Lane said.
To voters concerned about his involvement with Jeffery McAdams, a former police officer and former president of Gator Lodge, who stole about $56,000 from the lodge, Braddy said he accepts he made mistakes, but the mistakes don’t overshadow his past term.
“None of it’s disqualifying, and if you look at the record in office, I think that far outweighs a couple of dumb things I did three years ago,” he said.
- Melissa Gomez