Life on the farm wasn’t easy for a young Chuck Clemons.
Even though he was the youngest of six children, Clemons helped his father tend to the chickens seven days a week on the farm he grew up on in High Springs, he said.
A strong work ethic and education were two values Clemons’ dad taught him during those days on the farm, he said.
“He instilled in all of us something that you can never take away from you — and that’s your education,” Clemons said.
The 61-year-old Republican incumbent is running to represent the 21st District in the Florida House of Representatives.
The fourth-generation Floridian believes he should be re-elected because he knows the families and the issues they face within his community. He has represented the 21st District, which includes Dixie and Gilchrist counties and western Alachua County, since 2016.
“My family moved to this area in 1823, so the relationships that I have are sometimes generational,” Clemons said. “I know them. I’m one of them.”
Growing up, Clemons learned how to swim at Poe Springs and hung out at the Santa Fe River. He said his farming roots and childhood will guide him as he tries to grow the state’s agricultural industry while maintaining Florida’s water resources.
His platform focuses on increasing technical training and mental health resources in schools, creating jobs and promoting sustainable environmental and agricultural practices.
Pumping gas at a Florida Welcome Center Saturdays and Sundays and printing the Farmer & Rancher newspapers five days a week put Clemons through school. He graduated from the UF College of Journalism and Communications in 1979.
His wife of 17 years, Jane Clemons, said he did not attend a single UF football game until after he graduated because he worked all day on Saturdays.
He went on to work for the Florida Farm Bureau in financial counseling for 27 years. President George W. Bush appointed Clemons as the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office.
Clemons received $265,953 in monetary and nonmonetary donations, according to campaign finance records.
John Woeste, the former UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences dean of extension, has known Clemons for 34 years. Woeste was the faculty adviser in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity when Clemons was president, he said.
Woeste has seen Clemons’ career grow over time but said one thing about him is consistent: his passion for education.
“I’ve seen him grow and mature,” Woeste said. “He appreciated his education. I think he has retained a strong conviction about the importance of education.”
Jason Haeseler believes that no family should have to worry about taking their children to the doctor.
After his first daughter was born with a congenital heart disease that switched her two great arteries, one of Haeseler’s main goals became expanding Medicaid. At the hospital, he met people without health insurance who struggled to pay expensive hospital bills for their children.
“People shouldn’t have to live like this, especially family with children,” Haeseler said.
A father of two daughters, his platform focuses on making a better life for his girls. If elected, Haeseler wants to focus on health care, public education and infrastructure — this encompasses wastewater management, transportation and telecommunications, he said.
Haeseler is running for Florida House of Representatives District 21, which includes Gilchrist and Dixie counties and a part of Alachua County. He became involved in politics because he always felt civically engaged as an engineer. As of the most recent reporting period, Haeseler collected $66,387 in monetary and nonmonetary donations, according to campaign finance records.
“I’m here to serve my neighbor, and I think of all the people in District 21 as my neighbor,” Haeseler said.
Haeseler, who served in the Army as a combat engineer from 1993 to 2000, moved to Jacksonville where he got an associate in arts degree at Florida State College at Jacksonville in 2002. He then transferred to UF, where he graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s in civil engineering.
As Haeseler’s first boss, Kathy Caldwell recognized Haeseler’s ability to evaluate alternative solutions and his willingness to hear new ideas during a situation. If a colleague had an idea, he would go through the logistics to come to a concrete plan, Caldwell said.
“He will do the right thing even if it’s not the easiest thing,” said Caldwell, a retired president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
As a former member of the society’s public policy committee from 2011 to 2013, Haeseler participated in citizen lobbying for infrastructure in Washington and Tallahassee eight years in a row. He has done the same as a member of the Florida Engineering Society since 2011.
“He has a grasp of the issue. He gets it,” said Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward. “He gets the concerns of working families because he’s part of one.”
Haeseler attributed his service in the Army as a major influence that developed his leadership skills. He said that it was there he saw selfless leadership at work.
“We all have universal sets of wants and desires, and our government is to make sure that the most good is done for the most people,” Haeseler said.
Clemons, left, and Haeseler, right