While the world faces COVID-19-related uncertainties, the future of Gainesville is now in the hands of the three elected city commissioners.
District 2 Commissioner Harvey Ward, District 3 Commissioner David Arreola and newly elected At-Large Commissioner Reina Saco will now be part of that future.
Districts 2 and 3, representing the north and southwest parts of the city respectively, were two-person races, with incumbents Ward and Arreola re-elected.
The city had 184,103 eligible voters. About 49,000 ballots were cast, with about 27 percent of the electorate turning out to vote. In 2016, when there was another presidential primary, the city had 143,278 eligible voters and about a 44 percent turnout rate, almost a 20 percent difference from this year.
David Walle, a member of the county’s Economic Development Advisory Committee, challenged Ward and Jennifer Reid, a former mayoral candidate, ran against Arreola.
Reina Saco, a lawyer and newcomer to public office, was elected to the At-Large seat previously held by term-limited Helen Warren.
Three other candidates were vying to represent the city in the At-Large seat: Former City Commissioner Scherwin Henry, retired bridal shop owner Paul Rhodenizer and Butterfly Education Project coordinator Gabe Kaimowitz.
Twenty five years ago, Saco and her family came to the U.S from Cuba. Now, she is one of Gainesville’s At-Large Commissioners.
Saco, who prioritizes community safety and has previously worked with the Alachua County Labor Coalition on housing-for-all initiatives, said she looks forward to serving the next few years and “paying back everyone who got me here.”
“That gives a lot of hope and it shows that we have a lot to give this community and country.”
Re-elected incumbent Ward watched the election from the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office with his family and campaign manager.
During his previous term, he worked on expanding the Wild Spaces, Public Places program, which he hopes to continue after his reelection.
He said he looks forward to “working for the working families of Gainesville,” and thanked the voters and his family for supporting his campaign.
Arreola, the District 3 commissioner since 2017 and youngest person to be elected to the commission, said he was “humbled and grateful” for the opportunity to serve his district again, especially amid the public health crisis of COVID-19 in Gainesville.
“I know right now, people are frightened, and I feel that responsibility to help our community,” Arreola said.
He also watched the results alongside his campaign team at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office, and said he viewed his reelection as a “mandate from the voters” to continue his work on the commission.
He said his victory is “not about celebration, but appreciation.”
Contact Grethel Aguila at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GrethelAguila.