Gainesville’s future mayor found himself mere miles away from the oval office Friday, conversing with the top officials of the Biden-Harris administration — even brushing elbows with the president himself.
Mayor-elect Harvey Ward and 12 other mayors from across the country met with key members of the Biden-Harris administration to discuss national policy. Gainesville was the only Florida city represented at the conference.
The meeting served both as professional development for the fledgling mayors and a chance to discuss national programs like the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act and other Biden-Harris administration work.
The American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief package that provides financial grants to small businesses and individuals, was especially relevant to Gainesville residents, Ward said.
“Nobody who lives in Gainesville for the next couple of generations will not be touched by the American Rescue Plan allocation of next year,” Ward said.
Gainesville distributed one-third of its millions in relief funds to support local nonprofits and one-fourth of it to affordable housing efforts, Ward added.
Newer mayors were selected across multiple regions and chosen from cities believed to be “doing innovative work,” a White House spokesperson said in a press release.
National politicians in attendance included: Director of Domestic Policy Susan Rice, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, among others.
Biden briefly appeared as well and spoke about his roots in local government, Ward said.“It was pretty amazing,” Ward said. “That was not planned.”
Gainesville mayors have attended similar networking events in the past like the United States Conference of Mayors and the Democratic Mayors Association. Ward intends to continue attending such events throughout his term.
The networking relationships formed during these events will positively impact Gainesville in the long-term, Ward said.
“I think it will pay dividends for people living in our community for a very long time,” Ward said.
Ward will be sworn into office Jan. 5 at the Thomas Center.
Contact Aidan Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @aidandisto.
Aidan Bush is a second-year journalism major and the city and county commission reporter for the Alligator. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle. When not writing, he enjoys creating videos, water activities and spending time with his friends.