Former Gainesville mayor Stuart “Craig” Lowe was known for his quiet personality, but he never hesitated to proudly defend the issues he cared about most.
"I'm proud to be a member of the LGBT community, and on a day-to-day basis it doesn't impact the way I conduct my job," Lowe said, "except that I do seek to uphold equality for all people of all backgrounds and faiths in discharging my duties as mayor."
Lowe died in Gainesville Jan. 14 at 65. He was the District 4 city commissioner for seven years, then the first openly gay mayor from 2010 to 2013. He’s survived by his brother Allan Lowe and a legacy of protecting human rights and the environment alike.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Lowe graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in soil science. He received his zoology master’s degree from UF in 1989 and lived in Gainesville until his death.
While in office, Lowe championed LGBTQ rights. Gainesville became the fifth city government in Florida to include gender identity in its anti-discrimination policy in 2008, during which Lowe was a commissioner.
Thomas Hawkins, a former city commissioner who served when Lowe was mayor, remembers Lowe as a fierce defender of human rights. As the city’s first openly gay elected official, Lowe took it upon himself to protect LGBTQ residents in Gainesville, Hawkins said.
“He really represented a community in addition to just himself,” Hawkins said.
When fellow commissioner Ed Braddy — who later defeated Lowe in his second mayoral election — claimed the policy would burden businesses by giving people special privileges, Lowe disagreed.
“There is nothing special about being able to get a job, have a home, to be able to go to a restroom or to get the same credit privileges that anyone else does," Lowe said.
That same year, when the city faced a referendum to remove both the phrases “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” from the policy, Lowe was the voice of reason. He was able to steer the conversation away from personal attacks and focus on the issue at hand, Hawkins said.
“He would bring things back to the nuts and bolts of what needed to be decided,” Hawkins said.
The referendum vote failed by 58%, and Gainesville kept the policy. Larger cities like Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville followed suit and included “gender identity” in human rights ordinances, but not for several years.
Lowe was also passionate about environmental issues, and used his education to his advantage as an elected official. While he was mayor, the commission approved the development of Sweetwater Wetlands Park.
The area is now a popular hiking spot for Gainesville residents. He also developed land use codes for tree protection and passed analysis requirements before development of sensitive natural areas.
Lowe’s interest in the environment always came from a genuine love for the outdoors, said Jeanna Mastrodicasa, a former commissioner who worked with Lowe for six years.
He often went to rural places she had never heard of to see nature. He also liked to vacation by the Canaveral National Seashore, a nature preserve near Cocoa Beach.
Many of Lowe’s fellow commissioners saw him as a friend, Mastrodicasa said. He was a person who liked to listen rather than speak — she noticed he paid close attention to what other people liked to talk about.
She and Lowe both went to the University of Georgia. Although he didn’t closely follow any sports, he went out of his way to check scores so he could say “Go Dogs” to her at the right times, she said.
“It was always kind of great,” she said. “Because it was really just him humoring me more than anything.”
Lowe was there for her during many major events in her life while they worked together. He was at her wedding, and her twins were born during the time he served. He seemed to care more about policy than any of the glamor of politics, she said.
“He never liked attention,” she said. “He just was a quiet guy who liked making our community a good place.”
But he had a good sense of humor that the outside world didn’t get to see very often, said Lauren Poe, a former commissioner who worked with Lowe before serving as mayor from 2016 to 2022. Poe cherishes the memories he has of Lowe relaxing and getting to be himself in settings where there was less pressure.
“He was usually pretty serious in his public role,” Poe said. “But it was not difficult for him to put a smile on my face and make me laugh.”
Lowe ran for mayor twice, once in 2010 and again in 2013. His coworkers would often call him “Landslide Lowe” to poke fun at how he won the 2010 election with just 50.17% of the vote after a runoff with Don Marsh.
However, in the midst of his reelection campaign in 2013, Lowe was arrested for a DUI charge. Right before election day, he reached a deferred prosecution agreement. He lost with 45% of the vote.
His challenger, Braddy, was elected mayor that year instead. He didn’t return to city politics after that. He managed the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Gainesville chapter for several years before it closed in 2015, and then he retired.
Lowe will be remembered for his inclusive policy, love of nature and strong sense of self. A mural of him in rainbow colors commemorates him at University Club, Gainesville’s LGBTQ nightclub.
Contact Siena at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Siena on Twitter @SienaDuncan.
Siena Duncan is a sophomore journalism major and the graduate school beat reporter for the Alligator. When she's not out reporting, she's typically bothering her friends about podcasts or listening to Metric on repeat.