Meet the City Commission candidates

  • 15 min to read

At-Large City Commission seat

Scherwin Henry, 67

Former District 1 City Commissioner

Scherwin Henry

Henry 

Who is Scherwin Henry?

  • Former District 1 City Commissioner from 2006 to 2012; Mayoral candidate in 2013

  • Born and raised in Gainesville

  • Retired from UF as a senior biological scientist in 2014

  • Musician: plays drums, percussion and sings; photographer

  • Bachelor’s degree in food science at UF

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $8,152

Total Spending: $5,535.98

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are highlights of Henry’s former terms?

As an east Gainesville representative for six years, Henry said he was one of the first voices in support of the Wild Spaces and Public Places initiative. The program allowed the city to invest in recreational facilities and green spaces for Gainesville residents. 

Depot Park was one of the first projects under this initiative, he said. 

Henry later pushed for Fred Cone Park, which became a significant recreation facility in east Gainesville. He said the park has a certified Olympic track and believes such facilities serve residents by giving them an outlet to improve their health. 

In collaboration with the Alachua County Commission, Henry also worked on the development of the Cone Park Branch library. Before the establishment of the library, the closest one for east Gainesville residents was the downtown library.

Henry is also proud of his work with the Walmart by Waldo Road which he said has been an economic boost to the east Gainesville community.

Developing the Community Reinvestment Area in east Gainesville was a message to the residents, he said, letting them know the city has not forgotten them. The goal was that “we were willing to invest in that community to revitalize it to its past glory.”

 

What are ideas Henry has, if elected?

Henry plans to continue his work of revitalizing east Gainesville. He believes the area has many business development opportunities to offer and that its residents “have not gotten the value from the city of Gainesville for their tax dollars.”  

The problem with east Gainesvillle runs deep — it is viewed as the “poorest side of town,” Henry said. This idea is a fallacy, he said, because there are professionals who prefer the area because they dislike the traffic and development in other parts of the city. 

Investing in skilled Gainesville residents who have not found sufficient jobs is essential, he said, adding that on the same stride, the city must also invest in residents with little to no skills. 

“Our residents that desire to be able to live a better quality of life for their family, to earn a better living for their families, must have the opportunity to do so,” Henry said. “And I feel that that is the responsibility of the Gainesville City Commission.”

 

What does Henry think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

Fifty percent of the city’s landmass is off the tax roll because of the number of state facilities, Henry said. This puts Gainesville at a disadvantage because of the amount of untaxed property.

Henry said he would resolve this loss by encouraging small and medium sized businesses because they are “the backbone of our economic stability.” To him, reinvesting in downtown and east Gainesville is the way to go. 

Downtown has government offices by day and restaurants and bars by night, he said. The key ingredient that is missing is appeal for families. The city has the farmers market on Wednesdays and concert series, but there needs to be more than that, he said. 

 

At-Large City Commission seat

Gabe Kaimowitz, 84

Disbarred attorney

Gabe Kaimowitz

Kaimowitz 

Who is Gabe Kaimowitz?

  • Disbarred in Florida in 2016 for continuing to practice law after being suspended by the Florida Supreme Court in 2014. 

  • Raised in New York

  • Married, has two adult children 

  • Bachelor’s in journalism from University of Wisconsin; law degree from New York University

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $0

Total Expenditures: $0

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are ideas Kaimowitz has, if elected?

“I am not running to win,” Kaimowitz said, adding that he is only running for the at-large seat in order to make Gainesville a butterfly city. He wants to promote the butterfly rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History and expand butterfly gardens at every public school. 

Kaimowitz has been the coordinator for the Butterfly Education Project since 2007 when he first began advocating for Gainesville’s butterfly city certification. The project gave public school students the opportunity to go to the museum’s rainforest and take photos. The photos became part of an exhibit in the museum and Gainesville Regional Airport.

“Those recognitions are great image builders,” he said, referring to Gainesville’s recent distinction as a tree city. Gainesville was recognized as a tree city of the world by the United Nations and Arbor Day Foundation Feb. 10 because of the city’s commitment to urban forestry.

 

What does Kaimowitz think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

Kaimowitz’s sole focus is making Gainesville a butterfly city. He hopes to create a sister city partnership with Hull, a city in the U.K., which became the first butterfly city in the U.K. In an email, he said he has the support of Commissioner Helen Warren.

However, Kaimowitz has been vocal about his distaste for the Gainesville City Commission. 

In various emails sent to The Alligator, his opponents and others, Kaimowitz has referred to Commissioner David Arreola and Commissioner Harvey Ward as “Chicano Muchacho” and “Psycho Ward”. 

He has also made claims that his opponent, Reina Saco, is ananti-Semitic because she was involved in Students for Justice in Palestine during her time in law school. He also referred to Scherwin Henry, a former city commissioner, as the “token black in the race.” 

Although given a platform, he believes everyone is after him.

“That’s why I have problems with you, that’s why I have problems with you, with everyone in the city,” he said. “I’m in a third world country here, Ms. Aguila.”

 

Why does Kaimowitz want to be elected to the city commission?

Kaimowitz said doesn’t want to be elected. He said his intent is to raise awareness about making Gainesville a butterfly city. He said he is endorsing Henry.

 

At-Large City Commission seat

Paul Rhodenizer, 73 

Former owner of bridal shop

Paul Rhodenizer

Rhodenizer

Who is Paul Rhodenizer?

  • Former owner of bridal shop from 1987 to 2012; charged with theft of state funds in 2013

  • Currently retired

  • Served in the Navy for four years

  • Born in Maine, moved to Gainesville for studies

  • Bachelor’s in business management from UF

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $2,225

Total Spending: $866.96

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are ideas Rhodenizer has, if elected?

The city commission needs to be more receptive to ideas of the citizens, Rhodenizer said. He believes in being more open and transparent by listening to Gainesville residents when they share their ideas and concerns.

Homelessnesses is a major problem in the city, he said, which has “panhandlers on every street corner.” If elected, Rhodenizer would encourage the homeless to use services like the St. Francis House downtown on South Main St, he said. 

Rhodenizer said services like St. Francis House are equipped to provide overnight housing “to get them out of the cold and on the right track.” Group housing programs with trained professionals, he said, would “get the homeless people off the street and get them into a more safe environment.”

 

What does Rhodenizer think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

Rhodenizer believes the contract with Gainesville Regional Utilities was not financially sound. The debt burden of GRU impacts every resident because of the decision the city government made, he said. 

“The utility rates are regressive, and they hurt the poorest people the most,” Rhodenizer said. 

Gainesville needs to find ways to reduce the GRU rates for its residents, he said, by inviting experts and consultants to analyze the utility’s finances and help come up with solutions within the contract. 

Rhodenizer believes the answer may be to close the biomass plant. He said it was built in hope to reduce rates, but rates remain the highest in the state

 

Why does Rhodenizer want to be elected to the city commission?

As someone with more than two decades of experience as a small business owner, Rhodenizer believes he understands the public.

“There’s nothing more stressful than planning a wedding,” he said.

Rhodenizer dealt with this stress every day, he said, helping customers make decisions. He said that these interactions made him good at dealing with people and believes that he could apply these skills to help citizens with their problems.

When asked about his 2013 charge, Rhodenizer said that his business had to file for bankruptcy and owed the state funds. He said that issue is already resolved. 

Rhodenizer said running the store during the recession gives him “the leg up” because of his business experience. Rhodenizer had to ensure his 18 employees got their paycheck every week while balancing business expenses.

“I'm a newcomer to this thing,” he said. “I don't have any baggage. I don't have the political baggage.”

 

At-Large City Commission seat

Reina Saco, 29

Gainesville lawyer with six years of experience

Reina Saco

Saco

Who is Reina Saco?

  • Lawyer with six years of experience

  • Originally from Cuba, lived in a refugee camp in Panama  

  • Speaks English, Spanish, Russian and some sign language

  • Bachelor’s in English literature and Russian from USF, Master’s in Russian from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, law degree from UF

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $12,026.97

Total Spending: $5,020.96

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are ideas Saco has, if elected?

Saco has a vision for the future of city hall: she wants to see a cultural shift. 

A lawyer with six years of experience, Saco said attorneys often use community lawyering, a tool to help clients solve problems and achieve their goals. She said she wants the city commission to do the same — to go out and work with citizen-led advocacy groups.  

Saco previously worked with the Alachua County Labor Coalition on the Safe & Healthy Housing for All plan, which includes lower rent rates and utility bills, disclosure of units’ safety and efficiency ratings and protections against discrimination. She wants to follow through on the housing initiatives proposed to the commission. 

She said the city not only must vote on the matters but also ensure their enforcement, she said. 

Community safety is a priority for Saco. She hopes to improve lighting in bus stops and streets and develop wider sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians around the city. Making these changes would keep citizens safer and also reduce the workload for Gainesville Fire Rescue and Gainesville Police Department. 

 

What does Saco think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

To Saco, housing is an area of concern in Gainesville given the influx of expensive, luxury apartments being built, which she said only targets a specific demographic.

“That’s not housing for faculty,” she said. “That’s not housing for a mom with two kids or an elderly couple or a person who lives alone.”

The city needs to do more to ensure that developments are sustainable to the community, she said. One way it can do this, she said, is to set limits on developments that are not affordable for residents.

 

District 2 City Commission seat

David Walle, 55

Appointed member on the Economic Development Advisory Committee

David Walle

Walle 

Who is David Walle?

  • Appointed member of the Alachua County Economic Development Advisory Committee

  • Grew up in Palm Beach County

  • Moved to Gainesville to study at UF 

  • Worked with the alcohol and substance abuse recovery community

  • Completing an open enrollment program at Edinburgh Business School

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $8,469.91

Total Spending: $7,554.05

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are ideas Walle has, if elected?

Walle believes the city commission needs to begin handling issues such as natural resources, infrastructure, pollution, housing and homelessness in a “more practical, pragmatic manner.”

While he said everyone deserves to be treated with respect and their civil rights ought to be respected, he believes Gainesville has a major issue when it comes to panhandling.

Walle said Gainesville prides itself as being an empathic city, especially to those in difficult situations. He referred to an incident in April in which a young man was struck by a vehicle while panhandling off NW 16 Boulevard, saying he believes the city’s tolerance of panhandling law violations led to the man's death. 

“We allow some folks so much rope that they end up effectively hanging themselves,” Walle said, adding that current panhandling laws must be enforced in order to avoid these accidents. 

What does Walle think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

The city commission needs to prepare for the prospect of 45,000 people moving into this area by 2045, Walle said. 

To Walle, that means preparing so the growth doesn’t drive up the cost of housing among established residents in Gainesville, some of whom can’t afford a 25 or 50 percent increase in their rent. 

“The challenge is managing growth, accommodating those will be moving here, while maintaining the quality of life that we all desire so much,” Walle said. 

 

Why does Walle want to be elected to the city commission?

Gainesville made Walle who he is today, he said. It was the place where he began making pitches as an electrician’s apprentice, working in retail, investing, managing small investment funds and finally became a partner in large real estate partnerships.

As someone with experience in real estate, running a business, leading payroll, and understanding economic and population growth, Walle said he believes he can challenge well-intended ideas from the city commission.

“I am providing an opportunity to bring a little bit of diversity of opinion to city commission, rather than sort of a one dimensional mindset that effectively operates as an echo chamber,“ Walle said. 

 

District 2 City Commission seat

Harvey Ward, 52

Current District 2 City Commissioner

Harvey Ward

Ward 

Who is Harvey Ward?

  • District 2 Commissioner since 2017

  • Born and raised in Gainesville

  • Institutional fundraiser for more than 20 years

  • Worked 10 years as a fundraiser for WUFT

  • Bachelor's in public relations at UF

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $18,751.09

Total Spending: $6,626.79

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are highlights of Ward’s term?

During his term, city leaders banned conversion therapy for minors in Gainesville and won the approval of Gainesville residents to move city elections to fall, Ward said. He also worked with Veterans for Peace to designate a part of NW 8 Avenue as Memorial Mile to commemorate armed forces members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. 

“I like to think that we’ve been able to make Gainesville a better place over the last three-and-a-half years,” said Ward.

Gainesville City Commission was also able to partner with the county commission to purchase the more than 700-acre Four Creeks preserve in 2019 in District 2, which encompasses north Gainesville. Because the area is a preserve, Ward said it’s protected from development. 

Ward said he’s proud of the city commission’s plan to make Gainesville energy 100 percent renewable by 2045 and believes it will happen a lot sooner. Gainesville’s initiatives are already leading the state in renewable energy, he said.

 

What are ideas Ward has, if re-elected?

Ward said he will continue improving and expanding the community parks and public spaces across Gainesville. His goal is to ensure they are available to all people.

“No matter the size of your bank account or the color of your skin, you can enjoy Depot park,” Ward said. “It belongs to you.”

He said to address the nearly 2,000 septic tanks that must be connected to Gainesville Regional Utilities waste water resources, he said. Ward wants to address this issue because as the septic tanks age, they can leak into the creek system that runs through the city. 

Ward believes poverty issues in Gainesville are ultimately linked to transportation. Improving Regional Transit System, he said, will help transport people to their jobs and services that they need in order to go about their daily lives.

 

What does Ward think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

Every legislative session, the state government limits the power of city and county governments, Ward said. This, he said, hinders local government officials from being responsive to the will of their constituents. 

In addition to the limitations, Ward said equity problems have been historically prevalent in Gainesville. He served on the race and equity sub-committee and put many hours toward finding the root of the issues and what the city can do to address them.

He also hopes to establish an independent ethics review board for the city that can also be used by the county, and he believes it would be a resource to improve government.

“There’s a lot to work on, but those are some of the things that I have been doing,” he said. 

 

Why does Ward want to be re-elected to the city commission?

Throughout his term, Ward said his goal is to be communicative and open to Gainesville residents. He said he has been active on social media to ensure that residents are kept up to date and understand what the city does.

Ward, who feels he’s experienced with the ins and outs of city commission, hopes that he is entrusted to continue being open and transparent.

“My door is always open to residents,” he said. 

 

District 3 City Commission seat

David Arreola, 29

Current District 3 City Commissioner

David Arreola

Arreola

Who is David Arreola?

  • District 3 City Commissioner since 2017

  • Youngest person to ever be elected to Gainesville City Commission

  • Born and raised in Gainesville

  • First-generation American with Mexican roots

  • Bachelor’s in political science from Flagler College, master’s in business administration from St. Leo University 

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $9,441.51

Total Spending: $3,027.05

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are highlights of Arreola’s term?

“I think most people, when they think of government, they don’t think of innovation,” Arreola said. “We’re really trying to change that status quo.”   

Arreola said his role as city commissioner is to advocate for funding in order to champion programs that improve the lives of residents. Working on the commission is a collaborative effort, he said, where ideas are developed into initiatives that later require funding and support.

He has pushed for funding of programs like the Gainesville Community Resource Paramedic program, which asks paramedics to follow up with frequent 911 callers to uncover the cause of the recurrent medical emergencies. 

Programs such as this have received national attention for improving the lives of community members, he said. 

Arreola introduced the idea of pursuing 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, a resolution that was passed unanimously in 2018.  When discussed, 28 percent of Gainesville’s energy was renewable. 

Residents who didn’t have access to government IDs or drivers licenses can now use community IDs because of Arreola’s advocacy as a city commissioner. Accepted by the Gainesville Police Department, they can be used when someone is stopped by police or at a doctor’s office.

Arreola said he has also supported the funding of the Brave Overt Leaders of Distinction, an anti-gang program, as well as the U.S. census in order to overcome the undercounting from hard-to-reach areas. He also voted to end the prison labor contract in January 2019.   

 

What are ideas Arreola has, if re-elected?

Arreola hopes to prepare Gainesville for the changes the state will inevitably face with climate change. He said in order to accomodate people who will eventually move from other parts of the state, the city must invest in infrastructure and housing.  

He also believes there should be an expansion of microtransit systems, such as First Mile, Last Mile, in District 3 to service those with lack of access to other forms of public transportation. 

Specifically, he said including a microtransit station at Butler Plaza would service residents of southwest Gainesville and other communities outside the city.

In the long term, Arreola wants to establish a center for arts and job training in east Gainesville, which he said is a historically underinvested area. The center would focus on training residents for demanded careers in the area, including arts and technology programs for high school students. 

Youth engagement is also a topic on Arreola’s mind. He hopes that sometime during the next 10 years, the city will establish a youth advisory board, which would allow Gainesville youth to provide the commission with feedback about changes they'd like to see in the city. 

What does Arreola think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

Poverty is the most significant issue Gainesville faces, Arreola said. In order to break the cycle of poverty, the city commission needs to aggressively invest in impoverished areas and private entities need to join in and do the same.

“When we have thousands of children who are struggling to read, that is a symptom of poverty,” he said.

Arreola believes that helping the school system fund after school programs and provide support to struggling students and their parents is essential to remedy this symptom.

 

Why does Arreola want to be re-elected to the city commission?

Arreola has a special connection to Gainesville -- the city that he said warmly welcomed his Mexican parents when they moved from New York to pursue their graduate studies at the University of Florida. He said Gainesville quickly became their home as well as his. Now, he wants to give back to the city that he said gave his parents the American dream.

 

District 3 City Commission seat

Jennifer Reid, 34

Former candidate for mayor

Jennifer Reid

Reid 

Who is Jennifer Reid?

  • Ran for mayor in 2019, lost to current Mayor Lauren Poe

  • Realtor with Team Dynamo

  • Born and raised in Gainesville

  • Mother of two kids aged 2 and 5; partner is an officer for the Gainesville Police Department 

  • Bachelor’s degree in legal studies at Keiser University

 

Campaign Finances

Monetary contributions: $545

Total spending: $168.85

All information from Voter Focus

 

What are ideas Reid has, if elected?

Reid said her main focus is on affordability and accountability for Gainesville residents. There are people who attend city commission meetings upset because they can no longer afford their Gainesville Regional Utility bills, and others who feel they’re being heard, but not fully listened to.

“It goes kind of in one ear and out the other,” Reid said. 

To her, the race isn’t just about city commission, but it is also about bringing attention back to the community’s concerns. Instead of the big ideas, like plastic bans and self-driving buses, Reid said the city should begin to focus more on its people. 

Reid understands that technology is the future, but she said her work, if elected, would be for the people of Gainesville.

 

What does Reid think is the biggest issue Gainesville faces?

Since her childhood, Reid said she remembers the city being divided between east Gainesville and Gainesville. 

“We look great in the headlines because we've got self-driving buses,” Reid said, “but if they really were to stay here, they would see that we're so divided.” 

The division that Reid sees is between the globally oriented policies the city passes and the focus on residents. While the city organization chart shows citizens at the top, residents aren’t feeling that way, she said. 

Reid, a mother to two boys, said her experience as a mom has parallels to city government. 

If she pays attention to her older son, her younger son gets frustrated -- similar to how residents feel when the commission doesn’t prioritize their needs. She believes that the city needs to be held accountable for its treatment of residents, and she’ll be the candidate to deliver that.

 

Why does Reid want to be elected to the city commission?

Reid’s run for the city commission seat is motivated by the same reason as her 2019 run for mayor against current Mayor Lauren Poe: to take action instead of complaining and create a better future for the city she was raised in. 

“I've always taught my boys that if you believe in something so much, you need to fight for it, no matter what the outcome may be,” Reid said. “And so I am out here I'm fighting.”