A 20-year-old Santa Fe College student joined the Gainesville mayoral race Thursday.
Marlon Bruce moved to Gainesville from Ocala two years ago to attend Santa Fe College and said he loved the city so much he decided to run for mayor.
“Gainesville is a great place to be, but the issue is that there are problems,” Bruce said. “The problems were bigger than I realized. If I don’t run for mayor then I won’t be doing my duty to everyone else.”
A student hasn’t run for mayor since 2010, when then 29-year-old Santa Fe student Ozzy Angulo ran, according to the elections office website. Bruce said he isn’t worried about running for mayor at such a young age.
"I know I am young," Bruce said. "But really and truly, it's because I am young that everyone should want me. The fresh set of eyes, the creative ideas, I mean it is really able to shape the view of the entire city for years to come.”
Bruce said the biggest issues he wants to address are providing affordable housing, strengthening public safety and repairing roads.
He will be running against three other candidates in the upcoming regular election on March 19. Incumbent Mayor Lauren Poe announced his run for a second term in November, Jenn Powell announced her campaign in December and Jennifer Reid joined the race earlier this month.
Residents will be voting for mayor and the District 4 commissioner in the election. Voter registration closes Feb. 19.
Bruce, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, moved to Ocala in seventh grade. He is now studying political science at Santa Fe College and said he hopes to transfer to UF later this year.
In 2017, he said he became a senator and attorney general for Santa Fe student government, but stopped last Fall so he could dedicate more time to his campaign for mayor.
In 2018, he first got involved with local government by attending Gainesville City Commission meetings and community events.
Bruce said his decision to run for mayor was truly fueled by his passion for the city.
“[Gainesville] gives me this sort of fire that never dies,” Bruce said. “I never plan on leaving.”
Jenn Powell met Bruce through his local government involvement and welcomes him to the race. She said she believes that people will continue to take action as long as they’re not pleased with the status quo.
“The more candidates, the more doors that get knocked on and more we can educate people about local elections,” Powell said.