With the primary election on Aug. 18, Gainesville voters may not get to know their candidates on a personal level, so those running for County Commissioner shared a little bit about who they are outside the office.
Despite multiple attempts to reach Mike Byerly, he did not reply in time for publication.
Born and raised in Melrose, Jason Stanford, 44, admits to having a rebellious stage in high school that was caused by the crowd he was hanging out with. Instead of watching Stanford continue the mischievous path he was in, his principal, "Pop" Herring, had a stern talk with him during lunch that changed Stanford’s mindset from that point on.
“You are better than this. You are behaving in a way that is not your style. You are so intellectual, you have curiosity that is unmatched, and you are going to use it,” Stanford recalls what Herring said to him. “So stop messing around. Start focusing on your education so that you can make something of yourself.”
Since that talk, Stanford achieved goals, like graduating from UF and Georgia State University, he thinks he otherwise would not have accomplished.
If he were to create an autobiography, the title would be, “I’m still standing.” As an openly gay, first-generation college graduate, Stanford has had some barriers in his life that he’s been able to overcome, even if it meant losing some friends along the way, he said. But one source of motivation comes from knowing that his school kids have been following his campaign.
Mary Alford, 59, is a sixth-generation Gainesville native. And from a young age, she has been fascinated by the works of nature. As a self-proclaimed nerd, Alford would often use her microscope to look at what was in the water samples she collected from Tumblin Creek, and when she was 14, she took a wilderness survival class because the idea of being able to live in the woods brought her great interest. These experiences in her childhood were two of many that led her to then become an environmental engineer, she said.
“I’ve watched the state of Florida change a lot over, you know, the time I was a kid ‘til I was going to school, and even more so now, and it made me sad, you know, the beaches are different places now. The springs are different places now. And a lot of that is due to bad decisions that we’ve made. And I’d like to litigate some of those bad decisions, and help the state become the place I remember it being,” Alford said.
Alford has always looked up to strong women leaders, whether it be Wonder Woman or Jacinda Arden, the prime minister of New Zealand, and if she had the chance to go out to lunch at the Top, her favorite local restaurant, with a historical figure, it would be Queen Elizabeth because she admires the queen’s ability to make great changes in a time when women didn’t necessarily have much say due to traditions.
Kevin Thorpe, 46, was born in Jacksonville but moved to Gainesville in 2001. As a devout Christian, Thorpe wakes up every morning and reads his bible before taking on the day and looks up to his Pastor, Pastor David James because of his consistency in the words he preaches.
Which is why Thorpe, who has been a Pastor for 22 years, says the advice he’s used to managing his day to day life has been: “If you don’t think you can do something, don’t agree to it. If you agree to do something, do what you said you were going to.” For him, this advice from his Pastor has kept him grounded and helped him manage the expectations he has on himself and others.
As for the theme song of his life, he said it would be, “We’re going to make it,” by Myrna Summers, a gospel artist, because of the message that regardless of the circumstances you may face in life, you can overcome them, Thorpe said.
Although she was born in Virginia, Prizzia holds Alachua County close to her heart as she has lived here since 2000. One of her favorite memories was the first time she visited the springs, she said.
“Just getting to swim there was what made me fall in love for this beautiful place,” Prizzia said.
An aspect of Alachua County that attracts Prizzia is its outdoor scene since she grew up camping in Virginia. She loved to go to Newnans Lake to watch the sunset, Paynes Prairie for a walk, or Depot Park on the weekends before COVID-19, and is determined to learn more ways to protect nature.
As a social activist, a historical figure Prizzia would choose to grab dinner with would be a civil rights leader, especially now as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to gain traction. As someone who wants to work on equity and justice in the community, Prizzia said she would want to discuss with them the systemic inequities that continue to exist, but also mention how, because of the leaders, there has been change.