There was a changing of the guard on the Alachua City Commission on May 10.
After 12 years of serving on the commission, Commissioner Gary Hardacre decided to retire and not run for reelection.
In the general election held in April, three candidates applied for his seat on the commission but no candidate had received 50 percent of the vote. So a runoff between Jennifer Blalock and Malcom Dixon was held on May 4.
In that runoff, Blalock received 58 percent of vote and became the new Seat 5 commissioner. At the May 10 meeting, Hardacre vacated his seat and Blalock’s name plate was added to the dais.
Blalock has lived in Alachua for 20 years. She’s currently the regional manager for O2B Kids, an early childhood learning center that she opened 14 years.
Although Blalock has not been directly involved in politics before, she has been involved in a number of community organizations, especially involving children. She worked with the Boys and Girls Club in Gainesville, United Way and the Gainesville Job Corps Center.
In addition, she coaches basketball at Santa Fe High School and volunteers with the Hal Brady Recreation Center with their children’s programs. Blalock recently was promoted to coordinate operations at O2B Kids to cover the region rather than focus on only the Alachua location.
Blalock emphasized that despite the promotion she still wants to remain involved in her local community and that was her motivation to run for the commission seat. “I want to be part of everything that’s going on,” she said.”
The new position at O2B covers a much broader area but I want to maintain that connection to my small town. “Our city has a great foundation, and I want to help grow that foundation,” Blalock said. “The Good Life Community has a special place in my heart. It has been the place where I have raised my children, built lifelong friendships, and spent the last 18 years as a leader in early childhood education.”
She said she likes the direction of the current commission and is particularly interested in maintaining quality recreation and education, adding jobs and repaving and maintaining roads.
“I see Alachua becoming North Central Florida’s premier hub for new growth and opportunities while remaining true to the values and close-knit community that make this The Good Life Community,” she said, adding that the business climate plan that the commission approved earlier this month provides a vision for economic development, greater quality of life, and community enhancement that I fully support.
“My top three priorities for the City of Alachua in 2021-2022 will be providing opportunities for growth, self-sustainability, and investment in infrastructure and public safety. The City of Alachua can best prepare for likely changes by remaining open to the concerns of our residents and keeping our community values at the core of our growth and development while looking towards future needs,” Blalock said.
“Much of the progress the city has made in the past decade has been funded by grant money, leaving no residual debt and a balanced budget,” Blalock said.
“I fully encourage the city to continue to apply for grants that are beneficial to our community and the quality of life of our residents. Billions of dollars in federal grant money is available for local governments to provide the economic resources necessary to accomplish our goals. My personal priority will be to continue to listen to the concerns of our residents and establish myself as a pragmatic, hard-working leader on the City Commission. I also hope to bring new ideas to the table” Blalock said.