Candidates lining up for local elections

More than half of the Gainesville City Commission will change in a year’s time, and the upcoming elections have begun impacting commissioner conversation on the dais.

At its Feb. 17 meeting, the commission discussed the status of its interim charter officers. Commissioner David Arreola said the current commission should defer the question for all four positions until the public elects its new commissioners.

Commissioners Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes-Santos disagreed, saying they could move forward with some.

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Regardless of how the commission moves forward between now, the August and November elections, and the change of commissioners in January 2023, new candidates have begun applying to run for the soon-to-be-vacant seats.

Mayor Lauren Poe, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, Commissioner David Arreola and Commissioner Harvey Ward reached their term limits and cannot campaign as incumbents.

In District 4, Bryan Eastman and Christian Newman have launched their campaigns for the seat held by Hayes-Santos. The district encompasses all of UF along with several precincts to the south of campus as well as in midtown and just north of University Avenues downtown.

However, the commission is currently redrawing the district maps following the 2020 census.

Eastman has worked in politics for several years but never in elected office. He grew up near Tallahassee and moved to Gainesville after graduating from college.

“I got a job up here and really had no idea what an incredible place Gainesville was,” Eastman said.”

He has worked on campaigns for local leaders like Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr., Mayor Poe and former Gainesville Commissioner Gail Johnson.

In 2018, Florida Politics named Eastman a “Rising Star of Florida Politics,” and he has served as president of the Alachua County Young Democrats.

Eastman’s daughter was born in 2020, and he said this pushed him to run for office himself.

“I want to see us come out of this time period, following the Trump presidency and following this pandemic, into really making a brighter future for our whole community and for our next generation,” Eastman said.

He’s kept current on Gainesville issues by serving as vice chair of the GRACE Marketplace board of directors and working on the city’s Charter Review Commission and UF’s strategic development plan.

Coming out of those roles, Eastman said he’s focused on protecting the city’s greenspaces, using renewable energy and investing in the city’s vibrant community. He also wants to work on growing sustainably and homelessness.

“I firmly believe that we can end homelessness in our community,” Eastman said. “It’s something I’m committed to and something I think our city could be doing a lot more of.”

Newman is also running in District 4. Raised in Gainesville, he graduated from Eastside High School and began working in Arkansas and Mississippi with Teach For America after college.

He moved back to Gainesville and returned to the halls of Eastside to teach. After earning a master’s in wildlife ecology and conservation as well as in business administration from UF, he began several businesses.

He sold his environmental consulting company before starting a technology company within the UF Innovation HUB. Newman still works in energy research.

He’s served on Gainesville’s City Plan Board, and Newman said that has made him see the need for smart growth.

“We need to be a little more proactive in terms of engaging with our community and neighborhoods about what the implications are of those land use and zoning for those areas,” Newman said.

Gainesville already has an affordable and general housing crisis, Newman said, with no end in sign for future growth.

He wants to focus on resilience, opportunity and inclusivity.

“I feel that Gainesville and the community has invested in me, and serving as a city commissioner for my community is a way that I can sort of return that investment,” Newman said.

In District 3, currently held by Arreola, Ed Book and Mike Raburn have announced campaigns.

Book moved to Gainesville from South Florida to attend UF and never left. He’s made a career in law enforcement, serving at the Gainesville Police Department and now as chief of police for Santa Fe College.

“Certainly, I’ve done the law enforcement side, but I’ve also done the engagement and community policing side,” Book said.

Book worked at the Reichert House Youth Academy while at GPD, served as president of the Rotary Club and worked with Keep Alachua County Beautiful.

He said his life in Alachua County has been very rewarding, and now, life has lined up to run for the commission.

“For many many years, I’ve thought about simply serving further in a local office,” Book said.

Raising a family and creating a career have kept him from running before. But he said with his district seat now open, his children grown, and support from his workplace, he’s decided to launch his campaign.

“I believe that being a city commissioner is very, very important, but it certainly doesn’t take precedence over making sure that you’re doing good things whether you’re elected or not,” Book said.

The cornerstone of his campaign relies around finding common ground in order for the city to reach objectives and improve. Book said actively listening, engaging and understanding people will help him obtain goals that all parties can support.

“I know that sounds kinda unusual for a candidate, but that is the top thing that I typically talk about and it’s what I really feel is important,” he said.

Mike Raburn will run against Book for the seat.

Endorsed by the Florida Forward Coalition, Raburn grew up in Plant City and earned a master’s in theology and a doctorate in ethics from Duke University.

He moved to Gainesville in 2017 and serves as pastor of Gainesville Vineyard and chair of the board for GRACE Marketplace.

Raburn and his wife, Amy, helped establish the GNV Bridge Community Center that gives out groceries to more than 1,000 people a month, according to Raburn’s website.

Besides these candidates, four others are currently running for mayor.

Current commissioners Arreola and Ward will vie for the role, along with former GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski and Donald Shepherd. Read about the four mayoral candidates in Camille Broadway recent coverage.

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