Voters chose to return Democratic incumbents to the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), giving Ken Cornell and Marihelen Wheeler additional terms and returning Mary Alford to fill out the term she left in May.
However, Tuesday’s election marked the final at-large voting for BOCC seats. While voters across the county’s 64 precincts cast ballots in the District 1, 2 and 3 races, they also approved a change to the Alachua County charter that will mean future BOCC races will be decided only by the residents of that particular district.
Almost 53% of the more than 180,000 eligible Alachua County voters cast ballots in the general election, according to the Alachua County Turnout Tracker.
Alford once again beat Raemi Eagle-Glenn for the District 1 slot. Alford won the post over Eagle-Glenn, a Republican, in 2020 with more than 62% of the vote, but resigned it in May.
Alford cited family issues in her resignation but also had faced questions about whether she lived in District 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Eagle-Glenn to fill the vacated spot. Both women then filed to run to fulfill the two years left in the term.
Alford, an environmental engineer, took 58.65% of the vote while Eagle-Glenn, an attorney, captured 41.35%, according to the totals on the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections website.
“When I was elected in 2020, it was the middle of COVID, so I was in my living room celebrating with three other people,” Alford said Tuesday evening at an election night event at Heartwood Soundstage. “So this is just amazing, and I’m so grateful for all the people’s support.”
Alford said the six months she wasn’t in the position means she is behind in bringing her ideas to fruition.
“I have a lot of work to do, and I need to catch up,” she said. During the campaign, she said she wanted to focus on the county’s core services and plan and prepare the area against potential climate disruptions, but Tuesday she said a personal search also had influenced her priorities.
Alford, who lives in Archer, said she spent six months this year looking for a place she could afford to live in.
“I have a real feeling for all the people in much worse circumstances with families and children and trying to find a place they can afford,” Alford said. “That is going to be my biggest priority.
In District 2, Wheeler won a second term, beating Ed Braddy 57.69% to 42.31%. Braddy, the chair of the Alachua County Republican Party and a former Gainesville mayor and city commissioner, had challenged Wheeler in the hopes of adding a Republican presence to the all-Democratic BOCC.
In statements during the campaign, Wheeler, a retired teacher, said she would continue her work on career resources programs, affordable housing, criminal justice, and mental health and substance abuse programs, if she was re-elected.
Cornell, a real estate broker, won his third term for the BOCC’s District 3 in a three-person race. He gathered 57.81% of the vote, beating Van Elmore, a Republican, and Anthony Johnson, no party affiliation. Elmore, a retired lieutenant with EMS, earned 39.46% while Johnson, a software developer, gathered 2.72%.
“Over the last eight years, we were able to do some amazing things, and folks said you need to keep going,” Cornell said Tuesday evening at the Heartwood event. “In the end, the voters decide, and tonight they said we want you to keep going.”
Cornell said that moving forward he wants to focus on public safety needs and protecting the environment in Alachua County.
“Wild Spaces Public Places passed, so that is 10 more years of real commitment to investing in our roads, road infrastructure and affordable housing,” Cornell said.
The re-elected board members will be sworn in and the BOCC will elect new officers at 10 a.m. on Nov. 15 at the Jack Durrance Conference Room, Alachua County Administration Building, 12 SE 1st St.
— With reporting from Taryn Ashby