Meet the Candidate: Gainesville commission

From top left: Ed Book, Christian Newman, Casey Willits. From bottom left: Dejeon Cain, Michael Raburn, Bryan Eastman, James Ingle.
Editor’s Note
This is the third in a series of stories Mainstreet Daily News is running to provide you more information about the candidates who have qualified for the upcoming elections.

Check out our previous stories on the four Alachua County School Board and Gainesville mayor races.

Like the mayoral race with nine candidates, Gainesville’s commission seats have nine candidates running. However, these nine will seek election to three seats—all without incumbent opposition. 

Current commissioners Adrian Hayes-Santos, Harvey Ward and David Arreola have reached their term limits for office, leaving their seats open. 

In District 2, James Ingle and Mike Raburn received additional company after Gainesville’s redistricting sent both Ed Book and Jo Lee Beaty their way. Those changes also left Bryan Eastman and Christian Newman to go head-to-head in District 4 after Dejeon Cain moved into District 3.

District 2

Courtesy of Michael Raburn Michael Raburn

Candidate: Michael Raburn

Age: 51

Occupation: Co-Lead Pastor of Gainesville Vineyard

Public service other than elected office: Board chair of GRACE Marketplace, member of City of Gainesville Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, director GNV Bridge Community Center

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? To make sure all Gainesville citizens are listened to and respected, to improve our neglected infrastructure, to make sure Gainesville develops wisely and equitably

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? Affordable family housing, neglected infrastructure

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? Increase affordable family housing, dramatically expand our transit system, attend to our neglected infrastructure, prevent gentrification, bridge our equity divide

Courtesy of James Ingle James Ingle

Candidate: James Ingle

Age: 45

Occupation: Electrician

Public service other than elected office: Gainesville affordable housing advisory committee, Alachua county plan board, Alachua county Charter review commission, North Central Florida Careersource Board.

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? I decided to run for City Commission because I was tired of seeing people struggle. Gainesville is a great place to live, but it’s a hard place to earn a living. We need to change that. There needs to be a voice from a working-class background on the commission, someone with the lived experience to know what challenges blue collar families face here.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? Every problem we have in Gainesville is either caused or complicated by the poverty and economic struggles people face here. Addressing that issue will move us forward on a lot of fronts, environmental issues, crime, health. Holding developers accountable, investing in affordable housing and viable careers, either solves or drastically improves almost all of our other issues. That is what my campaign is focused on.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? I’d like to make Gainesville a better city for its people, more opportunities, more affordable housing, less of a struggle. I’d also like to see the commission work better together for the good of the city. As an electrician and president of my union, I am used to working in a crew. When we are working on site we have to have a lot of hands all pulling in the same direction or we don’t get the lights on. The city commission is made up of some good people who aren’t always good at working together. I have the experience and background to get different people with different personalities working towards the same goal.

Courtesy of Ed Book Ed Book

Candidate: Ed Book

Age: 58

Occupation: Law Enforcement

Previous experience in elected office: None but I am an appointed Chief of Police at Santa Fe College.

Public service other than elected office: Over 36 years with the Gainesville Police Department and Santa Fe College Police Department, Rotary in many capacities such as serving on the Gainesville Rotary Foundation Board, Keep Alachua County Beautiful for over 10 years in efforts such as the Great American Clean Up, graffiti removal, a median dedicated to Gainesville homicide victims, neighborhood clean ups, and adopt a roads. Other organizations I have been involved in over many many years include the Reichert House, United Way, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the City Beautification Board, and Urban Area Bicycle Advisory Board. 

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? Knowing I can do more beyond all the meaningful efforts I have already been involved in during my professional career. I am running knowing I have the ability to be civil, professional, respectful, and courteous to all regardless of differences. I am uniquely positioned based on my background and investment in our community to be able to collaborate in order to get things done.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? There are more than two and these priorities can shift. These are not in ranked order but issues include budget accountability and fiscal responsibility including fees and utility transfers, excellent road and travel corridors for all forms of transportation, support for public safety and core infrastructure like excellent parks and recreational space, and concerns impacting those in poverty such as affordable living, education, food insecurity and career training leading to meaningful career positions. One note, equity gaps in education are also a critical local issue. 

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? A lot. Bring civility, practical and common sense and years of experience serving in Gainesville. Actively listen to residents to determine what their priorities are, NOT what my priorities are. I will be effective in budgeting, valuing employees and their working conditions, and working with government, charitable organizations, businesses, and community groups. As a commissioner, I will seek common ground between different constituents. I will play an active role on the commission in restoring confidence in local governance and residents will trust my ethics and integrity in decision making. And, I will always keep my focus on improving the city so that everyone will want to live, work, and play here.

Courtesy of Jo Lee Beaty Jo Lee Beaty

Candidate: Jo Lee Beaty

Age: 73

Occupation: Self-employed, Educator, Administrator, Volunteer

Previous experience in elected office: Commissioner, St. Charles Park District Board of Commissioners (Illinois) – Commissioner- during my tenure I served one year as Treasurer, and two years on the Board of the Fox Valley Special Recreation District

Public service other than elected office: Leadership roles at Littlewood Elementary School and Gainesville High School Boards, committees of religious organizations in Gainesville—such as Temple Shir Shalom, Congregation B’nai Israel, P’nai or the Jewish Council of North Central Florida—and in other communities in which I have lived. Alachua County Co-Ordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Project for one year, a position in which I worked with many local advocacy groups and individuals.

What prompted you to run for office? To have a positive influence on the direction of Gainesville government after 15 years attending City of Gainesville meetings, making records requests, studying records, asking questions, and further educating myself, I am compelled to earn a seat on the Commission because I have the knowledge, background, and experience that are sorely needed at this juncture.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? The City’s financial condition and decision-making processes underpin all decisions made by the Commission. The Commission’s numerous questionable decisions have been made systematically and excluded the public. Had City Commissioners listened to residents’ concerns and acted appropriately, disastrous financial and quality-of-life decisions could have been avoided. Too many of the Commission’s decisions have allowed and encouraged the deterioration of the City of Gainesville’s budget and fiscal stability and have adversely affected traditional neighborhoods and local businesses.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? I hope to encourage sound decision making based on data and for Commissioners to recognize the many complex factors that go into making good decisions, including consideration of the impacts on the full range of stakeholders now and into the future. I hope to stop the current Commission practice of micro-managing and to return management of the City’s business to the Commission’s professional hires as the City Charter demands. I will work steadfastly to bring the Commission’s business back into full view of the people of Gainesville. I will share facts—not spin—and will make decisions based on data and in full consideration of the people’s input. I will welcome citizenry into their rightful place in having a say in Gainesville government’s business.

District 3

Courtesy of Dejeon Cain Dejeon Cain

Candidate: Dejeon Lamar Cain

Age: 38

Occupation: Owner of Fortitude Security Inc—Chief of Security

Public service other than elected office: Cain currently chairs the City of Gainesville Human Rights Board and the Alachua County Affordable Housing Commission and formerly served on the city’s Development Review Board. 

Candidate media: Facebook

What prompted you to run for office? As a person who was born and raised in the City of Gainesville, the passion that I have for my community is one that has been building inside of me ever since I can remember. After the pandemic, I watched how our city suffered and as a local business owner I was placed in a position where I experienced first hand what it was like to suffer because of the public health crisis that faced our country. During that time I began to observe the change that needed to come to our city and that need for change is what motivated me to run for office.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? The two most important issues facing the city commission from my perspective is the issue of GRU and affordable housing. 

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? As a member of the city commission, it is my hope to work to make the city of Gainesville a better place for all of the citizens who reside here. I plan to work on getting this accomplished by championing Affordable Housing, Lowering Utility rates for GRU and working to promote economic growth for the city as a whole.

Courtesy of Casey Willits Casey Willits

Candidate: Casey Willits

Age: 40

Occupation: Residency Program Coordinator at the University of Florida

Public service other than elected office: Member, Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee; Organizing Committee for UF United Campus Workers union; Past President, Alachua County Young Democrats; Past President, Stonewall Democrats of Alachua County; Board Member, Northwest Arkansas Equality.

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? I’m running for City Commission to ensure that Gainesville’s good life is accessible for everyone, no matter where you come from or how much money you make. I’ve spent much of my professional career as an organizer and then as a volunteer, engaging our neighbors in the democratic process while working alongside local candidates and organizations to improve our community. I’m now ready to lead our city as a commissioner to ensure that we keep Gainesville moving in the right direction.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? Maintaining and building on the financial stability of GRU as a publicly-owned utility so that we can meet our renewable energy goals. Addressing rising costs for families in our city, particularly the rising cost of housing.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? Citywide, I want to work on developing safe and affordable housing for all of our residents, providing ample transportation options to make our streets safer and reduce our dependency on cars, and investing in renewable energy to build a sustainable future and protect our city from climate change. My district includes the Southwest part of the city, which has long been neglected – District 3 contains few neighborhood parks and lacks sidewalks and crosswalks on streets that hundreds of RTS riders use daily. I want our commission to pay more attention to the needs of residents on this side of the city, and build infrastructure that benefits them.

Candidate: Patrick O. Ingle

Age: 62

Occupation: RETIRED | PT UBER DRIVER | AUTHOR | formerly Contract Software Engineer

Public service other than elected office: Founder of Amerione Corporation, a non-profit private operating foundation.

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? Continuing my campaign from the At-Large Seat

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? Organizational Efficiency as well as my platform issues outlined in https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B37R9FMJ

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? A better organized city commission as well as my platform issues outlined in https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B37R9FMJ

Better days are coming for the City of Gainesville, but they will arrive in 2023 after the newly elected officials have been sworn and only if the right candidates are elected. The right candidates will put their differences aside and work for the benefit of all residents of the City of Gainesville in a cooperative and civil manner.

We do not need to repeat the last eight years! I have demonstrated during the At-Large Seat campaign that I am the right candidate to represent the residents of District 3 because of humility and empathy and willingness to reach out and cooperate for the benefit of all residents of the City of Gainesville. I am the transparent candidate because I am willing to share real solutions to the problems that are plaguing the residents of Gainesville, Florida through my publication at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B37R9FMJ.

I do not dangle carrots but give real answers. I work well with others and have the experience to resolve conflicts, my strength is my forward thinking which can prevent conflicts before they occur! If you live in District 3, I ask for your vote on August 23, 2022.

District 4:

Courtesy of Christian Newman Christian Newman

Candidate: Christian Newman

Age: 53

Occupation: I am a Wildlife Biologist working for an independent 501c3 non-profit research organization where I lead endangered species research related to the generation and delivery of electric power, including wind and solar energy.

Public service other than elected office: Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative (BWEC)- Technical Advisor; National Renewable Energy Laboratory Land Requirements of US Energy Transition, Data, and Methods-Expert Review Panel, John Hopkins University; Girls Varsity Soccer Coach (volunteer), Eastside High School; Gainesville City Plan Board Member

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? I grew up in Gainesville. Gainesville invested in me, and I want to return that investment to my community. After being on the City Plan Board, I want to serve my community in a way where I can use the range of experiences and decision making gained in Gainesville as a kid, teacher, coach, parent, volunteer, entrepreneur, environmental scientist and educator, public participation and meeting facilitation provider, and business owner.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? Addressing growth and affordable housing in a way that includes engaging and protecting neighborhoods under the greatest development pressures. Focusing on short- and long-term energy affordability for struggling residents and small businesses.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? I want to bring practical experience and decision making to a City Commission that prioritizes policies and decisions focused on Resiliency—Making Gainesville and its residents stronger, Opportunity—Creating a diverse and equitable economy, and Inclusivity—Empowering our citizens.

Courtesy of Bryan Eastman Bryan Eastman

Candidate: Bryan Eastman

Age: 33

Occupation: Business Owner—PoliEngine

Public service other than elected office: Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry d/b/a Grace Marketplace, Vice-chair of Board of Directors; Alachua County Emerging Leaders, Public Policy Chair; City of Gainesville Charter Review Committee, Member; Alachua County Democratic Party, Precinct Committeeman; Alachua County Democratic Progressive Caucus, Secretary; Connected Gainesville, Founder.

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? I have dedicated most of my adult life to moving our community forward, but primarily behind the scenes. I never intended to run for office. In 2020 my wife and I had a daughter, and that changed how I viewed the future of our community. I want her to be proud of the city she grows up in, to be a greener, more equitable, and affordable place to live.

What are the two most important issues facing the city commission? Managing our growth in a way that preserves our environment and protects the unique character of our community. Rising cost of living that is putting incredible strain on working families.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the city commission? My website has a long list of “policy solutions” I hope to implement, but specifically I want to invest in renewable energy, protect green space, create homes for those experiencing homelessness, and design more pedestrian friendly and safer streets.

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