Mayor Lauren Poe, Commissioner David Arreola and Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos served on their final Gainesville City Commission meeting on Thursday with tables in front of the dais commemorating their years of service.
All three members reached their term limits in office and will officially step down on Jan. 5, 2023, when the new commission is sworn in.
Commissioner Harvey Ward also reached his term limit as commissioner but will continue another four years after winning the mayoral seat.
Community members and charter officers spoke about the commissioners and their time working together. Gifts also passed hands like a Star Wars lightsaber, origami city and solar-powered radiometer.
“There’s never an easy time to lead, but this time, I think, has been challenging to say the least,” Interim City Attorney Daniel Nee told the commissioners.
Poe took office in 2008 followed by Arreola, Hayes-Santos and Ward in 2017.
Each commissioner also addressed the chamber.
Arreola called his time on the dais the most formative experience in his life. He entered and now exits City Hall as the youngest commissioner, starting when he was 25 years old.
“I couldn’t have done this work alone, not even close,” Arreola said. “And that’s the first thing you learn when you get into city government—that there is not a single thing you can do alone.”
He led renewable energy efforts along with inclusionary projects like community IDs, renters’ rights and immigrant initiatives. Arreola wished Ward well heading into the mayoral seat and said he was glad to run against someone whose hand he could shake in the end.
He also thanks his family for their support.
“I thank God every day that my parents had the courage to dream of moving to another country,” Arreola said.
Hayes-Santos said local government always fascinated him and that he used to read about Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut when she served previously.
He noted that Gainesville has changed since he moved to the city in 1990 and since he was elected to represent District 4.
“Cities change, and they should change,” Hayes-Santos said. “Cities that don’t change with the times wither away.”
As a self-proclaimed “policy nerd,” Hayes-Santos said he worked to make lasting changes like zero waste and Vision Zero infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists. He also recalled recent changes like eliminating single-family zoning.
As a grown-up city, Hayes-Santos said Gainesville can’t simply plug holes but find long-term solutions to its problems.
Poe remembered running his first campaign out of his mother’s condo and then running for mayor to address inequities that weren’t then a priority.
Since starting, Poe said he’s served with 24 charter officers, 23 commissioners and three mayors.
His colleagues praised him for being steady and holding to the rules.
“It can feel like an island at times in this position, but it’s all about everyone else but yourself,” Poe said.
Poe said the commission has faced the largest issues head on and placed the city in a position to only move further forward. He also reminded the chamber that Gainesville is only a small part of the Earth which is a smaller part of the universe. It’s OK to step back and take a breath, Poe said.
He also made his last proclamation as mayor, designating Dec. 15, 2022, as Emily Monda-Poe, Elizabeth Poe and Beatrice Poe Day in honor of all spouses, children, partners and family of city officials.
“It’s been such an honor, Gainesville,” Poe said. “I can’t imagine what my last 14 years would have been like had you not given me this opportunity, had you not granted me keys to the arena. I’m glad to have the blood and the dust on my shoulders as I exit.”
He ended with the lyrics to Rick Astley’s “Never Going to Give You Up.”
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you