Desmon Duncan-Walker Biography
Name: Desmon Duncan-Walker
Current occupation: Office administrator
Current employer: Duncan Brothers Funeral Home
Neighborhood: East Gainesville
Family: 12-year-old cocker spaniel named Tylen
Civic involvement: Gainesville Alliance for Equitable Development; Alachua County Democratic Black Caucus; Democratic Executive Committee
Government experience other than elected office: Fifth Avenue Pleasant Street Advisory Board; director and manager Women’s History Gallery for Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department; museum manager for Gainesville
What are the most important issues in District I?
“Economic development is right at the top of the list. It would be easy to focus on COVID because COVID is the ongoing problem we have been having for the last year. It’s the pandemic that’s harmed so many of us, but unfortunately, has disproportionately harmed Black communities. But decades before COVID, and remaining up to this point, is economic development. It’s one of the things we have got to continue to focus on.
Access to transportation, healthy food in grocery stores, banks, health care – all of these are things we don’t currently have in District I, but we should. The goal should be to see those things in District I so the citizens have the access to the things they need for a good quality life.”
What do you see as the role of the city commission in addressing those issues?
“I believe collaborative efforts between the city of Gainesville and the organizations and the individuals who have ideas are really going to be the only way we see the change. It’s the implementation piece that becomes the issue. That’s where you have to have a strong representative for District I who will listen to the community and will advocate on community’s behalf and who will bring the issue forward and fight. You have to be willing to fight for East Gainesville and District I. Otherwise, we will remain in this same vicious cycle that we have been in for decades.
[Prior economic development plans] have been collecting dust. These plans for economic development in East Gainesville particularly have not gone any further than the administration they were created in and I believe that’s a problem. We have got to go back to the plans we have laid before. Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel?”
What would you describe as the biggest challenge of the office you are seeking?
“I believe it would be pacing yourself. We have had so many problems in District I for so long that my desire would be to jump on everything simultaneously and burn myself out.”
How would you address this challenge?
“The first thing I would be to pull in community. I have always said this would not be my work to do alone and I mean that. We get the community involved in the process because that seems to be a large part of the problem. The community is being cut out in so many ways of the process that affect them. Empowering them, including them, that would help offset the idea of being overwhelmed by having so much to do.”
What about your experience has prepared you to be a City Commissioner?
“[As an employee of Miami-Dade County and Gainesville] I was exposed to how government worked. There were things I had to do—budgeting, programming, interacting with different departments—that allowed me to see the way governmental programs worked from the inside. I have seen it from the inside, and I know it can be better. People needed justice, they needed equity, they needed fairness, even when they couldn’t see it and I could. The citizens need a champion.”
Why should voters in Gainesville vote for you for city commission?
“The main reason is because I believe the people need a champion who will lock arms with them and partner with them in moving District I forward. I believe the people have already said what they want, and it’s a matter of going back in the records and using the plans that have already been created so we can finally start to move forward. They should vote for me because I know the plans have already been laid out, the blueprints are already there. I’m not a planner. I’m a doer. I believe people come first.“
Gigi Simmons is up for re-election in Tuesday’s city election. Mainstreet Daily News offered all of the candidates an opportunity to respond to the same election questionnaire. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.