Gigi Simmons Biography
Name: Gigi Simmons
Previous occupation: Small business owner (tax-preparation service)
Current employer: Incumbent District I City Commissioner
Neighborhood: Porters community
Family: Two college-aged sons
Civic involvement: Downtown Redevelopment Advisory Board; Police Advisory Council; Florida City County Managers Association
Government experience other than elected office: worked in historic preservation for Gainesville’s Planning Department; program coordinator with Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs
Campaign website: gigi4districtone.com
What are the most important issues in District I?
Health care: “For me the No. 1 priority that I see and that I am addressing is health care: the inaccessibility of health care in East Gainesville and the health care options in East Gainesville. What COVID has done is unmask the inequities of health care.”
Affordable housing: “I’m looking at affordable ways we can house our residents in District I. Looking at putting programs together, incentives, assets and coming up with a variety of ways we can address the housing issues in District I.”
What do you see as the role of the city commission in addressing those issues?
Health care: “The city has assets. Let’s look at how we can leverage our assets to attract health care providers to provide health care services or health care programs. Let’s look at our transportation system. [In surveys by the Health Care Access and Advisory Committee] we realized people are traveling miles away from those [District I] zip codes to go get health care services. What can we do from a transportation standpoint to assist those in these various zip codes? The city commission does and can play a role in health care.”
Affordable housing: “A community land trust [a non-profit that owns land and signs long-term renewable leases with homeowners] was something I brought back to the commission after learning about this in the Planning Department. I brought in a successful community land trust for them to do a presentation. Recently everyone came to an agreement and we unanimously decided to put a [request for proposal] out to solicit a non-profit whose job is community land trust.”
What would you describe as the biggest challenge of the office you are seeking?
“I think the biggest challenge for me is almost spreading yourself too thin. You really want to help everybody, and everyone has different problems, different concerns and different issues. The need is so great, and you really want to help, and you want to do as much as you can, but you can pull yourself too thin.”
How would you address this challenge?
“I address it with the understanding I cannot do this by myself. This is a heavy lift. That’s when you create partnerships and you build relationships and you work together to address this great need we have in District I. This is an all-hands on deck job, not just a one-person job. Everyone has to come together to make our district better.”
What was your biggest accomplishment as your first term on the City Commission?
“The one that makes me really happy is the role I played and the leadership I took in partnering with the Alachua County school system [to develop SkyBridge, afterschool programs at the city’s community centers, which provide children Chromebooks, broadband internet and access to the public school curriculum]. It really gives our children an opportunity to get to that equal playing field. We brought something to the community that was much needed.”
Why should voters in Gainesville vote for you for city commission?
“I am a proven leader and I get the job done. Every task I have attempted, I’ve completed. I show up to work and I work. I work well with others. I build partnerships and relationships. I take the initiative to get things done. Most importantly, I have the experience.”
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.