Gainesville commission swears in two members

The Gainesville City Commission on Tuesday swore in its newest commissioner, Desmon Duncan-Walker, as well as swearing in the recently re-elected Commissioner Gail Johnson to her second term.

The oath of office ends with commissioners promising to “well and faithfully perform the duties of city commissioner about which I am now about to enter.” Johnson added a one-word addendum to her oath: “Again!”

Her fellow city commissioners welcomed Johnson back by immediately giving her new job duties—unanimously voting to make her mayor-commissioner pro-tem. The mayor-commissioner pro-tem serves as mayor when Mayor Lauren Poe is not present.

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Commissioner David Arreola, the outgoing mayor-commissioner pro-tem, nominated Johnson for the role. Poe congratulated Johnson and joked he was about to take the afternoon off.

Following the official oath of office, which was administered by Judge Walter Green of Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit, both of the newly sworn in commissioners spoke briefly, thanking their families and supporters and establishing their goals for their terms.

“We believe that Gainesville belongs to all of us—not just a few of us,” Duncan-Walker said. “We believe that this city can be so much more.”

Gainesville City Commissioner Gail Johnson

Duncan-Walker, who represents the city’s District 1, campaigned on promises for affordable housing, historic preservation and economic development for the district, but acknowledged it won’t be easy.

“I am soberingly aware of the challenges we face from our budget to our utilities from homelessness to the needs of our various communities throughout Gainesville,” she said.

Johnson, who serves in an at-large seat, re-read a section of her swearing in speech from her first term, in which she said: “Gainesville will be a place where the basic needs of the people are at the forefront of our agenda,” including housing, food and access to services.

She read and then re-read: “Gainesville will be a place where we will champion responsible growth and development.”

“Nothing has changed,” Johnson said. “This will be what I continue to champion in my second term.”

The two commissioners will serve three and a half year terms that end in fall 2024, according to a city news release.

“This day is both a joyous day and a solemn day,” Poe said in welcoming the pair. “This is a joyous day because we get to celebrate all the work these two amazing women did to get themselves to this day… It’s also a solemn day because the work ahead of them is very serious work and it is work that must be done. It is work that both of these women have committed fully to doing.”

And Duncan-Walker and Johnson quickly got work as the city commission started its next regular meeting about 30 minutes after the swearing in.

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