Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward said he hopes for a pleasant and conversant relationship with incoming UF president Ben Sasse, who starts Monday.
“It’s no secret that I’m unlikely to agree with President Sasse’s politics, but I don’t have to,” Ward said during a meeting with local reporters on Friday. “What I hope for is that he treats the people who work at UF well and treats the students who are at UF well.”
If Sasse treats those people well, Ward said the two will get along great.
Ward noted that if outgoing President Kent Fuchs had had a public voting record when becoming president, the two would probably differ on points as well.
“I’d like everybody to vote like me, but that’s not how life works,” Ward said.
Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, is set to take office 13 months after Fuchs announced his retirement. The Florida Board of Governors confirmed him in November, less than a month after the university’s search committee unanimously named him the lone finalist for the job.
During a campus visit in October, Sasse addressed many students and faculty worries over his record in Washington D.C. Some protesters said Sasse would act as a puppet for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Sasse said his role as UF president will allow him to step away from politics, not bring them to campus, and that he wanted to partner with all stakeholders to move forward.
UF and Gainesville coordinate on many large projects—like the new urgent care center on SE Hawthorne Road.
Ward highlighted other partnerships that he hopes will move forward well. He said the city could get more financial support for fire services and wants UF to partner with Alachua County and Gainesville on housing.
The biggest partnership, Ward said, is probably transit. UF pays for free RTS ridership for students and has partnered with Gainesville to increase pedestrian safety on University Avenue.
Ward also pointed out the large impact UF could have on poverty in the city and county.
“I hope that UF will get more serious about paying a living wage to everybody that they pay,” Ward said. “If we want to see the poverty gap in Gainesville shrink, then having our region’s biggest employer pay everybody a living wage is the fastest way to that.”
As Santa Fe College expands its footprint in downtown Gainesville, Ward said the college wants to partner to address homelessness. Ward said UF could fit into the relationship as well.
maybe the Univ can start by contributing to the Gainesville/Alachua County Tax base due to all the property they own for which they don’t pay taxes. Every time you see another UF or UF Health building going up, you can say, “well there is more tax base for me to pay”.
Ward trashed the City’s credit rating