Meet the Candidates: Alachua County commission

From left to right--top: Ed Braddy, Charlie Jackson, Raemi Eagle-Glenn, Anthony Johnson. Bottom: Ken Cornell, Mary Alford, Marihelen Wheeler, Van Elmore.
Editor’s Note
This is the fourth in a series of stories Mainstreet Daily News is running to provide you more information about the candidates who have qualified for the upcoming elections.

Check out our previous stories on the four Alachua County School Board, the Gainesville mayor and the Gainesville commission races.

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has three incumbents running for reelection that could reshape the board. 

Commissioners Marihelen Wheeler and Ken Cornell will both run against two opponents. Marihelen will appear on the primary election ballot in August against Charlie Jackson, the county’s former facilities manager, to qualify for the November general election. 

Cornell will run as a Democrat against Van Elmore, a Republican, and Anthony Johnson, no party affiliation, meaning the three will bypass the August primary and head straight to the November ballot. 

The final seat, District 1, will feature a mirror election of 2020 with Mary Alford and Raemi Eagle-Glenn facing off. In 2020, Alford, a Democrat,  won the seat with 62.8% of the vote, but she resigned in May 2022

In June, Governor Ron DeSantis selected Eagle-Glenn, a Republican, to fill the vacated seat until the election, and Eagle-Glenn will campaign to keep the seat. The District 1 race also will only appear on the November ballot.

District 1: 

Courtesy of Mary Alford Mary Alford

Candidate: Mary Alford

Age: 61

Occupation:  Professional Engineer

Previous experience in elected office: 1.5 Years as a County Commissioner

Public service other than elected office: County Boards:  Code Enforcement Boards, Environmental Protection Advisory Council (chair);  City Boards:  Gainesville Regional Utilities Advisory Board (chair);  Non-Profit Boards:  United Way of North Central Florida, Cultural Arts Coalition, US Green Building Council Heart of Florida Chapter (president), New Horizon Properties (housing associated with Meridian), Florida Defenders of the Environment (executive board); NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee

What prompted you to run for re-election?  I ran for office because I have served the county in many ways over the years and became frustrated as an advisory board member and wanted to be able to make responsible decisions for our county’s future. I am, of course, running for office again after resigning.  I made a mistake, I admitted my mistake and resigned, I corrected my mistake, and I am running again.  I worked hard to be a good commissioner, I worked to obtain multiple certifications during the 18 months I served and I attended meetings, did my research, was responsive to citizens and worked to resolve issues important to me (like funding road repair).

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission?  The two biggest challenges are infrastructure and employee recruitment and retention.  Infrastructure has been funded at a seriously unsustainable level for a couple of decades – not just roads but bridges, stormwater systems, county buildings. We will need significant budget sacrifices to maintain the roads (which has happened the past two budget cycles) but we need more than that.  Secondly, employee retention and recruitment – while we have many loyal employees that work hard for our county every day, the county has a 30% vacancy in key departments like public works.  

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission?  While I have some general goals, I will share some of my specific goals: 1. To provide grants to the owners of rental properties to do energy efficient upgrades in exchange for maintaining that property as affordable housing – which is a win for the property owners AND the tenants. 2. To increase the resiliency and self-reliance of Alachua County residents. 3. To work with the outlying communities to solve problems – access to internet and broadband, wastewater systems, stormwater and flooding concerns, roads (of course) and to foster productive communication through events like the proposed West Alachua County Roads Summit. 4. To continue to fight for acquisition and funding for the High Springs/Newberry Rail Trail. 

Candidate: Raemi Eagle-Glenn

Raemi Eagle-Glenn

Age: 42

Occupation: Attorney and entrepreneur

Previous experience in elected office: Alachua County Republican Party State Committeewoman. I was on the ballot for this position for the 2020 primary. I currently serve in this role.

Public service other than elected office: I have represented clients pro bono (for free).  I represented inmates of color in civil rights litigation and for grants of presidential clemency (shortening their sentences).

What prompted you to run for office? As a leader in the Republican Party it is my duty to be a wayshower and fill the role of candidate, even when the odds are stacked against us.

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission? The First Amendment: The current Commission has limited public access to meetings and completely banned the public from commenting on social media. Public Safety: funding for first responders must become the main priority of the County Commission. We need to grow our police and firefighter presence instead of diminishing them.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission? To be the pro-business, pro-liberty voice on the Board and get a few other commissioners to agree with me.

District 2: 

Matt Stamey Ed Braddy

Candidate: Ed Braddy

Age: 50

Occupation: Testing & Assessment, Santa Fe College

Previous experience in elected office: 2002-2008 Gainesville City Commissioner, District 2; 2013-2016 Mayor of Gainesville

Public service other than elected office: Chairman, Alachua County Republican Party

What prompted you to run for office? I’m running to break one-party rule in Alachua County. Our citizens have not been served well by this model.

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission? The need to improve infrastructure, including roads, and the need to lower our tax and regulatory burdens.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission? To bring fiscal discipline to county government and to remind elected officials that their job is to be stewards of our community, not progressive change-agents who trample on our individual rights, including property rights.

Courtesy of Alachua County Charlie Jackson

Candidate: Charlie Ray Jackson

Age: 64

Occupation: United States Army and Alachua County facilities director

Public service other than elected office: Board Chair Caring and Sharing Learning School

What prompted you to run for office? Change, transparency and restoring accountability in public service.

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission? 1) Developing a sustainable county-wide master plan supporting current and future growth needs and 2) growing “smart” while maintaining existing county roads, parks, buildings and properties with existing revenues.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission? Provide adequate funding for mandated programs and support to Constitutional Officers (for example. Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections, State Attorney, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Public Defender, Clerk of Courts and the 8th Judicial Circuit Courts etc), increase outreach programs supporting first responders and military veterans, create more jobs and job training opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers, develop activity centers for the youth and elderly citizens, and seek out near and long-term opportunities to enhance the overall quality of life for all citizens in Alachua County.

Candidate: Marihelen Wheeler

Wheeler (Candidate media: Facebook) did not participate in the Mainstreet Daily News questionnaire. 

District 4: 

David Johnston Ken Cornell

Candidate: Ken Cornell

Age: 53

Occupation: Alachua County Commissioner & Sr. VP and Broker Associate with Bosshardt Realty

Previous experience in elected office: Serving my second term as Alachua County Commissioner

Public service other than elected office: I am currently serving on the following Boards: Children’s Trust of Alachua County Board, Alachua County Library Governing Board Chair, North Central Florida Regional Council Board, Value Adjustment Board, Career Source of North Central Florida Board, Florida Association of Counties President Select Committee on Broadband, Florida Association of Counties Water and Sustainability Board Chair, National Association of Counties Environment, Energy and Land Use Board.

Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for re-election? There is no greater job than serving the Community that I was born and raised in and chose to raise my family in.

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission? The two most important issues is a tough one as we have so many priorities to work on to serve the citizens of Alachua County.  Two very pressing issues that we are working on now and in the coming years are increases in funding for public safety and roads.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission? I am proud of my 7 and half year record that includes investing in children and neighborhoods, protecting the water and environment, and increased funding for core services like public safety and roads. If re-elected, I will continue to collaborate with other elected officials, government agencies and the private sector to improve the lives of every citizen in Alachua County. It has been and continues to be an honor to serve Alachua County.

Courtesy of Van Elmore Van Elmore

Candidate: Van Elmore
Age: 52

Occupation: Retired EMS Lieutenant
Candidate media: Website

What prompted you to run for office? Our taxes continue to rise and our roads are terrible. I feel that the commission sees a blank check and not people working to put food on the table.

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission? Roads and East side development. We need to scrutinize the budget to increase our roads budget and not add new taxes. We need to balance the development of businesses in the county and stop pushing everything to the west side of the county.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission? Business development east of Waldo Road, in Hawthorne and Waldo. Increase crosswalks and lighting in neighborhoods in the east of Gainesville and eastern Alachua County.

Courtesy of Anthony Johnson Anthony Johnson

Candidate: Anthony Johnson

Age: 66

Occupation: Software developer

Public service other than elected office: Bridgecreek HOA, SourceForge opensource committee, FCC licensed trunk radio tower operator, owner of azure services LLC.

What prompted you to run for office? Revenue management issues at the county

What are the two most important issues facing the county commission? Corruption and conflicts of interest. Both have led to either the county being bought by wealthy developers who are only concerned about making a quick buck, or UF being given carte blanche treatment by members of the board and staff.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the county commission? My goal is to shape a post-covid culture at the county commission. One that is lean, nimble and quick on its feet in order to deal with post covid problems that will require proactive solutions.

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