Leah Harding contributed audio reporting.
When it comes to creative political campaigning, you might say Gainesville mayoral hopeful Peter Lars Johnson is barking up the right tree.
If you’ve driven down West Newberry Road, you’ve probably seen Johnson’s campaign billboard featuring the candidate in a straw hat and his furry companion, Dakota, wearing sunglasses.
Those unaware of Johnson and Dakota’s story can still see the humor in the campaign signs. Johnson said Dakota’s personality was reflective of why he wants to run for Gainesville’s mayor.
“He had this incredible ability to make people smile,” said Johnson. “That’s why I put him up there. I want to bring this community together. We have a good town, but we really have an opportunity to be great. ”
Johnson has spent about $7,400 in the campaign, according to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.
If elected mayor, Johnson said he will close the gap between the city’s residents and its elected officials by striving for transparency.
“One of my goals would be to make access to the information that concerns citizens and the city easier to obtain,” he said.
Johnson said he aims to focus on issues like the biomass plant being built, which he initially supported. As time passed, he came to question its feasibility.
“We’re going to have a power plant that, realistically, we at this time don’t have a need for,” he said.
Johnson has lived in Gainesville for 35 years and graduated from the University of Florida.
Johnson feels the university’s growth can move Gainesville from being a good college town to a great city.
“My vision for Gainesville is I’d like us to be in the top 100 metropolitan service areas,” Johnson said.
A business consultant, Johnson said his skills, if elected, could be beneficial in the decision-making process related to infrastructural funding.
Johnson, originally registered as a Republican, recently decided to join what he calls the fastest growing party in Florida.
“I became a No Party Affiliation, an NPA, which is is truly reflective of my views,” he said. “I think good ideas can come from anywhere.”