Leah Harding contributed audio reporting.
Several candidates for mayor already have thousands of dollars in campaign support and years of experience in the political spectrum.
One man, though, is foraging ahead alone without much cash and merely a dogged presence.
Without campaign contributions or an extensive political career, Gainesville resident Donald Shepherd Sr., is eager to shake things up as a “people’s representative” in his mayoral run.
“We need a new face and new opportunities and ideals in the mayor’s chair,” said Shepherd, 59.
If Shepherd were to become mayor, he’d have a full agenda. He has 114 ideals he would like to implement, including construction of an amusement park, lowering utility bills and decreasing college tuition and apartment rental fees for students.
“Nobody has proof for these parents as to why these fees need to be extravagated every year and for the university to raise the price of a bus pass from $3 to $7 and a parking pass from $35 to $65. That’s totally outrageous for these kids,” said Shepherd, a former University of Florida grounds employee.
Though he doesn’t have as much political experience as his opponents, he has made an effort to attend city commission and committee meetings, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by his colleagues.
“There is an innocence and sincerity in Donald that you don’t usually find in politics, and I think it is good to hear from people like him,” said District II City Commissioner Todd Chase. “He admittedly represents the hardworking people who are struggling in our society today.”
The Buffalo, N.Y., native enjoys going to church, helping people in his neighborhood by fixing their bikes and cars, and mowing lawns for extra money.
Despite his upbeat attitude, Shepherd admits the campaign has put a financial strain on his family. He spent $100 of his own money to pay for campaign expenses. According to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, he has spent $66 on the campaign trail.
Though he remains positive, he wonders why he isn’t getting as much financial support as his opponents, when he believes he is just as qualified.
“Why isn’t anyone giving money to Donald Shepherd, when he is just as valuable as any other candidate, but yet you’ll give to candidates that aren’t actually working for you?” he said.
Regardless of the lack of support, Shepherd’s wife, Nancy, 58, said her husband is determined to make a difference for people living in Gainesville.
“There are a lot of things that the city is doing that is hurting lower-income people,” she said. “If people want to make a difference, and to have a better life and not have to have so much taken out of their income, then they need to vote for my husband because he will make Gainesville a better place to live.”