The mayoral candidates for the city of Gainesville had a full agenda on Wednesday at a mayoral candidate forum, as they discussed the local challenges in the city and their solutions to those challenges.
About 20 people attended the forum, which was hosted by Santa Fe College’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development in downtown Gainesville.
Democracy Commitment at SF sponsored the event; the group is part of a national initiative to promote civic engagement and democracy education among community college students.
Marilyn Tubb, co-chair for the Democracy Commitment, served as the forum’s moderator and questioned the candidates on their vision for the city and their leadership styles.
All six candidates were present: Ed Braddy, Scherwin Henry, Pete Johnson, Mayor Craig Lowe, Donald Shepherd Sr. and Mark Venzke.
Candidates discussed issues such as poverty and the decline of areas in the city such as downtown Gainesville, where Henry said he remembered a time when the area was a bustling hub for African American-owned businesses in the 1950s and 1960s. But seeing its decline, he feels the college would be able to restore its previous success.
“We had a number of African American businesses that were blossoming,” Henry said. “I see working with Santa Fe to revitalize that economic engine that used to be here as well.”
Candidates were also allowed to ask each other questions, many of which were directed to Lowe. Braddy asked if he also credited his policies to the loss of businesses and jobs in the city, while Venzke questioned him on his hiring of his former campaign manager as his assistant.
After the forum, Lowe said despite having most of the candidates’ questions directed to him, he was happy to answer them and was certain that voters would be able to create their own vision for the future.
“We had some very insightful questions and I enjoyed the opportunity to answer them,” Lowe said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Mark Venzke as Paul Venzke.
WUFT’s Twitter coverage of the final forum, hosted at Sante Fe College’s downtown campus.