Guinn Stays Mayor, Grabelle Wins Council Seat In Ocala Elections


Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn won a fourth term in Ocala’s city elections on Tuesday, while Justin Grabelle won the District 5 City Council seat.

Guinn beat out challenger Catherine Zimmer with 58.36 percent of the race’s 4,806 votes.

“We want to create economic opportunities for people in the community to flourish,” Guinn said. “It’s all about making Ocala a better place to live.”

Meanwhile, Grabelle beat out District 5 incumbent James Hilty, with 59.28 percent of the race’s 4,710 votes.

This year’s election — which took place at 19 precincts in the city — saw a 13.99 percent voter turnout, the highest since the 2009 general election.

Despite the turnout, Guinn said the city still needs to do a better job of letting residents know of off-year elections. It’s during those elections, he said, that people pay more attention to city issues specifically.

For his fourth term, Guinn said he plans to focus on working with at-risk youth and hopes to implement a similar program to Gainesville’s Reichert House, an after-school program for at-risk boys. He said he also wants to continue to focus on economic development, primarily in downtown Ocala.

Zimmer, Guinn’s challenger, ran on a platform that emphasized transparency and accountability in government contracts.

“Most importantly, I tried to push that everyone deserves representation,” said Zimmer, who has a background in city administration and is a former Ocala assistant city manager.

Grabelle stood outside Precinct 5 on Tuesday holding a sign bearing his name. He said he was inspired to run for City Council because the future of his family’s success is tied with the way the city is run.

He said a priority of his on the council will be “making sure our budget is under control because everything stems from that.”

Incumbent James Hilty, Grabelle’s challenger, focused his campaign on helping the homeless community and trying to make Ocala a tourist destination, including by increasing the awareness of downtown businesses.

Voter David Norman, a retired schoolteacher, said his concerns when heading to the polls revolved around downtown development.

Downtown is “becoming a hot place to go now and for years to come,” he said.

Voter Scott Brown emphasized the importance of Ocala residents going out to vote in city elections.

“If you don’t vote,” Brown said, “you can’t make a change.”

Guinn and Gabrelle will begin their new terms in December.

About Claudia Perez Brito

Claudia is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-458-4434 or emailing

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