The District 3 candidates for county commission may be separated by party lines, but they are tied together by their commitment to the community.
Both Anna Prizzia, a Democrat, and Joy Glanzer, a Republican, came to Alachua County for school at the University of Florida and decided to never leave. Neither woman subscribes to today’s party polarization, and each wants to foster a stronger sense of community. Both said they’re dedicated to criminal justice reform, increasing affordable housing, growing the local economy and getting the county to prosper through the pandemic.
Both were essentially hand-selected by key party players to take on the role. After Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson announced his retirement from the seat he held for over a decade, Mayor of Newberry Jordan Marlowe convinced Glanzer, 65, to run, while Hutchinson found a successor in Prizzia, 42.
And now, both women face the same dilemma: without the ability to get out into the county and share their goals, the candidates must work to find new ways to show their visions for the future. In local elections, people often vote down-ballot for offices they’re unsure about. With no end to COVID-19 yet in sight, both candidates said they’re worried about informing constituents enough to vote.
Finances are also a challenge. Prizzia’s campaign has raised over $44,000 since she began fundraising in August 2019 and has spent almost $40,000 of it. She said having the primary so close to the general election could make the final stretch more difficult for her team as they need time to rebuild in the bank. Glanzer, who officially joined the race in June, has raised about $10,800 and spent almost $8,000 of it. More than half of that went towards qualifying on the ballot in June, while the other few thousand were spent boosting her campaign around the primary.
And Glanzer’s obstacles go beyond the funding gap: she is a Republican running in a strongly Democratic county. She joined the primary later than most, after Marlowe’s suggestion, but ran unopposed. So for her, the general election is the real challenge. There are nearly twice as many registered Democrats in Alachua as there are Republicans.
She said she knows she’s the underdog, so it’s important to let people hear her record on working across the aisle to get things done.
“My Democrat friends tell me I’m too conservative, and my Republican friends tell me I’m too liberal,” Glanzer said. “So I think I’m doing something right.”
Above: Joy Glanzer speaks about her campaign platforms, and why representation of non-Gainesville municipalities is important on the county commission.
A social liberal and fiscal conservative, she said she thinks that listening is a lost art — “I don’t come to the table with my feet in the cement. I come with my arms open and I want to hear. I honestly, honestly want to hear,” she said. “I think in life and in government the main thing you can do is listen.”
Marlowe worked with Glanzer for years within Newberry. When he looked at the field of candidates for commissioner, he worried about a straight Democratic county and little representation for the non-Gainesville municipalities. So he picked up the phone and called Glanzer.
“Joy came to mind as being absolutely perfect to fill that role,” Marlowe said. “What the county really needs is somebody who has a has a business background, a governing background, but also is just good at listening to all parties involved in a situation and making everyone feel heard.”
She focuses her platform on four main issues: affordable housing, decriminalizing addiction, economic development and a strong COVID-19 response. With her experiences as broker-owner of Glanzer Reality and a former Newberry city commissioner, she said she’s prepared to make the hard, creative decisions that will get Alachua County through the COVID crisis.
Housing, in particular, is somewhere she thinks she can lend a hand. Affordability is different for each person, she said, and she wants to define what affordable is. Because “you may not need affordable housing today. But when you lose your job tomorrow, you know, life changes.”
A lot of her passion for bettering the community stems from her family — their motto is “Glanzers get it done.” After watching her youngest son struggle with addiction, she started the first Narcotics Anonymous chapter in Gainesville. Then she worked as the co-chair of the Newberry Opioid Task Force. As commissioner, she said she supports a “central receiving facility” that would redirect people with addictions from jail to rehab.
Other priorities include uplifting the smaller municipalities, which she said have been disenfranchised.
“I felt perhaps I could lend a voice to these smaller areas,” Glanzer said. “Nobody knows their town, their needs, their vision better than these municipalities.”
Over the next week, she’ll be attending nightly meetings in each, socially distanced in-person and over Zoom. She said she wants to talk to county residents about what they actually want to see changed.
In Gainesville, Prizzia got the chance to do some in-person events right before lockdown — a kick-off party hosted by Hutchinson. But then she had to spend the rest of her primary campaign in quarantine.
She defeated Kevin Thorpe and Jason Sanford with 49.13% of the vote on Aug. 18 after months of internet campaigning and distanced community work. Now it’s a matter of switching gears for the general election.
Like Glanzer, she said she that listening is the key to solving the polarization in the county and country.
Above: Anna Prizzia speaks about her campaign platforms, and how her management background makes her more moderate in decision-making than people may perceive.
“I think the biggest thing to do today . . . is trying to get as diverse and as broad an understanding of the impacts of any decision you’d be making before you make the decision,” Prizzia said. “I think talking to people that don’t think like you and listening to the people that don’t think like you so that you do get that broader perspective is really important.”
Prizzia’s passion for learning others’ perspectives stems from her time in Peace Corps on the island nation of Vanuatu. There, she said she learned that making assumptions of people’s needs will not strengthen a community. It’s self-centered thinking, and Prizzia still feels odd about recognition for good work. She’s so used to not centering herself, she said, that her campaign manager has to beg for more “Anna” in the campaign.
After returning to Gainesville, she began working at the University of Florida in the Office of Sustainability. Soon she became Campus Food Coordinator and started the first community garden and campus food pantry to serve those facing food insecurity. Outside the campus, she heads Working Food, a nonprofit dedicating to building a strong local food system.
She said that as commissioner, she would continue working on the issues of environmental protection, social justice and equity and growing the local economy. Like Glanzer, she supports a “unified intake center” to treat those with mental health and addiction versus sending them to jail. After this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, she said she was excited to work with a new sheriff and local governments to figure out ways to demilitarize the police.
When Hutchinson decided to retire as chair of the County Commission, he was looking for people who were smart, energetic, committed and wise. And he said he sees all of that in Anna Prizzia.
“She brings in a very global perspective on sustainability,” Hutchinson said. “The fact that she’s got a sweeping vision of the changes that needs to be made is important. But commissioners also have to have very practical, day-to-day experience in managing projects, managing people, and she also has that.”
To reach voters with her vision, Prizzia said they’ve built an extensive email list, held Zoom conferences and used social media for online events. Over the next few weeks, just like Glanzer, she will be attending each municipality’s meetings to talk to residents about her platform and their needs.
Joy Glanzer and Anna Prizzia both want to bring a fresh perspective to the commission. Winning over undecided voters without actually meeting them is a huge mountain to climb. Both candidates agree on the importance of face-to-face interaction this election. Whether that be through Zoom or under a mask, the women are ready for the race to the top. They packed their ropes and hooks — now they just need to tell their stories from the summit.