The race for the Alachua County District 1 commissioner race features a familiar matchup, as 42-year-old incumbent Republican Raemi Eagle-Glenn faces 61-year-old Democrat Mary Alford. In 2020, the pair met in the same race — that time, both challenged Democrat incumbent Mike Byerly.
After defeating Eagle-Glenn in the 2020 election by more than 30,000 votes and winning roughly 63% of the popular vote, Alford resigned earlier this year in May, citing, “a singularly challenging few years” in her letter of resignation to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A Gainesville Sun report suggested Alford did not live in District 1, a requirement of holding the office under state law.
DeSantis then appointed Eagle-Glenn to fill the vacant seat until the November election. Alford acknowledged wrongdoing that led to her resignation but now wants to pick-up where she left off after her abbreviated term in office. She is the only opponent facing Eagle-Glenn.
“I was in the wrong, and I admitted it and resigned, and then filed to run again,” Alford said.
District 1 encompasses the southern portion of Alachua County, made up of mostly rural areas. The lack of urbanization focuses attention on environmental issues, something that one donor of Alford’s campaign said is the biggest issue facing the area.
“I’m very concerned about my kids and grandkids’ future,” retired teacher Sherry Steiner, 71, said. “We don’t have any time. We have to act on the environment 10 years ago.”
Alford’s campaign is largely built on environmental policy, as she worked as an environmental engineer before entering public service. She defeated incumbent Byerly, as well as Eagle-Glenn, to secure her title in 2020.
“We have got to prioritize all of our infrastructure,” Alford said. “We build something, and then we take care of it, because taking care of our property is part of being a good stewardess of the resources we use to build it.”
The same environmentally focused policy that Alford supports is a facet of Alachua County’s spending that Eagle-Glenn feels has been misused.
“The budget priorities have gone to land conservation and social services, and because of that our roadways have suffered,” Eagle-Glenn said.
Development of land into parks and other infrastructure is a priority for Eagle-Glenn and a topic that she believes suits her. Eagle-Glenn said she is eager to collaborate with developers with goals of adding parks and other recreational services to the area.
Improved roadways in the area is an issue that both candidates agree needs addressing.
“Roads are absolutely one of my priorities,” Alford said. “I moved to Archer, and there is literally no way for me to safely drive to Gainesville without taking a huge detour.”
Eagle-Glenn, a graduate of the University of Florida’s law school, is the sole lawyer of Eagle-Glenn Law, based in Gainesville. Improving the area’s law enforcement, including sheriff pay is a crucial issue, according to the incumbent.
“We are less safe because our sheriff’s department is not competitive with other municipalities,” Eagle-Glenn said.
As of Oct. 12, Alford raised nearly $6,000 more than Eagle-Glenn from monetary contributions, though the incumbent has garnered $1,000 from in-kind, or non-monetary, contributions while Alford has gained none.
Eagle-Glenn is not a native of Alachua County like Alford, but she believes that her fresh set of eyes on the policies of the area is a benefit.
When we have a monoculture of ideas, when all commissioners are voting the same year after year, that’s dangerous, Eagle-Glenn said. “We need diversity of thought, and I bring that,” she said.
In Alachua County, 74% of registered voters turned out in the 2020 matchup. Election day in 2022 falls on Nov. 8, when one of the two competing candidates will assume the role that both have already occupied.
“I love this place,” Alford said of Alachua County. “I care about it, and I want to do my best to take care of the place that I love.”