Democrat Casey Willits was elected Gainesville City Commissioner for District 3 in southwest Gainesville on Tuesday night.
Willits defeated Dejeon Cain in a close election with 2,565 votes, or 54%. Cain received 2,185 votes equaling 46%.
“I sort of couldn’t believe that I had won, that I had done it because it’s been a hard-fought race,” Willits said.
Willits moved to Gainesville eight years ago. The impact that the city had made on him within what some would call a short amount of time, became a large part of his campaign.
“I don’t necessarily have the longest connections in this community,” Willits said. “But your worth in our government and in our city politics is not determined by how long you live here.”
In August, Willits almost clenched the commissioner seat with 49.06% of votes against Cain and Patrick O. Ingle. The runoff on Nov. 8 decided the official winner.
Willits plans to focus his attention on a multitude of issues within southwest Gainesville.
This includes prioritizing GRU and ensuring that bills are fair, and the company is fiscally and environmentally sustainable. He also wants to implement solar energy into Gainesville’s energy system and depend less on fossil fuels.
“We have some work to do there,” Willits said.
In another part of his plan, Willits wants to work on creating parks within the area, along with complete streets that have sidewalks, cross walks and bike lanes that are safe for both drivers and pedestrians. He believes that this improvement will lead to an increase in community engagement.
The new commissioner emphasized diversity, community and equality in his thank you speech following election results.
“We are highly diverse in southwest Gainesville, and we deserve a city commission that is going to represent us and a make a Gainesville that works for us, all of us,” Willits said.
Gainesville City Commissioner for District 4, Bryan Eastman, was in attendance for Willits’ watch party and is enthusiastic about working together in office.
“You need people that are able to get in the trenches, get into the details, listen to the community, talk to people and move forward with issues,” Eastman said. “I think that Casey and I will do that very well along with the rest of the folks.”
Willits’ knowledge about government and desire to give a voice to all people within the community will help him create an impact in Gainesville, according to residents.
“I think he will be a voice for younger working people and students,” Kristen Young, Gainesville resident and grant administrator, said.
Willits ended election night with a smile from ear-to-ear, thanking both those who voted for him and those who didn’t.
“Thank you for sharing your policy priorities, what you love about Gainesville, and what you think could be even better,” Willits said. “That’s going to help me be a better commissioner. It’s meant a lot to talk to neighbors about what’s important to them. It makes me feel even more a part of the neighborhood of southwest Gainesville.”