James "Jim" Painter (left) was 71, and Craig Lowe (right) was 65. Each served one term as mayor in Gainesville. (Photos courtesy of Williams-Thomas Funeral Homes & Cremation Services and the City of Gainesville)

Two former Gainesville mayors died in last week

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two former Gainesville mayors died in the past week. James “Jim” Painter died Thursday from cancer at the age of 71, and Craig Lowe was found dead Saturday morning at the age of 65. Lowe’s cause of death remains undisclosed.

From 1993 through 1996, Painter was Gainesville’s mayor. He also served on the city commission starting in 1990. 

Painter is remembered for his participation in several north central Florida organizations, such as the Santa Fe College Endowment Corporation, the Corporate Advisory Board for The Villages Senior Living Community and the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. 

During Painter’s time as mayor, Money Magazine labeled Gainesville as “America’s Most Livable City” in 1995. 

The City of Gainesville wrote in a Facebook post it felt saddened to lose a “valued leader and friend.” 

“We are grateful for his many contributions and are keeping his family and friends in our thoughts,” the Facebook post said. 

Painter first arrived in Gainesville in 1957, according to Painter’s obituary. As a third-generation brick mason, Painter was dedicated to his craft. Working with his father and brother, Painter spent over 40 years with Painter Masonry, Inc., which was established in 1968. 

With the company, Painter worked on numerous University of Florida buildings and structures throughout north central Florida. His industry impact was felt all over the state; he had a role in passing the Concrete Block Checkoff program through the Florida Legislature. 

Painter’s memorial service will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. It will be held in the Lyceum at Santa Fe College.  

Lowe, the city’s first openly gay mayor, was known for his advocacy of LGBTQ causes, human rights and equal opportunities for employment. He also served as a director of the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida. He was first elected to the Gainesville City Commission for District 4 in 2003, which covered parts of east Gainesville and the University of Florida campus. 

In 2010, he was elected mayor, but his plans for a second term were foiled in 2013. During his reelection campaign that year, he was arrested on a DUI charge. He reached a deferred prosecution agreement in the case just before election day and ultimately lost to challenger Ed Braddy.

Before moving to Gainesville in 1982 and pursuing a masters degree in zoology from UF, Lowe attended the University of Georgia and obtained a degree in soil science. 

Lowe was known by colleagues as a passionate mayor. Former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan served from 2004-2010 and worked alongside Lowe, who was a commissioner during that time. Hanrahan posted to Facebook, “You will be loved and missed forever, Craig.” 

Lauren Poe, whose own term as mayor ended earlier this year, posted his reaction to Lowe’s death on Twitter. 

“I am saddened by the loss of my friend and colleague Craig. He took me under his wing when I first came on the commission and helped me learn how to navigate the difficult job of elected office. Thank you, my friend,” his post read. 

The City of Gainesville noted on Facebook some of the accomplishments made during his tenure as mayor. Under Lowe’s leadership, the city opened a senior recreation center at Northside Park, Fire Station 8 and Innovation Square. Notably, he also removed a cap that limited the city’s efforts to feed the homeless. 

Lowe is survived by his brother, Allan Lowe. 

About Juliana Ferrie

Juliana is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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