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Gainesville City Commission District 1 Candidates Talk Goals And GRU

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter explains to supporters why voting results were delayed Tuesday night. Despite minor technical difficulties, the results were reported and gave some candidates the news they had been waiting for.
Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter explains to supporters why voting results were delayed Tuesday night. Despite minor technical difficulties, the results were reported and gave some candidates the news they had been waiting for.

Yvonne Hinson-Rawls

Current District 1 commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls was born, raised and educated in Gainesville.

She studied special education at the University of Florida and at age 22, she was recruited to teach neurologically impaired students in New York.

She later worked as an educator in Miami and became the principal of a magnet art school, where she created job training programs for at-risk students.

“It was the joy of my life,” Hinson-Rawls said. “I spent 15 years there, and it took them five principals trying to replace me.”

She wants to bring similar ideas to Gainesville.

One of her top priorities includes creating job-training programs that would allow people to learn skills while on the job.

She also wants Gainesville jobs to incorporate bias awareness training to ensure equal opportunity.

“I think I need to consider teachers doing this,” she said. “I can see the University also getting involved.”

Hinson-Rawls has begun seeking grants for these programs but said reoccurring dollars are needed to turn the programs into realities.

A tax increase could help fund these projects, but Hinson-Rawls wants to make sure citizens are on board first.

“If we truly want to move forward, it’s going to take money,” she said. “I would not want to raise taxes without surveying my people.”

She suggested a poll to gauge how citizens feel about it.

Hinson-Rawls said she wants to redevelop areas in east Gainesville to include office suites, medical buildings, cafes and outdoor areas with Wi-Fi to attract more people to the area. She said funds can be used from the Community Redevelopment Agency to make this happen.

More information about Yvonne Hinson-Rawls can be found on her website.

Christopher Weaver

District 1 City Commission candidate Christopher Weaver is living out a lifelong dream of running for public office.

As a testament to his enthusiasm to serve in a public office, his email address was once congressmanweaver@yahoo.com.

Weaver said he is motivated to run for office by his commitment to his constituency, which is mostly comprised of University of Florida students and members of the African American community of Gainesville's District 1.

Weaver said his thorough understanding of public administration was a key motivator when making the decision to run.

"I'm a scholar in local government," Weaver said. "So I figured, who better to run for local government than a scholar in local government?"

In wake of State Rep. Keith Perry's proposed bill to create an independent Gainesville Regional Utility commission. GRU governance is perhaps the most divisive issue for District 1 and At-large commission candidates alike.

Weaver believes GRU should remain under the oversight of the Gainesville City Commission, which would ultimately leave control in the hands of Gainesville residents.

Weaver said GRU is already equipped with experts who carry out administrative and technical asks and cited their contributions in the city's contractual agreement with GREC.

"Although the city voted for the GREC contract, the more technical fine points were done by those who are considered experts are GRU," Weaver said. "So I don't think that putting an expert on the board will help a great deal."

Weaver attended most but not all of this election season's candidate forums but said his time was well spent on the campaign trail.

"I could've gone and might've gotten maybe two people who can vote in my district that would've voted for me," Weaver said. "But I met about 150 people that can vote, and they live in my district. I had to do what was best for the campaign.”

More information about Christopher Weaver by visiting his website.

Scherwin Henry

Scherwin Henry, a Gainesville native, has been married to his wife, with whom he has two children, for 43 years. His son serves in the U.S. Navy, and his daughter is an accountant for the city of Gainesville.

He has a degree in food science and is recently retired from the University of Florida as a senior biological scientist.

This is not his first entrance into politics. He's a two-time Gainesville city commissioner who served in the District 1 seat from 2006 until 2012.

He said he feels the city commission is losing some of the momentum it gained during his term and would like to see it pick up again.

“I feel that we are losing some of the ground that we gained in the areas of economic development as well as community development and transportation,” said Henry.

His platform includes increasing community and economic development and improving transportation.

Henry wants to see the community develop by investing in Gainesville’s children. He suggests creating apprenticeship programs through various city departments for high school students that would allow them to learn a skill.

“Those who do not desire to go to college will have a skill and be able to support themselves," he said. “It would also be nice if we could get other businesses to allow the students to come in and even give them a stipend for being there.”

When asked if he would raise taxes to fund these projects, he said it would be a last resort. He said there are funds set aside that could be used.

“You don’t raise taxes just to raise taxes,” he said.

Henry has lived in east Gainesville his whole life and said it’s the hidden gem of Gainesville. He said he wants to see improvements in transportation for that area as well as more development to attract businesses.

More information on Scherwin Henry can be found at hiscampaign Facebook page.

Lucas Jewell

While 23-year-old Lucas Jewell is the youngest of five candidates, he said his age shouldn’t be cause for discrimination.

“The law is such that you can be 18 and run, and a lot of people on the east side of Gainesville, particularly minorities, deal with discrimination on a regular basis,” said the former U.S. Navy Air Traffic controller.

Jewell is currently an economics student at Santa Fe College. He is originally from Jacksonville but has lived in Gainesville on and off for the past three years.

Jewell became politically active after serving in the Navy and this is his first time running in local politics.

His main focus is prevent GRU rate increases as well as new tax increases. Jewell said our high GRU rates will be his number one concern. He believes rates need to be lowered in order to help ease financial burden for east Gainesville residents and this can happen by ending the contract between the city and Gainesville Renewable Energy Center.

Jewell said only 40 percents of police cars have dashboard cameras and he wants to make sure all cars have cameras and that police officers are equipped with body cameras. He also wants to reform marijuana possession laws. He said he will “pressure the city manager to tell the police chief to issue notices to appear in court instead of arresting people for marijuana."

Education is another issue Jewell said he will focus on. He wants to give families the option of picking a school and said the area where someone lives should not determine the quality of education.

In regards to transportation, Jewell said the residents of east Gainesville are underserved in public transportation. Adding additional RTS bus routes and extending hours are two ways he thinks this problem can be resolved. He also wants to promote more bike-friendly roads and implement cycling-related projects.

Jewell people who want to see change in District 1 should vote for him. He said a vote for him is a vote for young, new ideas.

More information on Lucas Jewell can be found at his campaign Facebook page.

Charles Goston

Charles Goston said he's running for the District 1 seat because he's tired of seeing little change from commissioners in his district year after year.

“They’re not even concerned about their own constituents," he said. "I’m watching this because I’m living in the district."

One of Goston’s primary concerns for the district is the high cost of utilities. He said the biomass contract City Commissioners signed with Gainesville Regional Utilities has caused a serious financial burden for Gainesville residents.

“Now, people my age…are going to leave their property to their children, who are going to be strapped for the next 20 years with these escalating utility bills,” Goston said.

He said he hopes lower utility costs will inspire new businesses to move into District 1.

Other important things on Goston’s platform include the construction of an emergency medical center on the east side of town and a revamping of the Regional Transit System. He said he will use money more efficiently than it's been used in the past to fund these projects.

Goston claims he is already more active in the community than many elected officials. He said he has played an unofficial role on various city campaigns and spoken on behalf of city developments like the Plum Creek Project.

“Why should [people] have to come to me in an unofficial capacity when I could run for office, and they could come to me in an official capacity, and I could do a heck of a lot more?” Goston asked.

He was born and raised in Gainesville and was among the first 700 black students to attend the University of Florida.

Goston played a role in many firsts at UF, including the creation of the university’s Insitute of Black Culture and the Black Student Union. He then went on to create the first African American collegiate publication, Black College Monthly, which still circulates nationally today.

Goston also worked at major radio stations around Florida as well as creating three of his own. He has served as president of the Alachua County Black Caucus two times.

More information on Charles Goston can be found at hiscampaign Facebook page.

Austin Landis, Agustina Buedo and Ryan Nelson contributed to this report. 

Samantha is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org