By Caitlyn Finnegan
It was a day of new beginnings in Gainesville politics.
Ed Braddy became the city’s new mayor Thursday afternoon in a swearing-in ceremony that marked what Braddy calls “the end of machine politics in Gainesville.”
More than 200 government officials, city staff, community leaders and residents packed into the Thelma Boltin Center to watch Braddy take his oath of office. Braddy replaces Craig Lowe, who lost re-election after serving three years at the center of the City Commission.
“The voters, who I like to call ‘the boss,’ have voiced that they would like to hear from all viewpoints,” said Braddy, who won April’s controversy-filled run-off mayoral election with 55 percent of the vote.
Braddy, who served as a city commissioner from 2002 to 2008, celebrated the moment with his four children on stage.
The campaign trail to office was both “inspirational and messy,” Braddy said during his speech. He referenced a controversial letter signed by 19 current and former Democratic office holders urging voters not to put the Republican-registered Braddy in office to avoid the “appearance of two voices on the City Commission.”
“If two out of the seven voices sends someone to the fainting couch, then they are really going to need the smelling salts when I work as presiding officer to ensure that there are seven voices heard among the seven elected officials,” Braddy said.
Looking towards his next three years in office, Braddy said he wants to fix the public’s perception that something “isn’t quite right in City Hall.”
“All is not well in the City of Gainesville, and the appropriate response to that is engagement and dialogue,” Braddy said. “We must restore trust in government again.”
During his closing comments, Braddy said his focus would continue to revolve around his campaign platform of affordability, openness and accountability to bring government “back to the basics.”
Randy Wells, who was re-elected for the position of District 4 Commissioner in April, was also sworn in during the ceremony. The commission also named Wells the mayor pro tem.
Wells said he spent months deliberating over whether he wanted to run for another term as commissioner, citing an internal battle over whether he could be putting his time toward something more rewarding. After reflecting on his first term, Wells said he found the push he needed to once again serve the community.
“There are thousands of examples over the last three years that convinced me there was no better thing that I could be doing,” Wells said.
During his speech, Wells spoke about continuing projects such as the city’s efforts to combat homelessness and a recent forum co-sponsored by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce that brought out dozens of small business owners as the type of citizen engagement he would like to see in the coming years.
“We need a common purpose shared by the commission and the community,” Wells said. “I want to be able to articulate that and pull from deep down when we feel that we aren’t doing adequate enough.”
Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce President Tim Giuliani said both Braddy’s and Wells’ speeches set a strong tone of having viewpoints from across the community represented in local government.
“Dialogue should always be the first step in the process” Giuliani said. “We hope to continue to work with local government to bring the community together on issues everyone fully supports.”