The 12 elected officials between the Alachua County Commission and Gainesville City Commission oversee over $1.1 billion in combined public budgets. This means each official, on average, is responsible for stewarding over $90 million in taxpayer dollars.
Whether it is fixing roads, powering homes, trimming trees, setting property taxes, or facilitating economic growth, these local legislators impact our region through their policy decisions. Chief administrative officers hired by these officials implement final policy decisions with the help of senior staff members appointed to handle portfolios such as public works, community services, public safety, economic development, and utility services.
Alachua County Commission
The Alachua County Commission is the ultimate authority in county government and is composed of five individuals elected countywide. Each commissioner is elected to represent the entire county and serve a four year term. They are not term limited and can be reelected multiple times.
Commissioner Lee Pinkoson is the current county commission chair and presides over meetings. He will only serve one year as chair as the role rotates each year among commissioners. Chair Pinkoson highlighted some key objectives. “Reducing poverty is a goal and the Children’s Services Council will hopefully be my legacy. Road and infrastructure improvement are also important as well as maintaining quality of life.”
To get things done, Chair Pinkoson favors a direct engagement leadership style. “I seek to have a good relationship with all commissioners and present arguments that will resonate. I work closely with staff as they can help provide important information.”
The county commission vice chair is Charles “Chuck” Chestnut, IV, and the other commissioners are Mike Byerly, Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson, and Ken Cornell. The seats occupied by Chair Pinkoson and Commissioner Cornell are on the November 2018 general election ballot.
Alachua County has a council-manager form of government, which means they hire a county manager who serves as chief administrative officer and runs daily government operations. Michele L. Lieberman is the interim county manager and leads a team of senior administrators responsible for the following areas: public works and growth management; community and administrative services; budget and fiscal services; public safety and community support services; and communications and legislative affairs.
Gainesville City Commission
The Gainesville City Commission makes final decisions about city government, which includes Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) operations. The city commission has seven members with three elected citywide and four elected from city districts. Commissioners are elected for three-year terms and limited to two consecutive terms in office. The Mayor presides over the city commission during his or her entire term in office.
Mayor Lauren Poe and commissioners Harvey Budd and Helen Warren represent the entire city, while the following commissioners represent particular districts: Charles Goston; Harvey Ward; David Arreola; and Adrian Hayes-Santos. The seats held by Commissioners Budd and Goston are both on the March 2018 Gainesville regular election ballot.
Mayor Poe identified priority issues for the city in 2018. “A high priority includes addressing inequities. We need to identify and close disparity gaps through a combined community effort. A continued focus on economic development is also a priority as we need to attract new businesses and create more jobs. This will also be a year where we will have a greater partnership with the university.”
Active outreach and listening characterize the Mayor’s leadership approach. “It starts with the community and we have to be deliberate in outreach as we are here to serve constituents. I am a listener first and pay close attention to what is said by commissioners, staff, and residents,” commented Mayor Poe.
Gainesville also has a council-manager form of government and hires charter officers to handle different city government portfolios. City manager Anthony Lyons and GRU general manager Edward Bielarski are two charter officers responsible for services often impacting citizens and companies on a regular basis.
Fire rescue, law enforcement, planning, parks and recreation, and transit are examples of city government services affecting residents and businesses. GRU services include electric, water, wastewater, natural gas, and telecommunications.
Public leaders from both the county and city aim to provide responsive services to citizens and responsible stewardship of resources for current and future generations.
By Kamal I. Latham