Elections for the city of Gainesville wrapped up Tuesday, but two other cities in the county — Alachua and Newberry — will hold their elections next month on April 13.
The qualifying period has recently closed for those races. Here’s a look at the candidates running for commission seats:
City of Alachua
Two commission seats are up for grabs in Alachua, seats No. 4 and 5. Each commission term in the city lasts three years. Seat 4 is held by Shirley Green Brown, who is running for re-election, while Seat 5 is occupied by Gary Hardacre, who is retiring from the board.
Shirley Green Brown
Incumbent Shirley Green Brown has lived in Alachua since the 1970s and has been on the commission since 2012. She was employed by Alachua County Public Schools for 31 years, as a teacher at both Alachua and Irby elementary schools. Prior to that, she worked for the state of Florida as a speech and language pathologist.
She said she wants the commission to continue to support the economic growth that’s been present in Alachua in recent years.
“Alachua is really a trailblazer that has set the standard for a lot of municipalities in the area,” Green Brown said.
Her list of priorities includes the continual upgrading of roads and seeking out grants, collaborating with the School Board to improve school performance and revitalizing downtown and Main Street.
“It’s all about working toward maintaining Alachua as the good life community in which we live,” she said.
Green Brown also is an at-large member on the board of directors for Elder Options, mentor for the Take Stock in Children program, member and officer of the Alachua Friends of the Library, member of the Alachua Woman’s Club, Strategic Planning Committee Co-Chair and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Mu Upsilon Omega Chapter.
She’s married and has a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
Gregory Pelham Sr.
Green Brown’s challenger, Gregory Pelham Sr., has lived in Alachua for 25 years.
For the past 12 years, he’s been employed in the juvenile bureau with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. He’s also a pastor who oversees 18 churches. Pelham said opening lines of communication between the city and residents is most important to him.
“I want to be that voice for our community,” he said. “It should be a commission where any citizen can come to if there’s a question or a concern.”
Pelham also is chairman of the county’s juvenile justice council and has worked with schools since 1998. He said it’s important to maintain a dialogue with students and young adults to tell them about the importance of city government, voting and getting their voices heard.
“It’s important to hear what they have to say because they are our future,” Pelham said. “It we don’t … It’s going to be more difficult to make the changes in the future that we need to to keep Alachua beautiful.”
Jennifer Blalock has lived in Alachua for 20 years, and lived in Gainesville before that.
She’s currently the regional manager for O2B Kids, an early childhood learning center, and opened and ran the Alachua location for 14 years.
While Blalock has not been directly involved in politics before, she has worked with the Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville, worked with United Way and was on the Gainesville Job Corps Center (no longer in operation).
Blalock said that with her recent move at O2B to cover the region rather than focus on one location, she wanted to remain involved in her local community.
“I wanted to be part of everything that’s going on,” she said. “Working with O2B Kids, I got moved into a new position and that connection with my small town was something that was missing.”
She said she likes the direction of the current commission and is particularly interested in maintaining quality recreation and education, adding jobs and repaving and maintaining roads.
“Our city has a great foundation, it’s strong,” Blalock said. “And I just want to help grow that foundation.”
Malcom Dixon, 23, is the youngest of the candidates running for Alachua’s City Commission. He’s a lifelong resident who attended Santa Fe High and participated in a student advisory council while there.
Dixon currently works in the correctional office at the Florida Department of Corrections’ Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler and is preparing to soon open a mortuary business.
He ran for a City Commission seat twice in in the past and also is an NAACP member, an organizer for Faith in Public life, involved in the county’s Truth and Reconciliation initiative and an elder in the Church of God in Christ.
Dixon said he has experience working with representatives and senators to help lobby on issues. Investing in the youth is his biggest priority.
“Our youth is our future,” he said.
Creating programs to help keep them active in the community and keep them out of trouble is one thing he hopes to bring to the city, in partnership with the police department.
He also said technology should be updated to allow residents to easily listen to commission meetings by phone or online.
“I want to make sure I represent all the constituents of Alachua,” Dixon said. “I believe that representing all people no matter their gender or race is important.”
Gary Kocher, who owns an entertainment company that offers DJ services and lighting for weddings and other events, has lived in Alachua for seven years. Prior to that, he lived in Atlanta and Orlando, where he worked at a law firm. He is married with a young daughter, and their family fosters children as well.
Kocher ran for a City Commission seat three years ago but lost to Hardacre, the current seat holder who’s not seeking another term.
“The outcome that I got was promising, so at that point, I decided to stay involved,” Kocher said.
Kocher has been involved with the Alachua Business League and the North Central Florida Apartment Association, where he works with a lot of businesses.
He’s also the former chair of the city’s parks and recreation advisory board and former vice-chair of the Wild Spaces Public Places advisory board, which is charged with making sure that the half-cent sales tax collected for outdoor recreation and conservation purposes is being used properly.
One important issue Kocher wants to address is communication — specifically, to make sure the public is better kept up to date with the commission’s agendas and progress.
“Unfortunately, we are not on top of that,” he said. “There’s so much the city offers, but if people don’t know about that, it kind of goes by the wayside.”
Additionally, he said balancing the city’s growth and conservation is top of mind. Big-name companies and the booming tech corridor have already contributed a lot of economic growth to Alachua in the past several years, but many are concerned about what that growth might lead to over time.
“Essentially, we don’t want it to be Archer Road,” Kocher said. “Not in our little slice of paradise.”
City of Newberry
In Newberry, Mayor Jordan Marlowe is running unopposed to maintain his position. He’s been mayor since 2017 and has served on the commission since 2015.
Tony Mazon is also running unopposed for outgoing Commissioner Paul Norfleet’s seat in Group 5. Mazon could not be reached for comment.
Group 4 incumbent Tim Marden is also up for re-election and is facing off against an opponent who also has experience on the commission.
Commission terms in Newberry last two years.
Incumbent Tim Marden has lived in Newberry with his wife and two children since 2006. Before that, he lived in Gainesville since 1990 to attend the University of Florida and never left the area after graduation.
He’s employed as a national fundraiser for the John Birch Society — a political advocacy group that promotes anti-communism and limited government.
During his time on the commission, Marden said he is pleased with the city’s tax and debt reductions, converting the former Canterbury Equestrian Showplace to the new county equestrian center and setting the stage for the Agri-Tech Park — which is soon to be the home for Alachua County’s UF/IFAS Extension office. IFAS and other entities in the park can develop new technologies and incubate new agri-tech companies that will bring new products to market.
He said maintaining the county’s budget while growth continues is an important goal.
“Newberry has really been hitting its stride lately and I think it would be important to continue that work,” Marden said.
Challenger Joy Glanzer has lived in Newberry since 1977, moving to the city after living in Gainesville to attend UF.
She’s been the owner/broker at Glanzer Realty since 2009 and has been a real estate agent for 16 years.
Glanzer served on the City Commission from 2017 to 2019, is the past president of the Newberry-Jonesville Chamber of Commerce, an organizer with the county’s truth and reconciliation process and a current member of the Newberry Opioid Task Force.
She also ran for a seat on the Alachua County Commission last year.
During her time on the Newberry City Commission, she was proud of the board’s approval of an automated infrastructure metering system, which allows residents to measure and monitor their energy usage.
She also helped negotiate the county fairgrounds move, working with landowners who she was familiar with through her work as a real estate agent.
If elected to the commission again, one of Glanzer’s priorities would be rebuilding its relationship with the County Commission. She said that should be easier to accomplish with the current County Commission, which recently agreed to let the city annex four land areas it had previously contested.
She plans to continue working with county leaders to help establish a regional resource center in High Springs and she promotes the development of a regional wastewater system that would serve Newberry, High Springs and Trenton.
“By banding together, instead of going after smaller grants we can get funding by applying to larger ones,” Glanzer said. “If we can get this done, it will be a model for North Florida.”