#Occupy the Polls


In addition to the Presidential Primary on Jan. 31, the City of Gainesville has two seats up for election, the District 1 Commissioner and at-large 1 City Commissioner. The two people elected to these positions will be in office for at least the next three years, so here’s some background on your choices.

At-large 1 City Commissioner

Our current at-large 1 City Commissioner is Jeanna Mastrodicasa who has reached the end of her service after two consecutive three-year terms. Mastrodicasa was first elected in 2006 and then reelected in 2009. Her legacy includes adding “gender identity” to a list of classes of people protected from discrimination — a part of a lawsuit that unilaterally changed city retiree health benefits in 2008. She’s also been known as a staunch supporter of the biomass plant. These are the candidates that are up for her spot as the at-large City Commissioner:

Richard Selwach
“Diamond Rick” Selwach has run for local office more times than Pat Fitzpatrick has been thrown out of city hall. Selwach is a local pawn shop owner, something he makes sure to announce at every opportunity, no matter how awkward. Selwach has often referred to unions as a communist plot. He is against the homeless one-stop center and the biomass plant.

Mark Venzke
“Taxi Cab Mark” is a taxi cab driver that got into the Gainesville political scene by advocating for keeping the 130 meal limit at St. Francis House in place even though he frequently uses their services. Currently, Venzke is advocating for limiting the ability of Occupy Gainesville to stay at Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

Nathan Skop
This man is the reason conspiracy theory buff Harold Saive dropped out of the race. Skop has recently developed a strong anti-biomass stance; which is odd because he was on the board that approved the biomass plant.

Dejeon Cain
Cain is a newcomer to the Gainesville political scene. He was on the Black on Black crime task force and is currently a security guard at Shands and a minister for Anointing Truth Ministries. Cain’s platform includes allowing bars to have a soft close (doors open until 4am but no alcohol past 2am) and expanding S.N.A.P to apartment complexes on Archer Road.

James Ingle
Ingle is a union electrician and activist that ran in last year’s Gainesville District 2 race. Ingle’s platform includes a local hiring preference to encourage investment in the local economy and a renter’s bill of rights. Ingle has been seen protesting with Gator Student Alliance against tuition increases and with the Graduate Assistants United for a fair contract.

Donna Lutz
Lutz is a real estate agent who is currently serving on the Community Agency Partnership Program for Alachua County. Although a registered Republican, Lutz stresses that this is a non-partisan race and the need to eliminate labels that parties bring about. Lutz was once a leader in her flight attendants union and advocates middle class politics. Lutz has purposefully left her platform vague and instead focuses attention on the dismal voter turnout for city elections.

Darlene Pifalo
Pifalo is a real estate agent, avid cat lover, member of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, and describes herself as “very conservative.” Pifalo’s platform includes increasing private property rights in Gainesville and is very critical of the biomass plant, as it will increase the financial burden on businesses and lead to layoffs.

Lauren Poe
Poe is the former District 2 city commissioner that lost his seat last year to Todd Chase. Poe is a blue dog Democrat who Mastrodicasa has endorsed saying that he is the “biggest fiscal conservative I have served with.” A moderate on most issues, Poe has been criticized for his support of the 130 meal limit restriction on serving food to the homeless. He’s also been criticized for voting for the 2008 unlawful change in city worker retiree health benefits without going through the required bargaining stage with city employee unions.

District 1 City Commissioner

Our current District 1 Commissioner is Scherwin Henry. Henry was first elected in 2006 and then re-elected in 2009. His legacy includes repealing the 130 meal limit at St. Francis House and the redevelopment of the Depot Avenue corridor. These are the candidates that are up for his spot as the District 1 Commissioner:

Armando Grundy
Grundy is a veteran paratrooper for the Army who has held numerous non-elected seats, including the Alachua County Charter Review Commission and the Alachua County Veterans Advisory Board. Current District 1 Commissioner Scherwin Henry has endorsed Grundy saying that “he is duly qualified for the position.” Grundy’s platform includes renaming the downtown bus station to Rosa Parks and expanding RTS service in East Gainesville.

Yvonne Hinson-Rawls
Hinson-Rawls is a retired elementary school principal, on the Gainesville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, and an active member of the Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church. Hinson-Rawls’ platform includes creating and expanding youth programs as deterrents to crime and extensions of the school day.

Ray Washington
Washington is a former Gainesville Sun reporter, an attorney and a major figure in the anti-biomass movement. Washington registered to run for District 1 very close to the deadline only after he could not persuade any of the other two candidates into taking an anti-biomass stance. Washington’s platform includes increasing government transparency and citizen input at city hall.

Remember to vote on Jan. 31.

The last day to register to vote in this election is Jan. 3. You can register online or at various locations around town. Go to elections.alachua.fl.us to register online or to see a list of locations where you can register in person.

All illustrations by Susie Bijan.


  • December 23, 2011


    Grundy is going to throw his weight around!

  • December 27, 2011


    I am very much in favor of Mr Ingle’s platform supporting local hiring and the local economy. It is also very positive, and gutsy, of him to be advocating for the rights of working class citizens.

  • January 2, 2012

    Justin R.

    James Ingle and Armando Grundy are the only people running that are not part of the shitty DEC. Unless you want some right wing nutter to win, you should vote for them too.

  • January 31, 2012


    Hmmm… So, instead you want a left wing nutter to win?

    The problem with Gainesville politics is that nobody’s ever in the center. You either run with the Alachua County Democratic Committee or you might win if you run totally opposite and you’re in the more conservative Westside. Everyone else is too far left for even the loons at the DEC or too far right for Gainesville. If you’re in the middle, the DEC comes after you. Too bad.

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