Even though our prospects for the presidential election in November seem bleak, don’t fret! Alachua County is teeming with great candidates for office.
Local elections directly influence your life and you can have a much bigger impact on the county’s future. But, ironically, it’s a lot harder to stay informed on local issues than it is to pay attention to national headlines. So, if you don’t know who’s on the ballot for the Aug. 30 primaries, we’ve got you covered with a guide on some of the most contentious races.
Early voting began on Aug. 19 and goes till Aug. 27. You can vote at the Tower Road Branch Library, the Millhopper Branch Library and downtown at the Supervisor of Elections office. Polls are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thursday when they close at 6 p.m.
Election Day is Aug. 30. Don’t know your precinct location? You can check here.
Illustrations by our outgoing art director, Sara Nettle.
Presenting: Your Esteemed Candidates
Sheriff’s Democratic Primary
Sadie Darnell was elected November 2006. Re-elected in 2008 and 2012. She is the current sheriff, as well as the first woman sheriff, of Alachua County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Florida, where she also received a master’s in educational leadership.
- Has received praise for her work in advocating for an increased awareness of the role mental health plays in crime.
- Increased services for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
- Instituted an inmate culinary program that is designed to “provide job skills” for offenders.
- Has worked with local organizations, such as the Southwest Gainesville Advocacy Group and Peaceful Paths, to implement community-oriented policing.
- Pursues arrest in cases of possession of small amounts of marijuana.
- Continues to advocate for an increase in funding for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
- Fired opponent Zac Zedalis and his wife over domestic dispute. Zedalis claims the firing was “politically motivated.” Darnell has previously been accused of wrongly firing employees.
- Website, with detailed priorities for her tenure as well as endorsements.
- Facebook and Twitter
- Letter on Alachua County Sherrif’s Office website.
- Endorsed by Bill Conrad, Mayor of Newberry.
- Gainesville Sun profile from 2006 following her election.
- Another profile from the Sun, outlining her current positions.
- Letter to the Sun, written by the former director of the Alachua County Jail, regarding a string of firings following Darnell assuming office.
- TV-20 coverage of candidates’ debate.
Born and raised in Alachua County, Zac Zedalis joined the Alachua County Sheriff’s office as a detective in 2005. He’s served as Deputy of the Detective Bureau and was a member of the SWAT team for six years. He played football for the University of Florida 1996 Florida Gators football team. He graduated from UF in 2000 with a bachelor’s in exercise sports science.
- Believes in a community-oriented, approach to policing.
- Wants to cut four million dollars from the sheriff’s office budget his first year in office by “[revamping] the chain of command.”
- Is committed to improving “low morale, budget concerns and cultural issues.”
- Wants to implement bike patrol units to “keep people in the neighborhoods at all times.”
- Was fired, along with his wife, by Darnell over a domestic dispute, but denies any wrongdoing and alleges the firing was “politically motivated.”
- Is currently under investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Family Services for allegations of child abuse, also denies any wrongdoing.
- Website, with platform and FAQs.
- Facebook and LinkedIn
- Gainesville Iguana endorsement.
- More TV-20 coverage of candidates’ debate.
- WUFT article following Zedalis’ announcement of intent to run.
- Another WUFT article following Zedalis’ notice of termination.
- Gainesville Sun article quoting Zedalis’ claim that the decision to fire him was “politically motivated.”
- More coverage on that from the Sun.
Note: Jack Jacobs is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.
County Commission District 1 Democratic Primary
Mike Byerly is a Georgia native. His family moved to Gainesville in 1979 when he was a teenager, he went on to graduate from Buchholz H.S. in 1982. Byerly went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts in zoology from Clemson University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Georgia. He also spent two years studying ecology in graduate school at the University of Tennessee. He has served four consecutive terms on the Alachua County Commission.
- Is a strong supporter of the County’s Comprehensive Plan and opposes Plum Creek’s plan for development.
- Helped launch Stand by Our Plan to counter the proposed development in the county.
- Opposes Gainesville Regional Utilities biomass plant.
- Believes in investing in road infrastructure.
- His website, which has an extensive list of the issues he supports.
- His Facebook
- Letter to the Gainesville Sun outlining his philosophies.
- TV-20 coverage of his dispute with Sheriff Sadie Darnell.
- Letter to Stand by Our Plan regarding the development dispute in the County.
- Gainesville Sun coverage of County Commission meeting where he accused accused Plum Creek of “manipulating” the commission.
- Quoted in WUFT article covering the development of new highway past in Alachua County.
- Special to the Sun in which he warned of the “changes” coming to the County.
From Jacksonville, Fla., Kevin Thorpe is a senior pastor at Faith Church, where he has served since 1998. Founder and owner of The Captain’s Closet, which sells tailored suits and accessories. Thorpe has served on numerous boards in the community, such as the ACTION Network, Gainesville HIPPY, and the Envision Alachua Task Force alongside democratic candidate for School Board District Two Juliun Kinsey.
- Ran in 2014 against current commissioner Ken Cornell for County Commission District Four.
- Wants to close the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in Alachua County.
- Focused on improving educational partnerships and creating jobs to encourage students and young adults to stay in Alachua County.
- Believes in “common-sense” environmental protections.
- Wants to increase economic opportunity in the eastern, predominantly black, parts of Alachua County.
- Conducted a “listening tour” to better understand local needs and concerns.
- Supports the Envision Alachua plan proposed by Plum Creek, now Weyerhaeuser.
- His website, where he provides his plan.
- His Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
- Guide to campaign contributions.
- Gainesville Sun endorsement.
- Special to the Sun.
- 2014 speech to volunteers, where he stated he believed in “conservative” and “local” development and in keeping Alachua County “beautiful.”
- Gainesville Iguana article contextualizing the current race.
- 2014 answers to Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire.
School Board District 2
Eileen Roy, a native of Eustis, Fla., is the current chairwoman and has been a member of the Alachua County School Board since 2004. She has spent 29 years teaching at Gainesville and Eastside high schools. She received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in English education and was one of the founders for Alachua County’s System of Care, a program that supports at-risk students.
- Wants to reduce the rate of suspension through reforming the disciplinary process.
- Wants to implement more cultural sensitivity training to prevent discrimination.
- Against high-paid consulting and calls for fiscal-discipline.
- Wants to increase standardized testing in under-performing schools.
- Advocate for One Mill Tax for Schools, a program that supports school arts, magnet and technology programs.
- Her website, which has a list of editorials she’s written and upcoming events.
- Her penned Iguana piece endorsing Lauren Poe.
- Quoted in WUFT article denouncing Plum Creek plan.
- WUFT article covering the registration of Alachua County Schools Superintendent Owen Roberts.
- Denied a leadership position for the seventh-year in a row by the Alachua County School Board.
- Gainesville Sun reports on her campaign donations.
Juliun Kinsey is a La Crosse, Fla. native, where he graduated from Loften High School in 2009. He earned his associates in elementary education from Santa Fe College. He was a student services representative for Santa Fe College, a program specialist in Marion County Public Schools District, and an activity leader in Alachua County Public Schools. He’s been endorsed by the African American Accountability Alliance of Alachua County Inc. Currently, he works as a Media Sales Associate for Cox Communications.
- Believes hiring interim superintendent, Sandy Hollinger, was a mistake.
- Opposes 10-day student suspensions.
- Wants to implement new technology to enhance the learning experience.
- Seeks community involvement in the educational process.
- Advocates for an anti-discrimination policy to protect LGBT students and teachers.
- Wants to expand and strengthen the partnerships between local resources and schools.
- Considered a “business-friendly” candidate by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
- Believes that the money raised from the One Mill Tax for Schools should distributed equally among the entire student population in Alachua County.
- His website where you can find his platform.
- His Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
- His personal statement for the Gainesville Sun on his positions.
- Gainesville Sun coverage of Black Caucus forum, League of Women Voters of Alachua County forum.
- Gainesville Sun reports on his campaign donations.
- More Sun coverage of Kinsey’s campaign donations.