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ALACHUA – The City of Alachua April 13 municipal election saw incumbent Shirley Green Brown re-elected to seat 4. But none of the three candidates running for seat 5 received 50 percent of the votes resulting in the top two vote getters facing off in a runoff election on May 4.

Jennifer Blalock received 44.1 percent of the vote in the April 13 election. She has lived in Alachua for 20 years and is currently the regional manager for O2B Kids. She opened and ran the Alachua location for 14 years. While Blalock has not been directly involved in politics before, she has been involved in a number of community organizations, especially involving children. She worked with the Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville, worked with United Way and was with the Gainesville Job Corps Center. In addition, she coaches basketball at Santa Fe High School and volunteers with the Hal Brady Recreation Center with children's programs.

Malcom Dixon, the youngest candidate running for Alachua’s City Commission at the age of 23, received 29.8 percent of the vote in the April 13 election. He is a lifelong resident of Alachua, attended Santa Fe High School and participated in the student advisory council. Dixon currently works at the Florida Department of Corrections Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler and he is preparing to open a mortuary business. He also is an NAACP member, an organizer for Faith in Public life, is involved in the county’s Truth and Reconciliation initiative and an elder in the Church of God in Christ.

Both candidates responded to a questionnaire on the issues and changes they want to bring to the Alachua City Commission.

If elected to the Commission, what are your top three priorities?

Malcom Dixon: My top three priorities are to help create environmentally friendly jobs, promote further economic development and lower utility bills

Jennifer Blalock: My top three priorities will be providing opportunity for growth, self-sustainability, and investment in infrastructure and public safety for our children and families. My personal priority will be to continue to listen to the cares and concerns of our residents while establishing myself as a pragmatic, hard-working leader on the City Commission.

Alachua is growing at a reasonably fast pace. Where do you see the city in five years, 10 years? How can the City best prepare for the likely changes?

Malcom Dixon: I want to see the City with more resources for both the young and older generations including expanding cultural activities and recreation for both generations to keep them involved within the community. Implementing programs for low-income families to send their children to after-school and during the summer break is something the City could use in the near future. Expanding and creating more reliable transportation for the elderly to get around is another issue that needs to be addressed. Hiring more police officers will be instrumental with a growing city’s population. Change can be scary and definitely takes time, but as the population of the city continues to grow we must do the same. We must make smart financial decisions to insure our spending won’t affect the cost of living in the long run.

Jennifer Blalock: I see Alachua becoming North Central Florida’s premier hub for new growth and opportunities while remaining true to the values and close-knit community that make this The Good Life Community. The B.E.S.T. Business Climate plan that the Commission approved earlier this month provides a vision of economic development, greater quality of life, and community enhancement that I fully support. The City of Alachua can best prepare for likely changes by remaining open to the cares and concerns of our residents and by keeping our community values at the core of our growth and development.

Would you encourage or discourage the City to apply for grants and why?

Malcom Dixon: I would encourage the City to apply for grants on behalf of the citizens and the betterment of the community. If applying for grants will improve the community as whole and help to build it up, I’m all for it. At the end of the day, the citizens of Alachua are my main concern and I want to do what is best for them as well as the city. I see no harm in applying for what is essentially “free money” for great causes that will benefit the City and its citizens as a whole.

Jennifer Blalock: I fully encourage the City to apply for grants in areas that are beneficial to our community and the quality of life of our residents. Billions of dollars in federal grant money is available for local governments like ours to provide the economic resources necessary to accomplish our goals and to improve the lives of our residents.

List your experiences that are relevant to the City Commission position and why you want to join the commission.

Malcom Dixon: My experience on the NAACP Membership Committee, member of the National Action Network and as former Chair of Alachua Youth Advisory Council Board give me experience in community relations and leadership that are necessary for the Commission position.

Jennifer Blalock: I have spent the last 18 years as a leader in early childhood education in our community. I’ve been actively involved with our local schools both as a parent and as a leader. From coaching basketball at Santa Fe High School, to volunteering with the Hal Brady Recreation Center, to working with various organizations such as the United Way, I have been devoted to serving my community and giving back to the city of Alachua. I have listened to the concerns of residents and have worked to develop solutions to the issues that matter most to families in our community. I spent over a decade as the Director of O2B Kids here in Alachua and have grown into the Regional Manager position here in Alachua County. I will bring all of my leadership experience and work ethic to the City Commission where I will continue to serve the city that I love and the place that I call home.

Why should voters elect you over your opponent?

Malcom Dixon: I believe I bring a fresh and different innovative feature to the table that the City needs to progress in the future. To meet the needs of the City and its citizens requires an open mind and willingness to compromise when necessary. Creating a promising future because the citizens depend on us, as representatives, to keep things growing and flourishing for the greater good of the community in its entirety. I’m all for making sure that voices are heard and taken into consideration when making decisions. Most importantly, I value integrity above all else and that should never be compromised. Voters can be reassured that I’m here to be the change that not only I want to see but as well as the citizens within the community.

Jennifer Blalock: The City of Alachua needs leaders with proven experience who have shown they have the skills and work-ethic necessary to represent our residents on the City Commission. I have proven that I have the integrity, experience, and skills necessary to work with our current leaders to ensure the high quality of life that our residents and our children deserve. Our current City Commission has done a great job of facilitating growth while preserving the values and way of life that are so important to our community. I will continue this work while bringing new ideas and a new voice to the table. I look forward to being an active listener, a vigorous leader, and an inclusive representative for all residents of the city of Alachua.

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