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ALACHUA ‒ After 12 years and four terms on the Alachua City Commission, Alachua City Commissioner Gary Hardacre is looking forward to putting politics behind him and spending more time with his family.  He formally stepped down from his seat on the Commission May 10.

Hardacre and his family have been residents and homeowners in Alachua since 1987. He retired from AT&T after working as a technician, engineer, and manager for nearly 43 years.  But his “retirement” was hardly idle.

During his time on the City Commission, Hardacre was selected three times by his fellow commissioners to serve as Vice Mayor.  As a citizen of Alachua, he has been involved with the community and service.

Service with Purpose

He is an active member of the Alachua Lions Club where he serves as the Treasurer of the Club. While the Lions Club may be best known for its sight and hearing programs, diabetes can be a significant factor in eye degeneration and retina damage. Hardacre initiated a program to purchase portable eye machines that check a patient for retina issues. Club members travel to various locations in the county with the machines, especially rural areas and small towns where residents don't have facilities locally.

Hardacre is also active in the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and served as the City Commission representative to the Suwannee River Water Management District. Among his community projects, he tutors 3rd graders at Alachua Elementary School during the school year, volunteers at the Cleather Hathcock, Sr. Community Center during the week and is a member of AL’Z Place Caregiver Support Group for Alzheimer’s.

In the past, he has served on the City of Alachua’s Planning & Zoning Board, Downtown Redevelopment Trust Board, and the Visions 2010 Committee.  He has been a Cub Scout Pack 88 Webelos Leader, Boy Scout Troop 88 Assistant Scout Master, and served on the Alachua District Boy Scout Leadership Training Staff.  Over the years, he also served on the Schools of the Future Task Force, Alachua County Charter Review Commission, Alachua County Improved Economic Opportunity Council, Alachua County Visions 2000 Committee, Region 5 Private Industry Council, and as a Coordinator for the United Way Campaigns. He is a USAF Vietnam Era Veteran, serving from 1968-1971.

It’s safe to say that Hardacre certainly earned another retirement as his time on the City Commission drew to a close.  “It's been a wonderful time and I feel we have accomplished a lot over the last 12 years that will also work toward the future,” Hardacre said. “One of the eight goals I set for myself when I took the office was to make this a place where our children didn't have to leave to find good jobs and to grow while still maintaining the small-town charm that makes Alachua unique” he said.

Watershed Moment

“In the late 1970s the two big businesses in town shut down. Copeland Sausage employed 40 percent of the town and many of the others worked at the battery factory south of town. It devastated Alachua employment wise and it took a long while to recover,” Hardacre said.

“Both of my kids moved elsewhere for employment and so did a lot of others,” he said.  Hardacre recalled it was then that city officials realized how much the town had relied on those two businesses and the need to diversify businesses and the local economy. “The present Commission's predecessors began moving in that direction with the establishment of Progress Park and its diverse group of high-tech companies,” Hardacre said.

“The big factor is planning ahead on multiple fronts,” he said. “Growth has to be controlled and the ability to support it has to be in the plan.”

Hardacre added that too much residential growth without the utility infrastructure or too much interest in single large employers with low paying jobs is bound to create issues. “On infrastructure, we have expanded the water and utility capability with new water systems in the western and southern edges of the city to compensate for both current and future development,” said Hardacre.  “We are one of the very few smaller cities in Florida with two electrical substations.”

“With businesses, we have a attracted a diversity of high-tech companies that are mainly located south of town, thereby keeping the center of town with that small-town charm.” Hardacre said.

“The best part of it is our financial shape while still getting all this done,” he said.  Hardacre explained that all the municipal projects completed have been paid for and that the City maintains a healthy budget. “Besides the great work by the city staff on our finances, we also apply for numerous grants, especially involving preserving the natural environment, creating park and recreation space and creating initiatives and support for new businesses and startups. Those grants have helped a lot.” Hardacre said.

On to the Future

Just because Hardacre is retiring from the Alachua City Commission, don’t expect him to fade from the community.  As far as the future, involvement in the community and the non-profit organizations he works with will top his list. As for relaxing, he enjoys fresh and salt water fishing, doing honey-dos around the house for his wife, Debbie, and following the University of Florida Gator athletic teams.

Will Hardacre miss being a City Commissioner?

“I feel it's time to move on and let someone else take us forward,” Hardacre said. “I have been proud to work with the city staff and other commissioners for over a decade. It's all those people that do the actual work.”

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