Hawkins wants responsible growth


Published: Friday, January 18, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 9:59 p.m.

When Thomas Hawkins Jr. was looking to buy his first house last December, he gave Realtors a concrete idea of where he wanted to live - in town.

Facts

Thomas Hawkins Jr.

Age: 28

Occupation: Attorney specializing in growth management for David Coffey's law firm.

Education: Bachelor's degree in economics and a minor in environmental studies at the University of Florida, law degree from Emory University, Atlanta.

Home: Downtown near the intersection of University Avenue and Main Street.

Family: Father and three brothers live in Gainesville.

Political experience: None.

Community involvement: Member of 5th Avenue/Pleasant Street Community Redevelopment Advisory Board; Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization advisory committee; Junior Achievement volunteer; Leadership Gainesville; Rotary Club.

Vote for me because: "My strengths are that I have professional experience working with growth management, and that being raised in this community I have a really strong appreciation for its strengths . . . as well as a really great appreciation for its weaknesses."

"The strongest tenet of my environmental policy has always been land conservation," Hawkins said.

As the 28-year-old attorney has gained experience with growth management law, he said he has realized there doesn't have to be a choice between land conservation and development.

"We get great things from growth," he said. "The answer that ties those two things in is the idea that we need to live in urban, walkable environments."

That's part of the vision Hawkins said he will bring to the Gainesville City Commission if elected to the at-large 2 seat, for which the entire city can vote on Jan. 29.

Hawkins is running against Robert Agrusa, 22, a recent University of Florida graduate, who is currently working at the UF Bookstore.

The at-large seat is currently held by Commissioner Rick Bryant, who has opted to run for the Alachua County Commission.

Hawkins said he decided to run after realizing he enjoyed his volunteer-advisory work for the commission better than work for David Coffey's law firm.

"It's much more interesting and much more fun to do," Hawkins said. "I want to be more involved in Gainesville's policy making."

One of the policies Hawkins said he would work to improve are the zoning regulations that he said really drive how the city grows.

"We need vibrant, healthy and safe neighborhoods, and to me that means we really need to be focusing on growth management."

"The shifting gravity from central Gainesville to the west isn't something that I feel is healthy for the community," Hawkins said, adding that the only way to achieve responsible growth is through joint planning between the city and the county.

Another huge step in creating a strong urban environment is promoting economic development in central Gainesville, Hawkins said.

"In the last 100 years, the economy has been driven by UF and health care," Hawkins said. "We need to make it an attractive place for industries that . . . are clean, and employ people from the top to bottom."

That's something Hawkins said can be achieved through land-use controls.

"The city of Gainesville really needs to focus on quality-of-life issues," said, Hawkins, who added that he would like to create a stronger parks and recreation program that offers more youth league sports.

"I have talked to so many people who send their children to park programs in Newberry," he said.

Improvements of emergency services is another concern that Hawkins expressed.

"The one point I continue to push for is consolidation of emergency services," Hawkins said.

If you talk with Hawkins long enough, it will come out that he has an extended family history in Gainesville, spanning back generations to the famous Gainesville family of William Reuben Thomas.

"It's something that means a lot to me," Hawkins said, whose grandmother used to live in the sprawling Hotel Thomas that today is the Thomas Center north of downtown. "I want to do something that my grandparents and my ancestors will be proud of."

Megan Rolland can be reached at 338-3104 or megan.rolland@ gvillesun.com.

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